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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Texas Rangers executive, others added to Cleburne Railroaders ownership group

The Cleburne Railroaders baseball team have announced some additions to its ownership group, including an executive from the Texas Rangers and two owners of the Portland Pickles.

Neil Leibman, who owns multiple professional sports teams, along with Alan Miller and Jon Ryan of the Portland Pickles have made significant investments in the team’s future growth which will ensure an increased commitment to Johnson and southern Tarrant counties. They’ll also add community reinvestment programs that will further develop youth sports, restaurants and new tourism initiatives, according to a news release and a Facebook Live post from the team.

“The growth of Cleburne and the kindness of the people who live here are impressive, but I’m most excited about our partners’ commitment to developing baseball at all levels,”   Leibman said. “Daryn and John have done a great job building a strong community asset and I hope that Jon, Alan and I can contribute positively to their growth.”

Leibman, an original member of the team’s current ownership group, has served as Chairman of the Texas Rangers Ownership Committee and Chief Operating Officer. In January of this year, The Texas Rangers said  Leibman had also assumed the role of President of Business Operations, overseeing all of the club’s revenue and business operations areas, serves as the Chairman of the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, and works closely with Chairman and Managing Partner Ray Davis on future development opportunities.

Portland Pickles owners Alan Miller and Jon Ryan have also made an investment in the team. Miller is president of COLLiDE, a marketing agency with ties to the sports and music worlds. Ryan is a former Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers punter and co-founded Collide with Miller.

“I’m so excited to become a part of the great Cleburne community. Although my playing experience has been in football, I have a huge passion for baseball. I look forward to bringing my on-field knowledge of professional sports to the Railroaders and to ultimately bring a championship trophy to the city,” said Ryan.

With the Collide connection, little surprise that, for the 2021 season the Railroaders have updated team designs. The colors have been changed to those inspired by the Texas flag: Caboose Red, Steel Rail Blue and Whistle Post White. The marks were created by Miller’s COLLiDE Agency and designer Kevin McLaughlin.

“We wanted to create an identity that honors the 115-year heritage of the team and the region,” Miller said. “Baseball and trains are the fabric of America. We couldn’t be more excited to build a Texas mecca for baseball fans.”

New owner Alan Miller’s agency COLLiDE, will take on all marketing, merchandising and brand duties. General Manager John Junker will continue to oversee operations.

“Daryn and I are excited about the addition of Neil, Alan and Jon into our ownership group,” Junker said. “This is going to be fantastic for the Railroaders, Johnson County and the American Association. They bring tremendous talent, value and experience to our organization. We are thrilled with the future opportunities this presents.”

The Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association will launch the 2021 season this May with some added firepower in the front office.

The Railroaders play in the American Association of Professional Baseball, which recently announced a partnership with Major League Baseball. The league – which stretches from Texas north to Winnipeg, Manitoba – features 12 teams including the Chicago Dogs, Milwaukee Milkmen, Kansas City Monarchs and a new addition in the Kane County Cougars for the 2021 season.

“The Cleburne Railroaders have been on an upward trajectory since Daryn and John took over, and the addition of Neil, Alan and Jon make this ownership group one of the more dynamic in all of minor league baseball,” American Association Commissioner Joshua Schaub said. “The strengths of each will benefit not only the Railroaders organization, but the city of Cleburne and its neighboring communities and will continue to position the American Association as a premier league in professional baseball.”

The Cleburne Railroaders name was first used by a team from the early 1900s in the Texas League and the Texas Oklahoma League. The name comes from the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway that was founded in 1865 and ran through Cleburne. The current version of the Cleburne Railroaders played for three seasons from 2017-2019, but there was no baseball in 2020 due to the pandemic.

This is the first acquisition by Leibman’s Top Tier Sports fund. The deal was structured by Bill Yates of The Sports Advisory Group.

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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