Class A South Bend wins top Minors award

Club president Hart calls honor 'extremely humbling'

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' Class A South Bend franchise was honored Wednesday as the 2015 recipient of the 42nd annual John H. Johnson President's Award, presented to the top Minor League organization. The South Bend team will receive the award Dec. 6 in Nashville on the eve of the Winter Meetings.

The award bases its criteria on a Minor League Baseball franchise's financial stability, contributions to league stability, contributions to baseball in the community and promotion of the baseball industry. This is the first time South Bend has won the award.

"To be selected for this prestigious award over some of the best franchises across the nation is extremely humbling," South Bend Cubs president Joe Hart said.

This was South Bend's first season as a Cubs affiliate, and the team set franchise records for largest single-season attendance (347,678) and average attendance (5,039) at Four Winds Field.

"This is an award we have to share with every fan in every city, town and village from a hundred miles around. Without them, we wouldn't be receiving it," South Bend owner Andrew T. Berlin said.

Since 2012, the South Bend Cubs have spent more than $7 million in renovations and improvements to their city-owned facility. The team used $3 million from that investment to update the playing surface and training facilities.

The South Bend Cubs also host "Home Run for Life," a charitable event that each month recognizes a different child suffering from a devastating disease. In 2015, more than $15,000 was raised to benefit the local children's hospital. The club also participates in charity concerts, reading programs, charity walks and youth events to make South Bend a better place.

"Over the last four years, there has been a baseball resurgence in South Bend," Hart said. "Fans are flocking back to the stadium in record numbers and have embraced our organization. Our corporate sponsors were also a huge part of this season. We cannot thank our fans and sponsors enough for their support and for helping make 2015 a record-breaking year."

What's next for the Cubs' Class A team?

"People will ask, 'Where do you go from here?' Well, we're just getting going," Berlin said. "We make no small plans. This is just the beginning."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.