Moore set new standard as president

Minor League Baseball's president will be known for influential changes

(Preston Mack/

By Kevin T. Czerwinski / | December 5, 2007 6:07 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Steve Densa laughed when he thought about the interview process he underwent nearly a dozen years ago when trying to land a job with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL). After all, he was sitting in a room with Mike Moore, and the president of Minor League Baseball wasn't asking about his grand plan for making the game better.

Moore, arguably the most progressive and influential president the position has ever seen, wanted to know what kind of music Densa liked.

"I didn't know what to expect," said Densa, who is now the NA's associate director of media relations. "I still remember that, though. He wanted to talk about music."

It was classic Mike Moore, who believes more in getting to know people and understanding what they are capable of accomplishing than anything he could ever cull from staring at a resume. His interview with Densa, so folksy and innocuous all those years ago, is the perfect example of why Moore is retiring from his presidential position this week as one of the most respected figures the game has ever known.

The Winter Meetings are serving as Moore's farewell party and he's enjoying every minute of the goodbye, bittersweet as it may be. A self-proclaimed country boy and lover of the life and music in Nashville, he was instrumental in having the Meetings return to Nashville this season so he could say so long to the game he loves in one of the places he loves most.

It's difficult for Moore, 66, to even get around the monstrous Opryland Hotel, and not simply because of the building's size. Moore is like one of the country music stars he cherishes so much, having to stop and talk every few feet to the scores of well-wishers, friends and colleagues that he has come to know in his 16 years as president and in the nearly 40 years he's spent in the Minors.

Moore enjoys talking to people, so the journey across the vast lobbies and courtyards of the hotel is like a microcosm of the sojourn he's taken since being elected to the presidency in 1991. His vision of unifying Minor League Baseball relied on the will and abilities of the people he hired back then, and that desire to know with whom he's working and dealing is still great today.

Spend a few minutes with Moore and it's easy to be disarmed. His deep, vibrant voice, which must have been a wonderful listen when he was spinning vinyl as a DJ in the late '60s and early '70s, is calm and patient. So when he starts asking questions, whether it's about your business plans or whether your musical tastes drift more toward Merle Haggard than Maroon 5, the answers come quickly and without reservation.

"I always had a series of questions I liked to include when I was interviewing someone," Moore said. "That included music, what was the last good movie you saw or the last good book you read. I wanted to know you as a person and explained that there was no wrong answer. I wouldn't hold anything against you. I just wanted to understand you as a person.

"When you're hiring someone, you get their whole personality. So, there was that series of unusual questions."

While Moore's hiring practices may seem unorthodox to some, he's built a staff at the NAPBL, which is commonly referred to as the NA, that has created successful national marketing and licensing programs, making Minor League Baseball a giant in those industries.

That staff, however, is just part of Moore's legacy. After becoming president -- he was the NA's chief administrative officer for three years -- Moore organized a constitutional convention to revise the bylaws governing the NAPBL and its member leagues. The revolutionary and visionary move helped save Minor League Baseball and turn it into the successful industry it is today.

"There was no unity in Minor League Baseball when I took over," Moore said. "There was no unity between Major and Minor League Baseball. I was able to build unity between the leagues and the classifications. And [MLB commissioner] Bud [Selig] has been a godsend to the whole industry. He respects the game on the Major and Minor League levels. We both love the game and want to do what's best for the overall industry."

And while not everyone has always agreed with the path he has chosen to lead the NA down during his tenure, everyone respects Moore for the way he's done his job. Though he's quick to admit he's had disagreements with people during his tenure, he's equally quick in pointing out that he hasn't lost any friendships because of those disagreements.

Moore says he has no regrets, that he wouldn't change the way he's done things or reversed any of the decisions he's made. Based on the state of Minor League Baseball as he leaves office, there aren't many people who will argue.

"His body of work is so impressive," said Pat O'Conner, who officially took over Wednesday as NA president after serving as its chief operating officer. "I've never been around a guy with so much common sense. He has such an ability to read people. He'll be five years ahead of his time and it will be the way he said it would be when you get there.

"He's led with courage and conviction. In 1990, this organization needed something. Time has proven that what it needed was Mike Moore. It didn't need steering, it needed to be dragged and he did it. He wasn't always popular and he's still not popular with everyone, but the way he changed how Minor League Baseball was governed was a stroke of genius."

Branch Rickey, the president of the Pacific Coast League, has a family legacy that is as embedded in the history of baseball, on both the Major and Minor League levels, as any the game has ever known. Who would better appreciate what Moore has accomplished in his four terms as president than Rickey.

"My strongest belief is that Mike is leaving us a legacy of having brought to Minor League Baseball a new level of professionalism -- and I mean professionalism in its best and most encompassing fashion," Rickey said. "I thought that with the staffing of the NA office, the standards he negotiated with Major League Baseball and the realignment of our governing structure, we have evolved to a new level of expertise that was completely unpredictable in the first days of Mike's presidency."

So now Moore leaves the NA's future in the hands of O'Conner and his staff. Shed no tears for Moore, though. This isn't his obituary that's being written, just a goodbye. He intends to spend a great deal of time with his eight grandchildren -- a ninth will be born next month.

Moore is also learning how to play the banjo, Earl Scruggs style, and the Dobro (guitar). There's plenty of bass fishing in his future and there's still a whole lot of country music to be played. And as for those questions for which he's become famous, the last good book he read was written by Winston Churchill, who coincidentally was another great leader who got to know people and appreciated what they were capable of accomplishing.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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