ORLANDO, Fla. -- Joe McEacharn leaned back his chair and slowly exhaled as the ballroom of the Dolphin hotel emptied gradually Monday morning. The topic of conversation was his winning the Warren Giles Award, and the Eastern League president clearly was not ready to take all the credit for earning such a prestigious honor.
Winning the Giles Award, which is presented annually to a league president for outstanding service, still seemed to make McEacharn a bit uneasy. He has known for several weeks that he would be presented with the award this week at the Winter Meetings, yet he still squirmed in his chair, and wanted to make it known that those around him deserved as much credit as he did, if not more.
"Winning this is a great honor," said McEacharn, who took over as Eastern League president in 2003. "But this is not an individual award. If not for the people in my league, this couldn't happen."
The Eastern League certainly racked up its share of awards Monday, collecting honors on many levels, including the John H. Johnson President's Trophy (Altoona) and the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year (Ashley Forlini, Reading). But it was McEacharn who took home the top honor, leaving the 45-year-old University of Massachusetts graduate a bit stunned.
"I was shocked when [NA president] Mike [Moore] called and told me," McEacharn said. "When you think of this award, you think of guys in our business who have done so much. [International League president] Randy Mobley is a perfect example. You see how he's worked, and how much he's contributed, and I'm almost embarrassed. This is a great honor for someone to think I've made contributions on that level."
McEacharn was a lawyer prior to joining the Eastern League in 1997. He had always liked baseball, and said he just happened to be in the right spot when an opening came up on former president Bill Troubh's staff. He had been living in Portland, Maine, and had worked on the periphery of Minor League Baseball, but was ready to make a full-time leap into baseball.
"I told Bill, 'You need me and I need you,' and we came to a mutually beneficial relationship," said McEacharn, who is the 11th president in league history. "And it's been rewarding in many ways. I was in the right place at the right time. You have to make sure that you're in the right place, though, and eventually the right time will come along. I was in the right place, but I'm proud of the fact that I did all the things I needed to do to be in the right place."
McEacharn says his long-term goal is not a secret: he wants to acquire his own franchise. Of course, it would have to be under the right circumstances, because he would be giving up a great deal in his current position. While owning a team is McEacharn's goal, he says it isn't a need.
"It might be three years, it might be five years, it might be 10 years," he said. "I'm preparing myself by learning and observing others. And if not [in that time frame], I'm very happy. I love my job, and I can't wait to get to work every day."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com.