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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 4, 2008

Two Guilderland grads share friendship and marketing strategies

By Jordan J. Michael

GUILDERLAND –– Pete Mayta and Steve Dapcic have been friends since elementary school. Now, they work side-by-side for the surprising Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball.

Mayta and Dapcic graduated from Guilderland High School in 2002, after playing various sports. The two both played basketball and baseball. Dapcic also played soccer. “We learned a lot about competitiveness in high school,” said Mayta. “You have to be willing to work hard.”

Dapcic is the senior coordinator of new media and external marketing for the Rays and Mayta is the youth marketing coordinator. “We’re involved with one of the best marketing industries in baseball,” said Dapcic. “We’re on our way to becoming a premiere industry in all of professional sports.”

Tampa Bay is currently leading the American League East division, ahead of the ever-popular New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The team has gone from worst to first in only one year’s time.

“This team is getting a ton of attention,” said Mayta. “We’ve been on top all season and the media is starting to take notice. The team did a 180 degree turn this season.”

The two have also worked on a marketing campaign to bring a new ballpark to the city of St. Petersburg, which is on Tampa Bay. “Were looking for an area that could accommodate the park,” said Dapcic. “The estimated revenue potential for the local economy could exceed one billion dollars over the next 30 years if this goes through.”

The team used to be called the Devil Rays, until Nov. 8, 2007. “That was a new birth and outlook for the team,” said Dapcic. “New name, colors, and logo. The marketing program really spearheaded at that point. It’s one of my greatest achievements here.”

Dapcic was part of a group that did research on the name. The group found that a large majority of fans used “Devil Rays,” when referring to the team in a negative way. On the other hand, a majority of fans used “Rays,” when speaking positively.

“The name change was a great idea. St. Petersburg never had a winning baseball team,” said Mayta. “Dropping the ‘devil’ got rid of the negative past, broke away from the past. It brought new energy and new life to a team that really needed it.”

Dapcic has been with the Rays for three years, starting with an internship right out of college. Mayta came to the organization this year through luck and networking.

“It’s pretty crazy. We grew up in upstate New York and end up being business partners in Florida,” said Mayta. “There was this Upper Deck Clinic that was hosted by Derek Jeter. Dapcic and I both worked it. He mentioned that there was an opening in marketing.”

“Actually, Mayta used to work for the current owners of the team,” said Dapcic. “The company was called Ayco-Goldman Sachs. They knew him from before, so he already had the in.”

“I liked Florida and working with my best friend sounded interesting,” said Mayta. “We collaborate well, but Steve has been here a lot longer and his role is larger than mine.”

Looking for fans

Even with all the success the Rays are having this season, the crowds are not where they should be for a first-place team. Dapcic and Mayta have to think of ways to increase the fan base daily.

“We concentrate on the weekends, usually. We had a summer concert series with some good acts, every Saturday,” said Dapcic. “The seats fill up for the weekends, around 30,000. If we could get 30,000 on the weekdays, that would be a big step. People are still warming up to this team.”

“Our market is not as big as Los Angeles or New York and this is our first winning season,” said Mayta. “The attendance will keep improving slowly, but merchandise sales are way up. The team has more games on television and is all over the news. Our brainstorming sessions are busy.”

Dapcic and Mayta watch over the Rays Street Team which goes face-to-face with fans. “We need to get the word out and we need good promotions,” said Dapcic. “The mood here is changing and were acquiring new fans. What does the public want to see?”

“Ads can only do so much. The Street Team acts like chameleons from person to person,” Mayta said.

Mayta manages Fantasy camps and youth baseball iniatives. “It’s important to get kids active in camps and clinics,” he said. “The kids get to meet the players and form a love for the Rays at an early age.”

Dapcic manages Tampa Bays’ grassroots marketing efforts on a regional level. “It’s a pretty big responsibility, but I would never complain,” he said. “I come to the ballpark everyday and everything is new. The excitement of the fans makes us satisfied.”

The Guilderland graduates aren’t planning on making any changes to the system. “Why change things if you’re in first place? We need to work on sustaining where we are,” said Mayta.

Guilderland gurus

Dapcic and Mayta have taken plenty of academic and social knowledge from the Guilderland area and name Coach Don Synder and Coach Mike Pipa as influential teachers.

“Coach Snyder was my soccer coach. He was a tremendous motivator and a better teacher,” said Dapcic. “He used the game of soccer as a machine to help prepare his players for life after high school.”

“I played baseball and learned writing skills under Coach Pipa. He helped me understand that a true leader, ‘leads by example,’” said Mayta. “I used those three words at the Division I level where I was a two-year captain of my baseball team. I continue to use this in a professional setting.”

Mayta played at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Dapcic was at Oswego.

Mayta and Dapcic were assistant coaches for the 2004 Rotterdam All-Star Team for 13-year-olds. The team was the New York State champion that year and placed third in the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

“We make a great team. We thank our parents for deciding to live in Guilderland,” said Mayta.

The two are glad to be a part of what they call “America’s favorite team.” Sometimes, going to work feels like going to class.

“I get this flashback of ninth-grade history class, then I realize that I’m sitting inside the ballpark in my office,” said Dapcic.

“I’m fortunate to be working with my best friend at such a great job. Steve has really taught me a bunch about marketing and I learn more every day,” said Mayta.

Dapcic and Mayta see a bright future for the organization. They have common goals and never take no for an answer. They sacrifice sleep for success.

“Everyone is excited and the culture is raving. We’re in a really good spot,” said Mayta. “We’ll sleep in the offseason.”

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