MiLB's Behind-the-scenes Heavy Hitter

Lindsey Knupp entertained some of the biggest crowds in the MiLB while working for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

Lindsey Knupp entertained some of the biggest crowds in the MiLB while working for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

BY PERRY MATTERN ’14

Lindsey Knupp ’04 loved sports and played sports, but she never expected to be working in sports after graduating from Shippensburg University. Fortunately, whether playing or working on the field, she excelled. In fact, Knupp is so good at what she does in her roll as vice president of marketing and entertainment for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs that she earned the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year in December 2015.

As a member of SU’s field hockey team, Knupp started all four years at Ship, graduating as the school record holder in goals (56) and assists (34). The SU field hockey program has only ascended since Knupp graduated, as she now ranks sixth in goals and second in assists. Her seventeen assists in the 2003 season remain a school record. She was a two-time All-American and a three-time All-PSAC performer. Most importantly, Shippensburg posted a 66-19
record in Knupp’s four years with the team.

But as her collegiate career wound down, the real world was on the horizon. Knupp, who majored in marketing and minored in Spanish, was an intern with the Reading Phillies during the summer between her junior and senior years. Reading, which is the AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, was a perfect fit for Knupp, who fell in love with the teamwork atmosphere of minor league baseball.

“I ended up loving working in baseball and how a staff comes together,” she said. “Our staff really is a team.”

Knupp stayed in touch with Reading, which has since changed its name to the Fightin’ Phils, and sure enough, a call came that allowed Knupp to begin her journey through the minor league baseball world.

ONWARD, UPWARD, AND HOME

Knupp had spent two seasons with Reading when it was announced that a minor league team was coming to Lehigh Valley. The team was named the Iron Pigs and became the Triple-A affiliate of Philadelphia. The new franchise went all in, erecting Coca-Cola Park, which now stands as one of the most iconic ballparks in all of minor league baseball. She landed the position of director of promotions and entertainment.

Joining Lehigh Valley was a homecoming of sorts for Knupp, who went to Northampton High School, which is just a twenty-minute drive from Coca-Cola Park.

In her new role, she ran all of the unique between-inning promotions that only can be found at the minor league level. She was consistently doing it for a big crowd, too—the Iron Pigs draw more than 600,000 fans each season. No other minor league team has done that.

“When I graduated in 2005, it wasn’t the flourishing industry it has grown into in the last ten years,” Knupp said.

Lindsey Knupp knows bacon sells. Her creative “Smell the Change” campaign for the MiLB’s Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs scored big, earning national attention.

Lindsey Knupp knows bacon sells. Her
creative “Smell the Change” campaign for the MiLB’s Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs scored big, earning national attention.

With that success came long hours. The workdays last at least twelve hours—extra innings extend it further—and long home stands can turn into eighty-hour work weeks. While the hours can take their toll, Knupp almost seemed made for minor league baseball after being a captain for her
teams at Shippensburg.

We are a team. ...One thing I’ve always learned is to always share the credit, give credit where credit is due.
— Lindsey Knupp '04

“We are a team,” she said of her coworkers. “If someone needs help in one area, pulling the tarp on field—the front office is your team. One thing I’ve always learned is to always share the credit, give credit where credit is due. Let’s do this. Even if it’s the crummiest of jobs, let’s go do this. I wouldn’t ask someone to do anything that I haven’t already done.”

SMELL THE BACON

Following the 2013 season, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs wanted to rebrand. A four-person committee including Knupp was tasked with proposing something new, something bold.

“What’s different? What can we do?” the group discussed. “Liberty bell? Steel stacks? Molten?”

How about bacon? Who doesn’t like bacon? Knupp said roughly one of forty people in the front office thought the idea was a good one. Nevertheless, she and the committee remained confident and introduced SmellTheChange.com. The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs were going to wear a hat that had just a strip of bacon on it.

“Bacon sells,” Knupp said simply.

It sure does. According to The Morning Call, more than 3,000 bacon strip hats were sold in the first two weeks following the announcement. The campaign exploded nationwide as the Iron Pigs garnered attention from Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal among other media outlets. Meanwhile, the trust in Knupp continued to grow within the Lehigh Valley organization. Following the 2015 season, she was promoted to her current position—vice president of marketing and entertainment.

The good news continued to roll in later that fall. Knupp received the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It was a huge honor, and I had no idea I was even nominated,” Knupp said. “I got called into (general manager) Kurt (Landes’s) office, and there was someone on the phone. He said, ‘This is Pat O’Conner with MiLB (O’Conner is the Minor League Baseball president). By the sound of your voice, it sounds like you don’t know why I’m calling.’ I was bright red, sweating. I had to give a speech at the winter meetings. You don’t get an award like that without the support of a lot of people.”

'YOU LEARN HOW TO LEARN'

Although there’s no specific class for Knupp’s line of work, she said she regularly applies lessons that she learned from her time at SU.

“The things that you learned, some of the things that professors said, were over my head. But you learn how to learn. How do I take this and apply this?”

Playing field hockey as a student at Ship.

Playing field hockey as a student at Ship.

There also were plenty of lessons learned on the field, where Knupp made some of her best friends. She credits SU field hockey coach Bertie Landes for keeping alumni of the program so close.

“My teammates were fantastic. Coach Landes still reaches out to alumni, still has us very involved. …We do the alumni game every year. She’s kept our field hockey family in the loop to this day. We still keep up with each other. That’s always a great feeling. I definitely gained some of my best friends from life at Ship.”

Perry Mattern ‘14 is an intern with the Washington Redskins.