In a truly strange scene for the world of professional sports, the Baltimore Blast held a press conference today to announce they were letting the team president and general manager, Kevin Healey, leave to become a part-owner and president of its nearest competitor, the Harrisburg Heat.
Last week, the team announced one of its best defenders, Kevin’s son Pat, would be retiring as a player to coach the very same Heat.
And at today’s event, Kevin Healey, Blast owner Ed Hale and Heat owner Carl Delmont sat in the middle of a restaurant in Timonium, Maryland, at a table covered in a tablecloth with the Heat logo.
Why should Baltimore fans be excited to lose the architect of back-to-back-to-back championships and one of the team’s longest-tenured star players? Apparently, the concept that a rising tide lifts all boats.
“I believe very strongly that this is going to be a very good move for our league,” said Hale, noting the Blast will play the Heat four to six times a year.
He went on to also praise the ownership group involved with moving a team from Syracuse, New York, to Utica, and said: “I think that right now we’re in a better position with our playing partners to have these people in management and ownership in our teams up there. So we’re looking forward to a lot of competition.”
During the 2017-2018 season, the Blast won the Eastern Division of the Major Arena Soccer League with a record of 17-5. The then-Syracuse Silver Knights were a distant second at 13-9, the Florida Tropics were in third at 10-12 and the Harrisburg Heat brought up the rear with a record of 6-16.
Delmont, whose franchise just received an injection of soccer smarts and marketing knowledge specific to a rather niche sport, likened the moves to when Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, which he eventually moved to Baltimore, joined the American Football Conference after the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
“He ended up going to a brand new conference and all the other things to get the TV contract, and look where the NFL is today,” he said.
“Ed’s making a great gesture, sacrifice,” he went on to say. “It’s for the benefit of the league.”
“Almost everybody” from last year’s championship squad has been signed, Hale said, so the father-son Healey duo won’t be luring any players up I-83 with them.
The elder Healey, whose involvement with the Blast dates to 1998, said Baltimore has achieved excellence, both in acquiring players and winning titles, and creating a marketing plan that has helped develop a loyal fanbase. And he hopes to bring that up north.
Healey remembered going up to Harrisburg to watch games during a blip in the tumultuous history of indoor soccer when Baltimore didn’t have a team, and seeing the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg come to life.
“We’re looking to try to do the same, build that brand in the Harrisburg Heat,” he said. “They’ve got a historic franchise, they got a name you can build off of, Carl’s done a great job kick starting it the last couple years and I look forward to working with them.”
With the season either starting in late November or early December–Hale said the schedule is still being finalized–the 2018-2019 Heat will still be a rebuilding team, but Delmont said solidifying the front office and coaching staff is an important first step in his effort to reboot the franchise.
As for the Blast, Hale will take on some of the CEO duties, assistant manager Mike Conway has been promoted to vice president of soccer operations and equipment manager Mark Meszaros will run the team’s merchandise.