Dave Nelson One-on-One with Mark Attanasio
Hi everyone. Figured I’d take this time to share an interview I had with Mark Attanasio. Keep those questions coming!
Mark, you seem to have this wonderful passion for the game of baseball. Where did it all start?
Mark: It started from when I was a kid. I remember, and I think I’ve told this story, but in 1964 I became a rabid Yankees fan and really being crushed – actually walking around the block crying – because they had lost in seven games to the Cardinals. I was expecting “well, we’ll be back next year,” and of course the Yankees then went on a little decline. But as far back as I can remember, I’ve loved baseball.
Well I know you were born in 1957, but that was a little bit before the Dodgers, so you didn’t get to see the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants – that was a great era for baseball.
Mark: Yeah, both teams left New York right before I was born.
Mark, what prompted you to buy a ball club?
Mark: I was really a dream of mine from the point that I realized I wasn’t going to be able to play major league baseball, which occurred at some point in high school. But it’s one of those things that you always dream of but never think you can realize. When I had an opportunity to get close to being able to do it, I really pushed to do it.
Were the Brewers the one choice that you were looking at?
Mark: Well, I started paying attention when a couple of the Los Angeles-area teams, the Angels and Dodgers, sold and watching Arte Moreno and Frank McCourt and thinking, “well, gee, someday I could do that.” And the first team that came up for sale after that actually was the Brewers. As it turned out, I have a sister-in-law who is from Milwaukee and I had otherwise had some discussions with the Selig family about making an investment in the team. So I got involved in the auction process.
What has been your biggest challenge as an owner?
Mark: There have been a number of challenges. You know, Wendy Selig-Prieb had told me that baseball was unlike any business that I would have ever seen. And you know, as an investor, I’ve studied all kinds of businesses. At any given time, we have over 300 investments in our portfolios and I can honestly say it is unlike any business I have ever seen. So just getting my arms around it and getting up the learning curve to understand that we’re in the business of running a baseball team was probably my biggest challenge.
When you bought the ballclub, you made four cornerstone pledges to the fans and the community. One, you said, is that one of the things you want to do is have a perennially competitive ballclub. How do you feel about where it’s at now?
Mark: Well, I think we’ll see if it is perennially. I think we’ve been competitive two years of the three that I’ve been here, since we went deep in September those two seasons. If we can do that over the next several seasons with this young nucleus of talent we have, I think we’ll have achieved it. There is no doubt that we’re competitive right now. The desire is to take it to the next level and make it to the postseason.
Number two was that you wanted to have the best fan experience possible at Miller Park and that seems to be happening.
Mark: Yeah, we really have tried to create the best fan experience and that’s what sources the team on the field. But, besides that, every year now we have made some changes to Miller Park. This year, you’ll see some changes: New retail store, renovated .300 Club – now the Metavante Club – and some additions to the Kid’s Zone and kid’s play areas. Every year we’re going to try to do something fresh at the ballpark.
Number three was that you said you wanted to redouble the efforts to make the ballclub a leader in the community.
Mark: Yeah, I do. And it’s interesting because every year I get briefed on what we’ve been able to achieve and while we’ve achieved a lot, I want to do more. We’ve made a lot of progress through our S.C.O.R.E. program. We made some progress in some things similar that the ball players have done with the Negro League tributes. But I think we’re just scratching the surface in what we can do in the community.
And number four was an organization in which people want to work, whether on the field or behind the scenes.
Mark: That was a very important day. I remember all the nervous faces the first day I took over ownership and now that’s been replaced with a lot of smiling faces. That’s very important to me, because it’s the folks behind the scenes who really make everything go.
With the team finishing two games out in the Central Division, it was a tough, tough, tough last week of the season. But what was the high point of the season for you?
Mark: Well, I’ll just mention a number of owners told me, owners with more experience, that those seasons when you’re that close are always the toughest seasons. But with that, coming from and growing up in New York, going back to play the Mets in May and just seeing these headlines about “Baseball’s Best, Brewers Coming to Town.” In fact, I saved some of those headlines. And who could have imagined three years ago that you’d be seeing that?
That was quite a run too. Going on your fourth year of ownership, has there been any unexpected surprises?
Mark: Well there have been a lot of unexpected small surprises. Chief of which is the warmth and support of the community and how they’ve reached out to me and my family. I knew from when I came here that people were warm, but everyday I’m reminded about what a great community this is. And it’s probably been, not the biggest, but the most heartwarming surprise.