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Jaywalking: Climbing the ranks

  • Geoff Iacuessa CONTIRUBTED PHOTO


Monday, September 24, 2018

It’s not exactly a rags to riches tale, but Greenfield native Geoff Iacuessa certainly has a unique story to tell.

Nearly 20 years ago, Iacuessa, who grew up on James Street, began his career as an intern for the Portland Sea Dogs, the minor league Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. He steadily advanced his career over two decades rising through Sales and Marketing to General Manager and Vice President of the team, and two weeks ago Iacuessa was named President of the Sea Dogs.

“It’s been a wonderful experience and a lucky experience, too,” Iacuessa said from his office late last week. “Certainly, through the years I’ve had opportunities to go to other teams, but Portland is just an awesome place to be. We have a family ownership and the family treats us and our staff very well. They’ve given me the opportunities and challenges here to keep me happy.”

The 39-year-old Iacuessa graduated from UMass with a degree in Sport Management and was hired as an intern with the Sea Dogs in 2001. At that time, the team was an affiliate for the Miami Marlins, and after his summer internship, Iacuessa returned to his hometown and actually worked as a sports writer for the Recorder from September 2001 until March 2002. He hooked back up with the Sea Dogs that March when he was hired full time as the Director of Group Sales. In 2004, Iacuessa was promoted to the Director of Sales and Promotions, and after the 2006 season, he was again promoted to Assistant General Manager for Sales and Promotions. Finally, after the end of the 2010 season, Iacuessa was promoted as executive vice president and general manager of the team.

His promotion came after Amherst native Charlie Eshbach relinquished his duties as GM, but remained on as president of the team. Over the next eight years, Iacuessa served under Eshbach, learning from him until Eshbach announced his retirement earlier this month, making way for Iacuessa to take over as president. Iacuessa will remain as general manager of the team, while Eshbach, who has been in baseball for 45 years (including the last 25 with the Sea Dogs) will stay on as a senior advisor.

“To be able to work under Charlie has been great,” Iacuessa said. “There are not many others who have accomplished what he has.”

The promotion has allowed Iacuessa to continue his dream, which began after graduating from Greenfield High School in 1997.

“My dream was to work in baseball. I loved the game, but I had no shot of playing it after high school,” he joked. “Everybody wanted to work for the Red Sox or another big league team, but I was being pushed toward minor league baseball.”

Iacuessa said that the difference between working for a major league and minor league team is that no matter what position you hold in the minors, you do a little bit of everything. That’s something that he has always enjoyed, and something he plans to continue doing as he moves into a new challenge.

“I’m a big believer in that you should enjoy your job, but you also have to be challenged,” Iacuessa said. “That’s been great about this job and made it a great experience. And I love the season. I love seeing the fans come out. In the minors league level, you get to interact with game day staff and fans no matter your position, and I’ll make sure I still do some of those things. I don’t intend to ever be a person who tells people to go do this, go do that.”

The Sea Dogs switched affiliates following the 2002 season when they became the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the team that Iacuessa grew up rooting for as a child. In 2004, the switch became even more exciting as Iacuessa was part of the organization that laid an 86-year curse to rest with its first World Series Championship since 1918. He has now been a part of the Red Sox organization for three world titles. In addition, he has gotten the opportunity to see star players come up through the organization. Current stars such as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi have all spent time at Portland in recent seasons.

“To see those guys develop has been a pretty neat experience,” he said. “Mookie Betts is the best player I’ve ever seen.”

Iacuessa has seen more than just stars. He has also seen players and coaches grind through the minor leagues to get the shot to play and coach in the majors. He points out Red Sox left-handed relief pitcher Robbie Scott and Red Sox third base coach Carlos Fables as two men he admired.

“At every level Robbie was at through the system he just kept getting outs. He is a tremendous person,” Iacuessa began. “Carlos was our coach for two seasons and is now the third base coach with the Red Sox. To see those guys at this level and the hard work they put in to get there is amazing.”

Another reason why Iacuessa has remained in the only organization he has ever worked in is because of the city he calls home. He said he loves Portland, and being able to live in the city of 65,000 with his wife of 15 years Kristie (Dion) of Montague Center, and their soon-to-be 11-year-old son Hudson, has been wonderful.

“Having my family in a smaller city is one draw,” he said. “We live about 10 minutes from the park and my wife and Hudson come over to just about every game.”

As for his new position, Iacuessa said many of his responsibilities remain the same. He will be attending league meetings in two weeks with all the other general managers where he said “anything and everything is fair game.” The managers share and discuss things such as travel, promotions, etc, and will do it all again in December at baseball’s winter meetings.

“We are all friendly, we all get along, and that fosters a lot of sharing of ideas,” he said. “That’s one of the great things about minor league baseball. It’s a close knit group of good people.”

In the spring, Iacuessa will begin his 19th season and he is just as excited for the upcoming year as he was for his first. It’s been quite a ride for the one-time intern and Recorder sports writer, and he has no plans for it to end any time soon.

“My goal is to do this job as long as I wake up every day and feel like it’s a challenge,” he concluded. “Every day, I’m excited to come to work. I’m excited to think about where we will be 10 years from now, 15 years from now. I’ve always enjoyed it. The sky is the limit with what you can do creatively.”

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder Sports Editor. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.