I met GM Dan at the Hammons Field training facility today knowing that I’d need an indoor game of catch with the spring storms across the Ozarks. Most of the baseball world in Springfield knows I’m a Royals fan. As a symbolic peace offering before playing catch, I took Dan a copy of America at the Seams. I also wore my Baseball Seams Co. t-shirt because it’s the only red baseball t-shirt I own.
Dan has been with the Springfield Cardinals since Day One.
“The best part of my job is the people. I love the people. From that first season to today, I have made amazing friends. I love seeing people smile in this ballpark. I love that what we do helps thousands of people create strong memories with friends and family.”
Over the years, I have intentionally chosen to be ignorant of the business side of baseball, thinking I would better enjoy the game as a fan. Dan is convinced his passion for the game as a fan helps him make better business decisions. He gave me an education on the structure of the front office and the interaction and connections between the AA team and the MLB team. I’ve often wondered if GMs ever get an off-season.
“No one in the front office gets a real off-season. The preparation and work we do from October through March sets the standard for the next season.”
If I were the GM, I’d want to shag fly balls during batting practice. Dan’s not even tempted by the opportunity.
“I have great respect for the athletes on the field. This game is their profession. I don’t want my presence to take away from the importance of their preparation and work.”
If I were the GM of a minor league team, any time a major-league player made an appearance on a rehab assignment, I’d be awfully quick to introduce myself and ask for an autograph.
“I work in baseball because I absolutely love this game, but several times you have to step back and remove the fan from the business person. I want the players I interact with to respect me as a business-person. I don’t ask for autographs, period. I introduce myself and ask how we can best serve and help them while they are with us.”
As a lifelong Cardinals fan, I figured Dan’s favorite player would be Ozzie or Bob Gibson or Stan Musial. His answer completely caught me by surprise.
“My favorite players are the ones who talk to and sign autographs for the fans. I cheer for the players who are kind to our fans and thankful to those who come out to support them.”
I love that answer.
We walked into the training facility and started tossing the ball. Dan surprised me a second time when he threw a beautiful sidearm pitch, one that would have made Dan Quisenberry proud, one of my favorite players (and poets) who played for both the Royals and the Cardinals.
I saved my most important question for last: What is baseball teaching you about life?
“Baseball is teaching me that everyone needs to have more fun. In general, we need to lighten up and work on having more fun.”
I shook his hand and thanked Dan for his time. Thunder rumbled and rain fell as I drove home determined to continue working hard this year at having fun. As I thought about what Dan said as we tossed the ball, I thought of the two overarching mottos for the Catch 365 project:
- Baseball brings people together.
- Baseball tells the best stories.
Those are the same two mottos that steered me when I was working on the America at the Seams project.
I got home and checked my email. There was a message from Nate, the president of Baseball Seams Co.
“Fun testimonial today!”
I clicked the link. It was a message from the President of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“Baseball has been passed down through the generations in America, and has created countless memories for families and friends with its traditions and exciting action. The inspirational stories in this book, paired with Nathan’s meaningful artwork, remind us that the game has been a constant in the history of our changing country. America at the Seams has beautifully captured the essence of how baseball is more than just a game.”
—William O. DeWitt III, President of the St. Louis Cardinals and 3rd generation baseball executive
Baseball really does tell the best stories.