New Orleans Zephyrs new owner Lou Schwechheimer has hired Augusto Rojas as the team’s new general manager, the team announced Thursday.
The hiring of a GM comes as no surprise, and Rojas worked from 2004-12 years under Schwechheimer with the Pawtucket Red Sox as sales manager. Rojas replaces Mike Schline, who was moved to the position of vice president of baseball operations.
Schwechheimer said although Rojas will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the team, without question he was brought in to increase the Zephyrs’ sales and attendance, which has lagged near the bottom of the Pacific Coast League for several years.
“It’s been his lifelong dream to be a general manager,” Swechheimer said. “Under his tutelage, the Paw-Sox set records in our sales and marketing efforts and he really made a name for himself in our industry.
“He brings a new vibrancy and enthusiasm to the Zephyrs front office. He will be primarily focused on attendance, marketing, our ticketing efforts, our sales effort, community outreach.”
Schwechheimer, who bought the Zephyrs on Nov. 21, had said he will run the team and play a big role in its promotions aspect. However, the group he heads purchased the Class A Port Charlotte (Fla.) Stone Crabs (Tampa Rays) on Jan. 2. He said he will oversee the Z’s and Stone Crabs as well as working to build relationships with business and civic leaders in the New Orleans area and bring exhibitions such as the Cuban national team to New Orleans.
Rojas goes by the nickname of “Cookie” — like that of Octavio Rojas, a former Major League Baseball second baseman and outfielder from 1962-77. During Augusto Rojans’ time with Pawtucket, the Red Sox consistently ranked near the top of the Class Triple-A International League in sales and attendance, although that was the result of a collaborative effort with Schwechheimer a main principle.
A former Marine from 1987-93 who served in the Persian Gulf War, Rojas comes to the Z’s after being general manager for Brown Bears Sports Properties at Brown University in his native Providence, R.I. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Rhode Island and a law degree from Suffolk University.
As general manager of the Zephyrs since 2005, Schline headed up the non-player financial aspect of the running of the team, mostly including game-day aspects such as promotions and sales, hiring office personnel, the maintenance of Zephyr Field as well as working with the Louisiana Sports and Expedition District and the Superdome Manager Group, which operated the stadium, concerning funding and the team’s lease.
As vice president of baseball operations, Schline said Thursday he will focus more on working with the Superdome Management Group concering Zephyr Field, even though SMG is taking over maintenance of the stadium.
“I’ll oversee the liaison between the Zephyrs and our new relationship with SMG/LSED, stadium-wise,” said Schline, who was the PCL’s Executive of the Year in 2006 after the Z’s were the first professional sports team to return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “Also (I’ll) oversee our baseball relationship with the (parent Miami) Marlins will be my primary focus.
“(Zephyr Field) is an SMG facility now, so I’ll be more involved with the state.”
A $10 million architectural strategic plan was done in 2014 and presented to the state and the team concerning the enhancement of Zephyr Field. However, without a new lease, that was put on hold. However, the Zephyrs and LSED signed a lease in September, when it was decided SMG would maintain the stadium.