MiLB President Pat O’Conner’s Opening Session Speech

Minor League Baseball LogoPRESS RELEASE – It is about this time of year that we look back on the last 12 months and etch into our memory the more salient points of the year. 2012 was a very good year for Minor League Baseball, but was not without challenges, moments of peril and losses we would rather have not experienced. Coming out of the Thanksgiving holiday I feel it is important we all give thanks for the life we lead…and the privileges we enjoy in this country and in this game. As a result of the economy, natural disaster, or life’s twists and turns, many among us faced rough times in 2012.

I want to mention a few things I feel need not be easily forgotten after we leave these meetings energized for a new day, a new year and another exciting season of Minor League Baseball. Let us not forget those in Colorado Springs that were forced to sit helplessly as their homes and neighborhoods burned to the ground in ravaging wild fires. Let us not forget the boroughs of New York, much of New Jersey and up and down the Eastern Seaboard as they rebuild, as we speak, from the tremendous storm of late October.

Pat O'Conner's speech outlined a bold new marketing initiative called Project Brand for MiLB.

Pat O’Conner’s speech outlined a bold new marketing initiative called Project Brand for MiLB.

Let us not forget our baseball forefathers who plowed many of the fields in which we now toil. Men like Bill Cutler, Don Mincher, Tom Saffell and Peter Bragan Sr., who are iconic in stature and worthy of thanks for all they did on our behalf.

Let us go from here with a true appreciation for how fortunate we are and a respect for the place we find ourselves in this great game of baseball. Many are far less fortunate this day and we should express our thanks, and appreciation, for our standing.

For me, the most inspiring aspect of the last 12 months has been the show of compassion, togetherness and unity of the extended Minor League Baseball family. In times of need, we respond. In times of trouble, we help each other. In times of opportunity, we band together and make our organization even stronger than before.

I recently took a moment to look back on my time at the National Association office and made a quick list of the accomplishments of this group. I think you would tend to agree what has been achieved in the last 20 years is quite impressive by any measure. For instance:

* 27 years of PBA peace and prosperity by the end of the current PBA;
* Franchise values stable and nearly double the values of 1992;
* Revenues increased by 10 percent in the last five years and 54 percent in the last 10 years;
* Operating income for the organization has increased 77 percent in the last 10 years;
* A national marketing campaign started in 1994 has returned nearly $34.5 million dollars to the teams and $23.6 million in the last 10 years.;
* We established PBEO as the primary intake for Minor League Baseball’s new talent;
* We established and operate PBUC to address serious umpire needs within the industry;
* We established BIRCO as a multi-million-dollar asset for the organization and top-flight digital media engine in the sports industry;
* We developed a diversity program to prepare the organization for our future demographics;
* We developed charities and team green to expand the social reach of Minor League Baseball;
* We developed “The Umpire School” into the premier teaching program in the country;
* We stabilized office operations for the future with the purchase of the headquarters campus in St. Petersburg

This has all come about because we, as a group, have worked together to set aside petty differences and unify behind the “greater good” philosophy of making Minor League Baseball the best organization it can possibly be. Now, we do face occasional challenges of individualistic attitudes and sometimes that old enemy called greed. We tend to struggle when we let our egos get in the way of common sense thinking. But, by and large, we find our way to consensus, if not unanimity, to make Minor League Baseball stronger because unity is one of our most valuable assets.

But there is more to do. Our future is at its brightest this very moment. But, we have to learn from our past and realize we are better as one; one unit, one organization and one force that harnesses its resources and lifts even the weakest teams to greater heights.

Today, we are here to introduce to you our next big challenge. In the past, you have heard me say within each challenge lies opportunity. Ladies and gentlemen, as for our current challenge I want to introduce to you our biggest opportunity to date. With me on the dais today are members of the ad hoc marketing committee I formed this past spring.

As we celebrate 20 years of our national marketing program, we realize the program has served us well and accomplished things no one thought would ever be accomplished. But we also realize we have built a brand over the last 20 years worthy of much more. The current program is effective, but lacks the resources and organizational commitment to efficiently serve this powerful brand. We owe the brand more. We owe ourselves more. It is time for a change. And change takes the courage to feel uncomfortable. It is time for us to get out of our comfort zone and capitalize on the incredible opportunity before us.

In forming this committee, their challenge from me was to get outside the box, take the power of our brand and develop a concept to not only monetize a valuable asset, the Minor League Baseball brand, but also develop a compelling program. A program each and every team in Minor League Baseball would not only benefit from, but enthusiastically embrace and wholeheartedly get behind. The challenge was to get Minor League Baseball on the bigger stage into a place of prominence and relevance in major corporate advertising circles.

We are here today to present to you for the very first time: Project Brand — 160 teams, one brand.

Here to begin an introduction to this evolutionary concept is Tom Dickson, Board of Trustees representative of the Midwest League and owner of the Lansing Lugnuts and Montgomery Biscuits.

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