When Clint Brown passed away in January 2018, it left a hole in the Florence community and left his wife, Kim, to run the Florence Freedom baseball club on her own. Brown recently sold the Freedom to a group of Cincinnati businessmen that included David DelBello, who will step into the role of team CEO. Only a couple months into the position, DelBello spoke with us about looking ahead to the 2020 season.

Q How were you introduced to Kim Brown and the opportunity to buy the Florence Freedom?

A One of my partners had been in contact with her and it was right place, right time as most things might happen. But, more importantly, Kim chose us over groups. We feel comfortable with her and she with us, but she also realized we had the same values in terms of what the team does and what the team does for the community and wanting to keep the team here. I know she had some opportunities to sell it to some out-of-town people but there were no guarantees of the team staying here.

Q Is there anything you want to do as CEO to continue the connection the Freedom has with the community?

A Honestly, there are lots of ideas and lots of thoughts on what we want to do. We’re still deciding what is the best approach, what’s the best path. I will tell you that some things will be different—engagement with the community will be different and there will be some new and exciting things going on come next year so that people will want to come to the ballpark again.

Q Is there something unique about the experience of independent baseball at a Florence Freedom game?

A What brings people to the ballpark is a family-friendly, fun, affordable atmosphere. Our main customer is a family—two or three children—and they come to the ballpark because it’s a lot more affordable than going across the river. Parking’s free, tickets are relatively inexpensive. But probably more importantly, when they get here it’s a family environment where kids can run around and play—we have a kid’s zone [and] parents feel safe to let their kids play. The kids enjoy it not only for the play aspect of it but because of the show that goes on around the game as well. What happens in between the innings is just as important as what happens during the innings here.

Q With an unaffiliated minor league team, what does a successful season entail?

A At first blush, success on the field means giving these guys opportunities to continue playing pro ball and hopefully getting an opportunity then to be signed into affiliate ball. The fact that we’ve had five of them signed to affiliated contracts [this season] is a big success; that’s more than anybody else in the [Frontier] League. That means we’re doing something right on the field.

Success on the other side of it is certainly people coming to the ballpark—numbers are important but also people walking out of the ballpark saying they had a good time. They want to come back, they want to tell their friends to come back—that’s success. If we continue to do that and if we get better at that, even though it’s doing well now, the team from a business perspective will be just fine.