Andy Shea 1
A degree in marketing and human resources has prepared Andy Shea for his current role as president and CEO of the Lexington Legends, the South Atlantic League’s professional baseball team in Lexington. It also helps that he knows the game.
“The first 20 years of my life, I had a one-track mind of baseball,” he said.
A native of Pennsylvania, Shea graduated in 2004 from Boston College, where he was a catcher and outfielder through his sophomore year until a torn shoulder, rotator cuff and labrum put an end to his playing days. His thoughts then turned to the business of baseball, and the timing worked out well.
“My family bought the Legends,” he said, “and made an investment in Lexington.”
Shea worked his way up from parking lot attendant and ticket sales in 2005 to general manger and COO, and in 2014 he became the president and CEO of the organization. He and his mother, Susan Martinelli Shea, bought the team from Shea’s father, Bill Shea.
The Legends have played at Whitaker Bank Ballpark since 2010; prior to that it was known as Applebee’s Park. At the end of the 10-year naming rights agreement between the Legends and Applebee’s owner Thomas & King, both parties shook hands.
“We had a great time. We had a valuable 10 years together and it was time to do different things,” Shea said.
The former Maker’s Mark Club was renamed the Kentucky Ale Taproom around the same time, thanks to a new partnership with Alltech. The Pepsi Party Deck has remained the same since the team was formed in 2001.
In an effort to invite the public to the ballpark before and after the season, Shea brought the Red, White & Boom music festival to Whitaker Bank Ballpark in 2011. Formerly a Fourth of July concert held in the Cox Street parking lot behind Rupp Arena, Red, White & Boom is now a three-day event during Labor Day weekend in partnership with iHeart Media. Shea expects 50,000 in attendance this year.
“It was nice [before], but we took it here and turned it into arguably the biggest festival in the state,” he said. “Red, White & Boom, from an economic standpoint, put millions of dollars into the community.”
A dozen or so 5K races and charity walks are held at the ballpark each year, as well as high school baseball tournaments. The facility is available to rent for board meetings and other events. Year-round, Shea has a staff of 24 people; during the season from April to August, an additional 250 to 300 seasonal employees handle the grounds, parking, tickets, and food and beverage service for the ballpark.
“We had outsourced our concessions the first 15 years of the Legends; last year was the first year we did it ourselves,” Shea said. “We have been able to add tremendous flexibility and variety, and we lowered every single price last year. That was something very important to us.”
Appalachia Proud burgers are sold at the ballpark in addition to hot dogs, pizza and nachos.
As for paying the baseball players themselves, that’s one area of the business not in local hands. The roster holds 25 active players and four coaches who are paid by the Kansas City Royals. Previously affiliated with the Houston Astros, the Legends have been a class A affiliate of the Royals since 2012.
“This is, in most cases, their first year of professional baseball,” Shea said of the players, who are typically 19 to 22 years old. “They hustle every single second. They try to sign every single autograph and take every picture.”
Running a team in the minors is similar to operating a movie theater, in that the theater doesn’t control the production of the film. “We hold the show and make sure the facility is clean, safe, accessible, marketed well, fun and entertaining,” Shea said, “and that the food is warm and drinks are cold.”
Shea also owns another business in town. In the fall of 2011 he opened Trust Lounge downtown by restoring the century-old Phoenix Bank and Trust of Lexington and turning it into a nightclub.
Being involved with the community is so important to Shea, during the hiring process he asks each new employee what charity is near and dear to his or her heart.
“I’ll work personally through the Legends to get them involved, because it is something very important for us as individuals and for the one professional sports team in Lexington,” he said.
He is involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and serves on the boards of Junior Achievement and LexArts.
“The other organization I have been involved with since I’ve been here is the American Diabetes Association,” he said. He’s also a two-time winner of the Lexington Rotary Club’s “Dancing With the Lexington Stars” competition.
“I love my job,” Shea said. “I love Lexington and I love who the Legends are, so it makes it very easy to be at work.”
The Lexington Legends’ 2017 home opener is April 13 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. First pitch at 7:05 p.m.