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Minor League Executive
Jim Paul

By Will Lingo

There probably were promotions in the minor leagues before Jim Paul came along. They just weren’t nearly as much fun for fans–or effective for minor league operators.

Paul was a sports information director at Southwestern Louisiana in 1973, with an eye on becoming athletic director. But someone offered him the job of running the minor league team in his native El Paso.

"I really didn’t want to do that, but it turned out to be the luckiest thing that ever happened to me," Paul said. "And I think that turned out to be my greatest asset. I came to the job with no preconceived notions about what a minor league franchise should be."

He headed back to El Paso to run the Sun Kings, a Texas League franchise that drew 63,081 fans in 1973. He changed the team’s name to the Diablos, promoted the heck out of it and doubled attendance in the first season.

More important, he realized he had a lot to learn and maybe a few ideas to share with others. So he invited other general managers to El Paso to talk about how to run a minor league operation. Six people came to the first meeting in 1974. At its height the El Paso Promotional Seminar drew more than 200 minor league employees a year, exchanging ideas on everything from how to get the most out of your radio deal to the latest trends in nachos.

"The ideas you got out of those meetings were amazing," Paul said. "Every year it just astounded me with the young people who came up with great new ideas. And the disciples of the El Paso Seminar were going out and kicking butt."

Paul sold the Diablos in 1998 and later sold the promotional seminar to Minor League Baseball, which moved it to Las Vegas and then to Myrtle Beach, S.C. The seminar still serves as an incubator for ideas and a networking opportunity for minor league executives like no other.

After leaving baseball, Paul went to work for New Mexico State as athletic director, and he left that job to work on the presidential campaign of his friend George W. Bush. With another successful promotional effort under his belt, he’s back in El Paso working as a consultant and watching over his appliance store.

He still has the itch to work in baseball, though. He’s working with Minor League Baseball to develop a seminar to teach young minor league executives how to actually make sales, a skill that few of them learn in school.

If history is any indication, the ideas will come fast and furious and Paul’s disciples will spread them throughout the minor leagues. After all, the man knows seminars.

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