He's Asbury Park born and bred, and now lives with his growing family in Brick Township. It's been a long,steady climb to the top for Brandon Marano, but he never had to leave home to get there as he becomes General Manager of the Lakewood BlueClaws.

New BlueClaws General Manager Brandon Marano (Lakewood BlueClaws)

The 38-year-old becomes the second GM in team history, taking over as Geoff Brown moves on to sports administration at Rutgers University...the same school where Marano got his management degree.

Marano says that his dream of a baseball career and his love of the shore merged when he applied for the first of what are now four different positions with the BlueClaws. He signed on in 2000, and watched FirstEnergy Park form from the ground up.

"I was lucky to get an opportunity to take a job with this team right in my home area," he marvels. "Not too many people can say there's a professional sports franchise that they work for right in their neck of the woods."

Marano says that he doesn't intend to re-invent the smoothly-spinning wheel that Brown created over 14 years, but he will try to build on it. He extends a great deal of credit to the Philadelphia Phillies system. The BlueClaws were either a starting point or a way station for superstars including Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz.

The youthful new GM says that the bond between the team and its fans is unlike any he's seen anywhere else in the country, which is even more significant because the Blueclaws play in the shadows of the Phils, Mets and Yankees while their competitors mostly own their territories.

"You go to some towns and they might play in front of 500 or 600 people," Marano muses, "and they come back to play in front of 6,000 or 7,000 people every night."

Marano considers the team's perennial family-recruitment system to house young ballplayers is an integral part of the relationship goes far beyond ribbon-cuttings and personal appearances. Many families with extra rooms annually give the players in their late teens and early 20s the touch of home they are missing, often for the first time -and develop relationships that last long after the athlete has moved on to bigger and better things. Recruitment will take place in the near future.