BIRMINGHAM--Minor League Baseball looks content to stay on its present course of leadership, with its board of trustees voting today to select Pat O'Conner as its sole nominee for president at the Winter Meetings in December.
Two members confirmed Wednesday evening that the board unanimously picked O'Conner in a morning meeting after interviewing all four candidates for the job on Tuesday. The four men want to succeed Mike Moore, who is retiring at the end of the year after 16 years as president of Minor League Baseball. The board is meeting here while Minor League Baseball is also sponsoring its annual promotional seminar.
"It's a very encouraging sign from the board to get their unanimous recommendation," O'Conner said. "It's a big step, but it's not the final step. It's important that we continue to go through the process."
O'Conner had already been the odds-on favorite for the job, having served as Moore's right-hand man for much of his time as president. O'Conner's current title is vice president, administration and chief operating officer for MiLB. The other candidates are Dave Chase, who has worked in baseball for more than 30 years and is currently president and general manager of the Memphis Redbirds; Philip Evans, a lawyer who has no baseball experience and worked for the NBA Developmental League from 2001-07; and Jeremy Kapstein, a special adviser for the Red Sox who was noted as one of baseball's first powerful agents in the 1970s.
Sam Bernabe, president of the Iowa Cubs and the vice chairman of the board of trustees, said the board decided O'Conner's experience and acumen after 14 years on the job made him the clear choice.
"Pat has a track record and a level of experience that the members of the board were very comfortable with," he said.
Bernabe also noted O'Conner's contacts with Major League Baseball and other people in the industry, as well as his close service with Moore, who has presided over a period of ever-growing attendance and franchise values.
"If you're in that job for 14 years, you're going to have a lot of experience," Bernabe said.
The selection process for Minor League Baseball's new president has been convoluted and quiet, with essentially no public discussion about the candidates or the issues facing the minor leagues after 16 years under the same leadership.
Candidates for president initially had to submit resumes and position statements to a screening committee drawn from the board of trustees. The committee was to review the credentials and weed out unqualified candidates, but only four people applied for the job, so all four were approved.
Those four got about an hour to make their cases to the full board of trustees on Tuesday, going in alphabetical order from Chase through O'Conner. Each person made opening remarks, then answered questions from board members.
Alan Stein, who serves on the board of trustees as a representative of his Lexington club in the South Atlantic League, said the board was simply following the procedure laid out in the National Association rules.
Those rules say that the board is supposed to recommend one candidate for president, assuming one person can garner 75 percent of a weighted vote (the votes of Triple-A leagues are worth more than Double-A, which are worth more than Class A, and so on). And that candidate in this case is O'Conner.
Bernabe pointed out that any of the three remaining candidates is free to vie for the job at the Winter Meetings in December, when nominations can be made from the floor during the election process.