PRESS RELEASE – After 38 years in professional baseball and 28 years with the Minor League Baseball office, Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner [this week] announced that he will retire on Dec. 31, 2020.
O’Conner joined the Minor League Baseball staff in 1993 as chief operating officer and was named vice president, administration, following the 1995 season. In December 2007, O’Conner was named the 11 th president of Minor League Baseball, embarking on a 13-year run as president as he was re-elected in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
O’Conner’s tenure is the fifth-longest presidency in Minor League Baseball’s 120-year history, behind Michael Sexton (23 years, 1910–1932), George Trautman (17 years, 1947–1963), Mike Moore (16 years, 1992–2007) and William Bramham (14 years, 1933–1946).
“It has been a privilege to serve in Minor League Baseball leadership for the past 28 years and I will be forever indebted to all of the staff who worked with me in St. Petersburg over the years,” said O’Conner. “It was an honor to work alongside the owners, executives, players, umpires, fans and communities that have made our organization so successful.”
During his presidency, O’Conner oversaw a period of unprecedented increases in revenues and franchise values as Minor League Baseball attracted over 40 million fans in each of the last 15 seasons (2005–19), and in 2008, Minor League Baseball drew over 43 million fans for the first time since 1901.
O’Conner is credited with negotiating three successive Professional Baseball Agreements with Major League Baseball on behalf of Minor League Baseball and developing, administering and overseeing the operation of the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC), now known as Minor League Baseball Umpire Development. O’Conner also negotiated collective bargaining agreements with the Association of Minor League Umpires (AMLU) and oversaw two negotiations that resulted in five-year agreements (the first through 2016, the second through 2021).
In December 2008, O’Conner brought together Minor League Baseball clubs in packaging digital rights, entering into an agreement with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) in a landmark operating agreement between the organizations.
In December 2009, under O’Conner’s guidance, Minor League Baseball announced a first-ever diversity initiative, whereby it executes programs aimed at diversifying the ownership, executive and staff personnel, fan base and business-to-business relationships within the industry. To be more inclusive, O’Conner also embarked on a series of steps to introduce Minor League Baseball as an investment, career, entertainment and business option.
O’Conner developed a speakers’ series at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as a means of educating and informing young people on the opportunities within Minor League Baseball, as well as practicum and internship experience opportunities for minority college students interested in sports administration careers.
As a result of his diversity initiative and efforts, O’Conner was named the recipient of the third annual Allan H. (Bud) Selig Mentoring Award in 2010. The award is presented annually to a person in athletics administration who has been at the forefront in creating equal opportunities for minorities in the field of athletics. In 2012, O’Conner was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the United Athletes Foundation (UAF) for his work in making a difference in the lives of others and his longstanding commitment to communities around the country.
At the 2012 Baseball Winter Meetings, O’Conner introduced Project Brand: 160 Teams, One Brand, an industry-wide marketing program created to promote its model of affordable, family-friendly entertainment to attract major corporate partners to Minor League Baseball.
O’Conner began his baseball career as administrative assistant with the Vero Beach Dodgers (Florida State League) in 1981. He then spent the 1982 season as general manager of the Greenwood Pirates (South Atlantic League) and followed that stint with two seasons as assistant general manager of the Beaumont Golden Gators (Texas League).
After 18 months as director of athletic marketing and promotion for Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, O’Conner returned to baseball in November 1986. At that time, he became head of Florida Operations for the Houston Astros and served as general manager of the Osceola Astros of the Florida State League from 1986–1993. He was named the Florida State League Executive of the Year in 1988.
A native of Grove City, Ohio, O’Conner received a degree in economics and finance from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and a master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. In 1997, he received the 1997 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Ohio University Sports Administration Program and the 2005 College of Health & Human Services Award of Distinction from Ohio University. He was inducted into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame in 2000, received the Friends of Baseball Chapel Award in 2005 and was inducted into the Florida State League Hall of Fame in 2014. In April 2018, O’Conner was named to the Board of Directors for the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.