Mud Hens make changes in quest for new ballpark

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

The Toledo Mud Hens, in the middle of their quest for a new stadium, will have a new day-to-day team leader when they hit the field this spring.

Joe Napoli, 34, has been promoted from executive director to general manager. The team’s former general manager, Gene Cook, 67, has been named the team’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Mr. Napoli, 34, said. “There are a lot of great new ideas that we’re going to try out.”

Mr. Cook, 67, has been general manager since 1978. He was a Toledo city councilman for 30 years, and he was president of council when he retired in 1997. He is a member of the five-person Mud Hens board of directors.

“It’s no big deal with me,” Mr. Cook said. “They’re just titles, we’re all still working for the team.”

Earlier this year, amid controversy about the makeup of the Mud Hens board, Mr. Cook offered to step down from the board. Five white men comprise the Mud Hens board, and board chairman Ed Bergs mark later decided to expand the board to include a woman and a member of a minority group. At the time, Mr. Bergsmark said Mr. Cook was put on the team’s board to allow Mr. Napoli to take over the general manager’s role.

“That was the logic to putting Gene on the board,” he said. “You have a guy with 20-some years experience on the ballclub who gives great counsel.”

In a statement yesterday, Mr. Bergsmark said Mr. Cook “will provide guidance” on the new ballpark.

He added: “With a new stadium on the horizon, we want to assure the community that we have the key executives in place.”

Board member Dave Huey said Mr. Cook and Mr. Napoli “will work together, with Gene’s experience and relationships in the community and Joe’s new thought processes on how to make things more fan-friendly. Gene will be very active as chief operating officer.”

Mr. Napoli is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a graduate of St. John’s University. He previously worked for the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Tigers. He has worked for the Mud Hens 2 1/2 years.

He said he would push for greater community outreach and marketing as general manager.

In other moves, the team named Michael Miller its new team president.

Mr. Miller, executive vice president of Fifth Third Bank, had been the board’s vice president. He takes the title from Mr. Bergs mark, who had been both board chairman and team president.

The team made the announcements before a meeting with the three Lucas County commissioners to discuss the results of the team’s annual audit. Team officials refused to make copies of the audit public.