Indy GMs Find Added Worries

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Indy GMs Find Added Worries
• The Baseball America Executive Database

When Joe Pinto was the general
manager of the Carolina League’s Frederick Keys, he had a simple answer to any
fan who complained about the team: “Call the Baltimore Orioles.”

After taking over as GM of the
independent Lancaster Barnstormers, though, he’s found that response no longer
applies. If the team is lousy, the buck stops at the GM’s desk. After all, he
hired the manager who signed the players.

While being the GM of a team in the
affiliated minor leagues is all about ticket sales, promotions and revenues,
being an independent league GM involves all those things as well as paying for
worker’s comp, juggling a salary cap, and being responsible for the wins and

Like GMs from the early days of the
minor leagues, being an independent league GM means you have your hand in
everything, from the brand of hot dog sold at the concession stands to finding
a first baseman and cleanup hitter.

“You are your own mini-major
league deal here,” Kansas City T-Bones GM Rick Muntean said. “Here
you’re signing players and scouting players as well.”

For Muntean, Pinto and others who
came from affiliated baseball, the transition was a surprise. In the affiliated
minors, the players are picked and paid by the major league team, which also
pays for all the equipment. In Lancaster, though, every broken bat brings the
sound of a cash register ringing, and every BP ball hit over the fence looks
like a dollar bill disappearing.

But like affiliated teams, the GM
of an independent team is ultimately judged by his ability to put fans in the
seats. So he has to focus on promotions, ad sales and season tickets just like
any other GM. Because the players aren’t supplied by a big league club, though,
the nature of the job is different.

As the person who signs the
players, an indy GM often finds it’s easier to get a player to go read to an
elementary school, and the players become colleagues.

“In affiliated ball, my
buddies would say, ‘It must be great dealing with players.’ I never dealt with
players unless it was problems,” Muntean said.

“In independent ball, you
become much closer to the players because you do have that interaction, whether
you are signing the contract with them, or finding them housing,” Gary GM
Roger Wexelberg said.

Most teams rely on the manager or a
player personnel director to do the nitty-gritty work of building the club, but
most GMs are responsible for the salary cap and help build the team and fill
holes in the lineup.

“We don’t have a scouting
department. It’s a manager and a few other key people, but we all have
contacts. That’s how you get 90 percent of your players,” Wexelberg said.
“If your first baseman goes down, you call your buddy who is a scout and
you ask, ‘Hey, do you know of anybody?’ “