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All That It’s Quacked Up to Be

Jon Clemmons ’08 had a stake in the 2023 World Series as general manager of the Down East Wood Ducks.

Jon Clemmons ’08 poses with the World Series trophy, the first for the Texas Rangers franchise. Photo courtesy of Jon Clemmons.

Jon Clemmons ’08 jokes that he found himself on the fence in early November, watching what would be the deciding game of the 2023 World Series.

Clemmons is general manager of the Down East Wood Ducks in Kinston, N.C., the Single-A Minor League Baseball affiliate of Major Leage Baseball’s Texas Rangers. That particular night, the Rangers were on the brink of clinching the Fall Classic in Game 5 over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Win that game on the Diamondbacks’ home field, and it’s the first World Series title in Rangers’ history. Lose, they’d have to return to Texas for a chance to clinch in Game 6. That would offer a silver lining to Clemmons, who was watching at his home in Greenville, N.C.

“If they went to a Game 6, I was catching a flight the next day,” says Clemmons, who had already taken in Games 1 and 2 of the series in person in Arlington, Texas. “But to be able to go ahead and win it in Arizona and be done with it was pretty cool.”

Clemmons, 38, just wrapped his second season this past summer as general manager of the Wood Ducks — and his seventh overall with the team. So he was familiar with some of the Rangers he saw celebrating on television after the 5–0 Game 5 win. The Rangers’ athletic strength and conditioning coach spent time in Kinston with the Wood Ducks, as did Rangers’ first-base coach Corey Ragsdale, who managed the team in 2019. Center fielder Leody Taveras played in Kinston for a year and a half. And outfielder Evan Carter played for the Wood Ducks in 2021.

In his day job, Clemmons focuses less on the plays those guys made with the Wood Ducks than on the off-the-field aspects of the minor leagues. It’s what a 16-year career in the minors — from time with the Carolina Mudcats and the Asheville (N.C.) Tourists to the Wood Ducks — instilled in him as essential. “My goal is to make sure each fan has an optimal experience when they’re here,” he says of the Wood Ducks’ Grainger Stadium. “That’s saying ‘hey’ to the first-time visitor. Seeing our season-ticket holders. So I don’t see a lot of the game. It’s more about making sure that things are running smoothly from a business aspect and making sure fans here are having a good time.”

As GM, Clemmons comes up with a budget every fall for the following spring and summer. He and his team develop the different sales items and construct the schedule. They work to secure season-ticket holders and groups that can rent the pavilion area in Grainger Stadium for games. “Really, we want to have all that taken care of before the first pitch of the season,” he says.

Sometimes that means trying to think outside the box for an unusual promotion. Clemmons says his wackiest idea came in 2012, when he was working for the Asheville Tourists. He was working with a tour company as a client. “And we built a zip line in the stadium at McCormick Field,” he says. “We would ask kids, fans, all different ages who were willing to do it to ride the game ball to home plate. That was probably the craziest adventure I’ve been a part of.”

This offseason, he’s got a more prestigious idea for a promotion during the Wood Ducks’ 2024 season — a World Series trophy coming to North Carolina. “I certainly made that ask,” he says. “I’m waiting on the feedback on that. I’m looking for a tour through Kinston so our fans can relate to that experience.”

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