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Q&A with Pioneer president Jim McCurdy06/16/2008 10:00 AM ET
By Bryan Smith / MLB.com
Jim McCurdy started in Minor League Baseball as assistant general manager for the Spokane Indians in 1985. McCurdy has been a part of ownership groups in both the Butte Cooper Kings and Yakima Bears, and was a member of the inaugural Minor League Baseball Board of Trustrees in 1992. In 1994, McCurdy became president of the Pioneer Baseball League. He has also been a professor of law at Gonzaga University School of Law since 1982.
Where will you be on Opening Day?
I will be at the game in Orem, handing out last year's pennant flag to the Orem Owlz.
What are you most looking forward to in the 2008 season?
It's going to be real unique in a couple of ways. First, we have the opening of a new stadium in Billings. It's always been an anchor of our league, and it's the eighth completed ballpark project in our league of eight teams. It will be a great day for Billings and a great day for the league.
On another hand, it's also the first season that I have experienced since I wandered in the league in 1987 that will be run without the presence of Bob Wilson, who was one of the owners and operators of the Billings ballclub who passed away this winter. He had been a league director, had been our league trustee, and some years ago he had been awarded the King of Baseball. Longtime operator, longtime friend, so it will be a bit different without Bob around.
But the competition is as great as it's ever been and we think the experience is just exceptional from all aspects.
Which Minor League player would you pay to watch this season?
I think Minor League Baseball is such a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the game at several perspectives. Part of that is paying to watch certain players or certain teams just to have the family experience, win or lose. It's difficult to say if I'd pay to watch a player in the Pioneer league, because the rosters are not set.
What is one little-known fact about being a league president?
I would say that the amount of business-type matters that are handled by league directors and the league office, some of them being legal in nature might surprise people. Minor League Baseball is a business, and there's a business side and a legal side that people don't see and don't really know about.
What is your favorite part about being league president?
Most of us don't know how we ended up on the path to being a president. I enjoy very much operating Minor League clubs, and pretty much always wanted to do that. There's a certain magic to Minor League Baseball, not only from the players or what's on the field, but also with the interaction with the fans. Closeness among ownership groups, our daily contact with the player development personnel with the Major League teams and the young players and young umpires as well. All that is a very, very pleasant thing. The league president job is probably the second best; the first is probably running a club.
What would you be doing if you didn't work in baseball?
I would be thinking about how to get into pro baseball.
What's your favorite Minor League promotion?
One memorable promotion that we had in Butte, Montana, is when we brought in Lee Lacey and Woody Held for a home run hitting contest. Jim Mudcat Grant put that one together. Another I enjoyed from the press box area was in Billings when they had procured the services of a dog to be the batboy. Everyone that does Minor League promotions must read the stories done by Bill Veeck. What he says is that you want to leave the ballpark talking about the experience they had.
What is your favorite Minor League memory?
Someone once asked Dizzy Dean what his favorite game was, and he said he had too darned many. There's so many memories, but I'll probably never get past the opening night of my first opening league game for the Spokane Indians. We had projected an attendance of 1,900, and suddenly 7,500 people showed up.
As league president, I usually appear in a ballpark on opening night. In the Pioneer League it's always good to give away a pennant flag. It's also great to be present at the opening of each of our stadiums. The first completed was the Ogden Raptors stadium in downtown Ogden, and it was so great an experience to be there. The players were brought in on motorcycles.
Have you ever witnessed a no-hitter? If so, when and where?
I have, a few years ago in a playoff game in Billings a pitcher threw a no-hitter. It was interesting. I believe Rick Burleson was the manager, and it was more like a football night. It was amazing to see this pitcher throwing in the cold out there. I witnessed several at the Major League level, on my TV, if nothing else. Fernando Valenzuela's really stands out to me now.
If I were a Minor League mascot, I would be...
Without a doubt, I would be, as far as we know, the only Minor League mascot that lives in the wild -- the Missoula Osprey. Right over the outfield fence in Missoula, there is an Osprey nest. And before each game the osprey are gliding and flying around the premises. They have the best of all worlds, as far as Minor League mascots are concerned.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.