Andrew Seymour: Repatriated Canadian

Talking about his move from Florida to B.C., the Vancouver Canadians baseball team’s new GM is unfailingly chipper.

Toronto native Andrew Seymour arguably landed a pretty sweet job when he took the GM duties off the plate of Canadians president Andy Dunn in January: the Canadians have growing ticket sales, a spruced-up stadium and energetic local owners willing to spend some cash.

But leaving the U.S. was no small step. The 40-year-old Seymour had a well-established life in Fort Myers, Florida. He worked his first sports internship with the Fort Myers Miracle minor baseball club. He met his mentor there – promotions hotshot Mike Veeck – who would guide his career over the next decade. He met his wife there. It’s where their first child was born.

Seymour put in 11 years with the Miracle, becoming the assistant GM, a job somewhere between that of a corporate spokesperson and a circus huckster, concocting award-winning stunts and oddball giveaways for the Fort Myers crowd.

Seymour gushes earnestly about his time at Fort Myers, saying no end of nice things about the city and the Miracle. He’s equally generous talking about Vancouver and the Canadians and, it would seem, anything else you’d care to ask him about.

What does your job with the Canadians entail?
The day-to-day operations. Our daily goal is to sell advertising, season tickets and then, once the season comes around, to sell the experience. So people come out here with some of their discretionary income and have some fun.

How did you get involved with the Fort Myers Miracle?
I went to George Brown College in Toronto to finish up my sports marketing and special events degree, and I went to do an internship. I applied to all these teams and Mike Veeck with the Miracle called and said, “Hey listen, come down here and you can do an internship with us.” So I went down, and he said, “Look, you can start tomorrow if you’d like. You’re going to get your nails, your feet, your hands, everything dirty, but you’re going to learn; you won’t be cheated.” After about nine months, he sent me up to Thunder Bay, Ontario, with the Whisky Jacks. From there I went to Tyler, Texas. Sure enough, Fort Myers had an opening in their promotions department about a year later and I went back.

What was your job there?
Towards the end I was the promotions director, the assistant general manager. The president there said, “You be the front-runner. You be in all the TV commercials, radio and be our spokesperson in the community.” And I did that for a half-dozen years. I was lucky enough that the community was generous and I got a nice embracing from them.

It was a big deal down there when you decided to move, judging by the local media coverage. What was your relationship with that community?br />The management gave me a platform to have some fun, go out in the community and do whatever to bring people to the games and show them a good time. I ingrained myself with the media, doing a lot of speaking and events and just hit the streets. In the end, I guess that sweat equity paid off and it seemed to work out very nicely.

How did you become interested in Vancouver?
I always kept my eye on a couple of teams in Canada, and Vancouver was certainly one of them. I was lucky enough to meet the ownership group a couple years ago. These guys were ingrained in the community for a long time and cared about keeping the team here. I got to tell you, I’m always very interested in local ownership. To me it’s, I don’t want to say romantic, but it is. It’s what makes it work.

Do you have a family that moved up here with you?
They’re en route. My wife is going to boost our attendance by one more this year, so whenever she can travel after that. That will be our second; we also have a three-year-old son. My wife has lived in Fort Myers for a long time. She’s looking forward to the change.

Do you think it’s a tougher job to fill a baseball stadium in B.C. than it was in Florida?
What was easy to sell in Fort Myers was the Minnesota Twins’ spring training. The summer was hard because you got heat, you got bugs, you got 70 dates, and these people know that if they miss one game, there are 69 others, and in a huge stadium: it’s 8,000 people. And you’re in football Mecca when you’re down there. So coming here where it’s hockey territory, baseball comes at a good time: June to Labour Day when people like being outside.

But the U.S. certainly has more of a following for baseball than Canada. Have you seen that with the fans?
Yes. America calls baseball its pastime. So it is a challenge, and you can see how it’s worked out in different places like in Ottawa and some other cities where it hasn’t really worked. But in Vancouver you’ve got a nice, recent history of some great players coming through here who are all from the B.C. area. And you have a wonderful climate. I don’t think I’d be part of it if I didn’t think it would work. I wouldn’t reach out to people and sponsors and sell season tickets and advertising if I didn’t think it would work.

Do you have ideas about new things that need to happen at Nat Bailey?
Well, we’re looking at upgrading our food; we’re going to a third-party concessionaire, which is going to be nice. We recognized what people like and we put nine fireworks nights into the schedule, and we’re catering to the kids on Sunday. We’re bringing back the San Diego Chicken mascot. We’ve got to exude fun; I guess that’s my side of things. Then we’ll do something silly; we’re trying to pull in something like, I don’t know if we can, but a José Canseco appearance, or Bret the Hitman Hart.