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Bigger Than Baseball: Owner Dave Heller Helps the River Bandits Transcend Sport
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: News/Features

Category: Feature Stories

2015-08-06 11:30:04

Dave Heller. Photo by Kevin Schafer (

It goes without saying that Dave Heller is a baseball guy. He is, after all, the Quad Cities River Bandits’ managing partner, and he has an ownership stake in three other minor-league teams.

He talks about his first ownership experience – as a business partner with legendary players Don Mattingly (Heller calls him “Donnie”) and Cal Ripken Jr. And about road trips to see his baseball idol Tom Seaver when he pitched for the Mets and Red Sox.

When I inquired about his favorite River Bandits player, he quickly answered, “Carlos Correa, without question. ... Great work ethic, great natural ability, great with kids. He’ll be a special star. ... The idea of having an overall number-one pick like Carlos here is really exciting to us. Two years later, and he’s in the major leagues and tearing it up.”

Heller grew up in Baltimore, but he wasn’t an ardent Orioles fan. “I wasn’t passionate about the Birds the way other people were,” he said. “I really kind of just loved baseball writ large. I could watch a Cardinals-Cubs game and enjoy myself every bit as much as watching an Orioles-White Sox game.”

Yet the 53-year-old doesn’t run the River Bandits – or any other team he owns – like a sports enterprise. In an hour-long conversation last week, the game itself felt incidental. Heller said his model for the myriad improvements, additions, and promotions at Modern Woodmen Park during his tenure was “county fairs. ... I think the idea of bringing some of that county-fair atmosphere into a ballpark is really healthy and fun and productive.”

Treating the ballpark like an amusement park might rankle baseball purists, but it’s good business – particularly when one considers that minor-league owners manage the venue and not the team. The goal is to get people through the gates – and all the better if some of them only know ERA as an acronym for the Equal Rights Amendment.

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All-Stars on All-Stars: The Baseball Project, June 9 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2011-05-25 11:13:43

The Baseball Project. Photo by Michael E. Anderson.

To get a sense of the challenge, charm, and skill of the Baseball Project super-group – playing RIBCO on June 9 – start with Scott McCaughey’s “Buckner’s Bolero,” a litany of all that conspired to make Bill Buckner one of the sport’s great scapegoats.

“If Bobby Ojeda hadn’t raged at Sullivan and Yawkey / And hadn’t been traded to the Mets for Calvin Schiraldi,” it begins. “If Oil Can Boyd hadn’t been such a nutcase / And Jim Rice had twice taken an easy extra base.”

Here it’s evident that McCaughey knows the game in general, knows Game Six of the 1986 World Series in particular, and is fearless in attempting rhythms and rhymes with proper names and baseball lingo in song. Of Red Sox Manager John McNamara, he sings: “If he’d hit Baylor for Buckner and yanked the first baseman / For his by-the-book late-inning defensive replacement / That ball would’ve been snagged if it’d ever been hit / And Mookie’s last name would now be ‘’86.’”

But that amounts to little more than clever wordplay. Where McCaughey really shines is in taking the long view, approaching existential issues of baseball immortality: “If even one man doesn’t do one thing he does / We’d all know Bill Buckner for what he was: / A pretty tough out for the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs.” But he finally concludes that the ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson that went through his legs might be the best thing that happened to his song’s subject: “And your 22 years playing ball might be forgotten / Maybe Bill Buckner was lucky his luck was so rotten.”

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