Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Hens, Walleye G.M. honored with Business Pacemaker award


Joe Napoli, president and general manager of the Mud Hens and Walleye, is honored as Business Pacemaker of the Year by the University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation and the Business Engagement and Leadership Council.

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Joe Napoli received the big honor Friday night — the Business Pacemaker of the Year — but the president and general manager of the Toledo Mud Hens and Toledo Walleye directed his remarks to the business students at the awards dinner.

He noted that his parents worked to put him through high school, and that he worked as he attended St. John’s University.

“Hard work and diligence really do pay off,” said Mr. Napoli before an audience at the Inverness Club for the awards presentation by the University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation and the Business Engagement and Leadership Council.

The onetime bank management trainee added: “You get presented opportunities. You have to recognize them, and then you have to run with them.”

As he told students of the lessons he’d learned, he recounted the challenges of developing Fifth Third Field and moving the Mud Hens there and of developing Huntington Center. Students need to make themselves known, he said, while acknowledging the challenge of an era when any indiscretion might be spread by social media.

“Everyone is judging you all of the time — your actions, the things you say,” he said. “If you want to be successful, you have to pay attention to that.”

In presenting the business award, Steven Cavanaugh of the Business Engagement and Leadership Council noted Mr. Napoli’s role in the downtown baseball field and the arena.

“He has made a tremendous impact on our community in a positive way,” Mr. Cavanaugh said.

The council and UT have presented the award since 1963 to recognize outstanding achievement in business and contributions to the community and the university.

“I’m humbled,” Mr. Napoli said, adding, “but I always feel I’m totally overrated. It’s hard to put into words, because I’m so appreciative, because of what’s happened to me and my family in Toledo. This is another one of those things.

“It’s simple, and it’s basic: You work hard. You learn from your mistakes, and you seek out great mentors,” Mr. Napoli said.

Mr Napoli said his mentors included the late Gene Cook, former Mud Hens general manager and a former longtime member of Toledo City Council; David Huey, a longtime Mud Hens board member who is a retired president and chief operating officer of The Blade’s parent firm, Block Communications Inc.; Michael Miller, a longtime area banker and leader on the Mud Hens board, and his parents. “I look at the people I work with every day, and these folks are amazing,” he said. “They do a wonderful job, and they love what they do, and they love the community.”

Mr. Napoli has been a volunteer leader in the Great Lakes Center for Autism, ProMedica, the Boy Scouts of America, Toledo Children’s Hospital, and the Toledo Symphony.

He first joined the Mud Hens in 1990 as an assistant general manager. He later took positions with the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Tigers before returning to the Mud Hens in 1997. In 1999, he succeeded Mr. Cook, who was Mud Hens general manager the previous 21 years.

Receiving Student Pacemaker Awards at the dinner were Prashanth Anekal, a doctoral candidate; Nicholas Fasciana, a master’s of business administration student, and Paige Stiriz, the dean’s office nominee. Other students receiving the award included Stacie Novelli; Cassandra Wenman; Tracy Lester; Zachary Buckland; Derrick Jones; Timothy Schloz; Jeffrey Williams; Kelsea Kiene; Sarah Hess; Alvin Fletcher, Jr., and Emily Henzler.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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