Former Sonoma Stompers GM appointed executive of burgeoning pro league
SAN FRANCISCO — The Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs has formally named Theo Fightmaster the league’s next commissioner. Fightmaster, who began his Pacific Association career as a front office executive with the San Rafael Pacifics in 2011, also served as the general manager of the Sonoma Stompers from 2014 through the 2017 season.
During Fightmaster’s tenure the Stompers were on the cutting edge and garnered national acclaim for the organization’s progressive tactics. After Sonoma’s 2014 inaugural season, the Stompers partnered with former Baseball Prospectus contributors and managing editors, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, to bring analytically driven and experimental ideas to the front office and to the field. The story of the 2015 season was chronicled in the New York Times best-selling book “The Only Rule Is It Has to Work.”
Additionally the Stompers signed the game’s first openly gay player, Sean Conroy, in 2015, and partnered with Francis Ford Coppola’s Virginia Dare Winery in 2016 in an effort to create more opportunities for women in professional baseball. The Stompers recruited Kelsie Whitmore and Stacy Piagno in an effort to integrate the game. The Stompers went on to win the Pacific Association championship that season, and enjoyed a better-than .600 winning percentage in the four seasons under Fightmaster.
“Theo Fightmaster is someone who realized years ago, that to make an impact in the sports world, he would need to think outside the box,” said Billy Bean, VP & Special Assistant to the Commissioner MLB. “His ability to bring progressive minded people together that work as a team caught my attention a few years ago. In that time, his name, while being one of the best in pro sports, has started to become synonymous with innovation. I can’t wait to see what he does next.”
Off the field, Fightmaster guided the Stompers through three separate ownership groups and was part of a front office that lead Sonoma to profitability in their third year of operations. Sonoma saw sponsorship revenues grow for four consecutive seasons (2014-’17), and enjoyed increased ticket sales and food and beverage revenues year over year from ’14 to 2016.
Part of his vision for the Pacific Association is to bring new revenues in the form of corporate partnerships. More immediately, to usher in new ownership to San Rafael. The Pacifics, the charter member of the Association and one of independent baseball’s signature franchises is currently up for sale.
“This league means a great deal to me, as do many of the people in it.” Fightmaster said. “I’ve put literal blood, sweat and tears into this, and I hope to see it continue to grow and stabilize as a premier independent league that offers excellent and well-valued entertainment.
“This league has done so many incredible things in such a short period of time; from experimenting with robotic umpires, to five-man infields, re-introducing the idea of the bullpen fireman role and giving opportunities to gifted players regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and I’m eager to see what’s next. We’ve raised a lot of money for great local organizations and causes, and been significant contributors to the local economies where we play.”
A lifelong Sonoma County resident, Fightmaster is a graduate of the Arizona State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree studying at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. In 2017 he was recognized by the North Bay Business Journal as one of the regions top 40 executives under forty. He resides in Santa Rosa with his wife, who is a teacher, and two sons. They are expecting a baby girl in March 2019. Fightmaster sits on the board of directors for the non-profit Children & Family Circle, which helps provide free day care for parents of children from infancy to 2 years old. He and his wife have also served as foster parents for multiple children.
ABOUT THE PACIFIC ASSOCIATION
Founded in 2013 by four North American Baseball League teams, the Pacific Association now consists of six professional clubs; the Sonoma Stompers, San Rafael Pacifics, Pittsburg Diamonds, Vallejo Admirals, Napa Silverados and the Martinez Clippers. San Rafael has been crowned league champion three times. Both the Silverados and Clippers joined the fold in 2018 as the only independent league on the West Coast grew from four to six clubs.
The league plays approximately an 80-game schedule between the end of May and early Sept. More than 100 players have been promoted from the ranks to higher professional leagues, and nearly a dozen have been signed by Major League Baseball organizations.