by Michael McHugh
Ever wonder what it would be like to be a General Manager for a major league baseball team?
I know it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. But what else does it take? How hard is the job? Could you do it?
What I learned is that their jobs are not easy, take lots of long hours, skill, patience and determination.
Mr. Melvin became the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers on September 26, 2002. Prior to joining the Brewers, he was General Manager of the Texas Rangers, and before the Rangers he spent nine years in the Baltimore Orioles organization, and spent six years with the Yankees.
Mr. Melvin pitched for six seasons with the Pirates and Yankees organizations.
One of his greatest accomplishments was when he was GM of the Texas Rangers. They had never won a division title and had not been to a playoff in 25 years. He helped them earn their first post-season appearance in 1996 and they won the American League Western Division title three times.
He was raised in Ontario, Canada, and grew up a hockey fan and followed baseball.
He enjoys going to movies, and particularly likes some of the old classic movies, and enjoys listening to music, especially country and jazz.
He has been married to his wife Ellen since 1978 and has a daughter Ashley and a son Cory.
MM: Can you tell me about a typical day for you?
DM: One of the first things I do when I get to the office is to get all the news and highlights from the night before. It can be by internet or daily newspapers. I like to see if the media has written any stories on the Brewers and make sure to follow any of the other baseball news that is happening. I also check to see if I have any messages from the night before from the west coast teams because of the difference in our hours. As a General Manager, it is your responsibility to check all facets of your baseball operations. A typical day may include negotiating player contracts, scouting reports, study statistical data, review rosters and updates of the medical side of things. It can become a full day.
MM: Did you have any special training?
DM: No, I didn’t. I played six years in the minor leagues. As a minor league player, I did not go to college. The biggest thing that helped me was that I was surrounded with opportunities and good people and I listened to them and looked to them as mentors. I tried to grab as much information as I could by either asking questions or working hand in hand with them. My mentor that probably had the biggest impact on my career was Roland Hemond, who was a GM for 38 odd years with the White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. I worked under Roland for eight years. He prepared me for my GM positions.
The best preparation is to listen to experienced people that have been in the game, don’t try to think that you know everything, and be open minded. It would be helpful to have a form of business background, but I wouldn’t trade my experiences that I had as a farm director, scouting director, assistant general manager, batting practice pitcher, or coordinator of scouting reports. I was prepared through experience more that I was prepared educationally.
MM: What is the best and worst part of the job?
DM: The worst part of the job is dealing with player agents. It’s a part of the game and you have to keep a good relationship with them, but it’s an uncomfortable situation because you’re dealing with your own employees and you prefer to sit down with your own employees to discuss their status whereas the agents’ interest is in the individual player. He’s got a group of players that play for all different teams.
The best part is loving what you do.
MM: Who was the toughest person you had to sign?
DM: The Alex Rodriguez contract was a difficult signing because I knew it was going to have an impact on the rest of the industry. That was a huge contract. The owner and myself were involved in that.
MM: Is your job stressful?
DM: At moments. Whenever you lose ballgames it’s stressful. Losses are tough to take. Because you’re able to play everyday, you get back on the field. Whenever you have a losing streak, it’s always somewhat stressful. You have to be patient.
What do you do to make yourself better?
DM: I follow the other teams and read the papers. There is a lot of reading in this business. I continue to read books on management style and even though I’ve been in the game going on 33 years, there is always something to learn.
MM: Any moves you wish you could take back?
DM: When I was with the Rangers, Pudge Rodriguez wanted a 10 year contract at $100 million dollars. That is when he was a young player. Looking back at it now, it might have been a decent deal with way salaries have gone up. He may have remained a Texas Ranger the entire time, but at that time it was a very risky deal to make. But, if you look at Pudge and where he is today, it might have been a deal that would have worked out.
MM: Any advice for kids wanting to become a GM one day?
DM: I would say you have to study the game and have a passion for the game. You also have to have good people skills, be a good listener, be able to delegate and follow up. The GM’s job is what the title says – you manage people. When you get a job in baseball, there’s no job too big for you. Don’t be afraid to do any job. Eventually you can work in to bigger and better things.