Mains reaps elite Appy League honor

By JEFF BIRCHFIELD
STAR STAFF

   In a sentence, it's a reward for a job well done.
   A beautiful clear trophy sets on the top row of the cabinet in Elizabethton Twins' general manager Mike Mains' office that states 2001 Appalachian League Executive of the Year.
   "It was a big honor for me," admitted Mains. "When you look at our league, there are 10 teams in our league. To be voted as GM of the year by your peers is a high honor. When you look around in that room and see the years of experience by the other general managers, I was surprised.
   "A lot of people get awards, but you have to look at the staff I have. They were tremendous this year. Our concession people, our souvenir people and our entire ballpark staff were very friendly and professional. People see that. They deserve this award just as much as I do for their dedication, their creativity and the willingness to go the extra mile."
   Originally from Elizabethton, Mains grew up in Chesney, S.C. Now back home, he finds himself in a balancing act as both GM for the Twins and as director for the city's Parks and Recreation.
   "I'm setting in two different chairs here," said Mains. "So, I have to be very careful in the way that I balance things.
   "I have to be sure that the community fields like the Little League fields get the maintenance and renovation work like we do out here. We have to make sure we take care of that and then make sure we take care of the Twins."
   Mains is the first to admit his role has been made easier by a tremendous amount of talent on the playing field. The 2000 version of the Elizabethton Twins won the Appy League Championship. This year's squad fell one game short, although they did boast the best regular season record in the league finishing well ahead of eventual champion Bluefield.
   Members included a variety of star players like offensive threats James Tomlin and Barry Quickstad, and a trio of pitchers - Joseph Durbin, Colby Miller and Jared Hemus.
   Lest not forget a couple of brothers with the last name Mauer. There was Jake, who contributed heavily for the Twins all year, and Joe, who brought national attention to the city as the number one pick in all of professional baseball.
   "(Joe) Mauer did have an effect on attendance as we had fans from all over coming to watch him play," Mains remarked. "But, we went half the season without him and our crowds were well up from the previous year."
   Having the pro athletes living in Elizabethton is a huge asset for the town at minimal expense. "Minnesota gives us players without any cost," Mike explained. "We don't buy bats and we don't buy uniforms or helmets or anything. They take care of all the travel expense and food. We find houses for them. What we do with it is up to us.
   "They can go out on the field and play their games or we can take advantage of having a 5.2 million-dollar first round draft pick come in here. We see if we can have our citizens come out here and enjoy the game. That's the way I see it.
   "We're trying to market it and sell it. That's what we're doing right now and are being real successful with it because of the positive things being said. It's changed quite a bit over the last couple of years."
   Mains has been the driving force over this time with a set of unique promotions ranging from 70's night, when those on his staff were among the participants sporting fake afro hair styles, to Cow Milking night to "Christmas in July" complete with Santa Claus passing out presents to the youngsters.
   The son of a minister, Mains even got local churches involved with a church youth night where groups from 28 houses of worship took part.
   "It's family entertainment," stated Mains. "That's what we are all about. People enjoy our promotions.
   "We wanted to improve the public opinion of the Twins. We want to give them something to come to, other than just the baseball game."
   Mains' own hardball background is quite impressive. He earned a scholarship to North Greenwood Junior College before going to East Tennessee State. He finished schooling at Wingate College in North Carolina.
   After graduation, he served a two-year stint as head coach at Central Wesleyan University near Clemson, S.C., where he faced among others, legendary pitcher Gaylord Perry, who was head coach at rival Limestone College.
   Perhaps, that's why he's been able to relate so well to Twins skipper Rudy Hernandez, himself an award-winner as 2001 Appy League Manager of the Year.
   Over 20,000 spectators came to Twins' games in 2001, the second highest attendance ever reported for Elizabethton baseball. The economic impact goes far beyond Joe O'Brien Field as the team is a draw to businesses outside the area.
   "One leader in our community talked about from an economic standpoint how the Twins help bring industry to our town," Mains commented. "He mentioned that he never realized the impact a minor league baseball team could have.
   "I had a phone call from a man from Boston who was interested in coming to Elizabethton. He had heard on ESPN that Mauer was going to sign and come play for us. He said, 'I didn't realize your town had a minor league baseball team. That is such a plus. We are more interested and more likely to settle in your community and bring industry in.' It's something to add to all the beauty and the other things around here."
   Under Mains, not only has attendance skyrocketed, but, the team is more involved with the community than ever before.
   While there has been considerable work in making this program a success, Mains is hesitant to take the praise for the job instead passing on compliments to his assistants and the players. "My staff works very hard," said the Appy League's top GM. "Fortunately, there are a good group of men working for us. They take considerable pride in their jobs.
   "The one thing I'm most proud of is we were able to take our players to the housing agencies, take them to day cares and have them sign autographs. We were out in the community. That's the thing I'm most proud of. Awards are great, but when our players give something back to the community that's very special."