From left, Elliott, Sam and Ruth Sigal are the new owners of the Visalia Rawhide. 2019 image via Visalia Rawhide
After a yearlong search, the champion Visalia Rawhide baseball team has found a new ownership group to take it to extra innings.
The family company First Pitch Entertainment, LLC will become the owners of the California League team following approval from Major League Baseball. They will replace Top of the Third, Inc.
Along with the purchase, Sam Sigal, vice president and co-owner of First Pitch, relocated to Visalia to “be an active member of the community,” according to a press release from the Rawhide.
“During our extensive search for the perfect team, we fell in love with the Visalia community and the rich history of the ballclub,” Sigal said in the release. “As we attended games, we felt like we became part of the Rawhide Family and knew this was the team for us. We are thrilled to inherit such an established organization and its community values. We look forward to our family becoming a part of the fabric of the community and extending the tradition of professional baseball in Visalia for years to come.”
Sigal owns First Pitch along with his parents, Ruth and Elliott Sigal. Elliott, a medical doctor, serves as manager of First Pitch. Sigal also worked as a Minor League Baseball announcer for seven seasons.
“It means so much to me that the Sigal family shows the same dedication to the community that the Top of the Third ownership group did. Both of these families share similar values and vision for the direction the ballclub is going. You can expect the same care and passion for the community as you’ve seen the past decade from the Rawhide staff. We are excited to see what is in store for the next generation of our Rawhide Family,” Jennifer Reynolds, Rawhide general manager, said in the release.
Sigal said he would work closely with Rawhide staff, fans and the City of Visalia, as well as their affiliate-team the Arizona Diamondbacks to “formulate plans for the future.” Part of his move to Visalia will allow him to work closely with team management, the release stated.
One of the first things they will update will be a new video board in left-center field at the ballpark for the 2020 season. The board will measure 17 feet tall by 35 feet wide and “will represent a state-of-the-art digital experience for fans attending the ballpark for games or events.”
The purchase comes after the Rawhide broke what team officials say has been the most visits to a championship without winning — in all of sports. They won the California League Championship in September against the Lake Elsinore Storm after 11 previous appearances.
Top of the Third, Inc. owned the Rawhide for 18 years, the longest tenure in the team’s 73-year history. When they announced they were looking for new ownership in 2018, they made it known they were not in a hurry to sell.
“We spent over a year on our search for new ownership because we wanted to make sure whoever came in would be the right fit for the future of the ballclub, the city, and the staff. We are thrilled to be passing ownership from one family to another. The Sigal family will be a great fit for the Visalia community and the ballclub for years to come,” explained Tom Seidler, team president.
Other front office moves include Julian Rifkind and Mike Candela, both now assistant general managers.