Jason Smorol has been on the job at Syracuse's NBT Bank Stadium for nearly a decade.

For a generation of baseball fans in Central New York, Smorol is the game's chief cheerleader at the ballpark on Hiawatha Boulevard. At the helm of Triple-A play since the conclusion of the 2013 International League season, there's no separating Smorol from the thrills that is taking place on the city's Northside today.

When arriving at what was then officially known as Community Baseball Club of Central New York in October 2013, when the then Syracuse Chiefs were the primary affiliate of the Washington Nationals, Smorol had his work cut out for him.  Prior to his hiring, he last ran the Auburn Doubledays of the New York-Penn League, back in 2002-2004.

Immediately, at Chiefs' home games, Smorol was seen on the field barking up promotions and rallying the fans to a product he was selling, throughout the stadium's concourse; meeting and greeting the base - rebranding the importance of professional baseball to the locals.

After the 2018 season, the last for Syracuse's affiliation with Washington, and prior to that a 30-year relationship as the top affiliate for the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Mets moved into the stadium at 1 Tex Simone Drive.  Back in October 2017 it was announced that the Mets had purchased the Chiefs from Community Baseball Club of Central New York. Through all the transfers of affiliations and club owners, stadium renovations, and a canceled season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is Smorol who has guided the baseball ship in Syracuse.

Jason Smorol. credit: Syracuse Mets
Jason Smorol. credit: Syracuse Mets

First-time goers to Syracuse Mets' games today would have a difficult time pegging Smorol as the general manager. As the gates open before home games, he's everywhere in the stadium.  Smorol is the baseball fixer. What and who needs attention, Smorol is the king of delegation.  He is also humble of his importance to the Mets' operations, and quick to deflect any accolades aimed at him to his loyal staff.

"Everybody around here seems to like working here," said Smoral during a phone conversation earlier this week.  "It's a laid-back atmosphere here.  We (Mets) have a vision, and I trust the staff to follow through."

Unlike their MLB counterparts in the front office, the ones responsible for executing trades and negotiating players' contracts, general managers on the MiBL level, at times, are forced to press their talents thin.  Concessions, hospitality, marketing, operations, Smorol addresses needs in real time, regardless of the inning in motion.  Such an agenda has become second nature to him.

Players, coaches, even front office executives in minor league baseball come and go, many looking to advance to the MLB level, but Smorol, by choice, remains in Syracuse.

"I just keep showing up," says Smorol with a half-hearted sigh.  "This is what I love to do. When I cam aboard, failure was not an option."

This baseball battle cry remains Smorol's mantra. He feels that the club in Syracuse, being owned by the New York Mets, is a blessing.  This is a strength few affiliates can boast about.  During the pandemic, through the financial strength in Flushing, Queens, Syracuse employees made it through what was for most people a very trying time.  Smorol tells of his staff, during COVID-19, taking a "little" pay cut. The Syracuse staff kept busy, and gave their best efforts to gain back a little revenue from the lost season of 2020.

Since being absorbed by the New York Mets, communication is much more prevalent , as opposed when Syracuse and the Nationals had a working agreement.  It's not unusual for Smorol to speak with other general managers along the Mets' minor league system; St. Lucie, Binghamton, or Brooklyn.  Spitballing  ideas has been a successful avenue to tweak promotions and other ways to be their very best at being fan friendly.

Jason Smorol. credit: Syracuse Mets
Jason Smorol. credit: Syracuse Mets

During baseball season, Smorol's typical day reaches between 12-13 hours.  On game day, he will leave his home to arrive around 10:30 a.m. at NBT Bank Stadium, and Smorol turns out his office light by 11:00 p.m.  With a few hours rest, he'll be ready to do it all over again.

"Everyday is like Ground Hog Day.  You get ready for that day, and who knows what will come? It could be a heat pump in the clubhouse.  (Baseball) is never dull," explains Smorol.

With 19 front office staffers (15 full-time), a number which Smorol states is the smallest among all Triple-A clubs, on game days there could be up to 150 employees working their magic at the stadium.  Beyond watching players turning in exceptional performances on the diamond, the Syracuse Mets are a small business doing incredibly well for their surrounding communities on a large scale.

With a dedicated staff and the ability to lead by Smorol, and little or no parameters on what or how to get to "yes" for their guests, baseball in Central New York is in good, caring hands for the foreseeable future. The tag teaming of the New York Mets with a welcoming city Upstate from Citi Field makes for some really good baseball memories.

Kristine Bellino, WIBX

Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com. 

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