Attanasio thinks of his team as custodians of Miller Park,
respecting the fact that fans have paid for the facility.
Brewers have earned a playoff berth and added a division title to
their rich history since Mark Attanasio took over ownership 10 years
ago, and the owner is showing no signs of slowing down. Despite a few
set backs (Ryan Braun’s suspension and a frustrating 2014 season),
his enthusiasm has not waned as he continues to push forward toward
greatness for the baseball team.
attitude toward his team stems from his lifelong love for the sport.
Like most people, Attanasio’s childhood dream of playing Major
League Baseball ended pretty quickly. "I was a really mediocre
high school player," Attanasio told Fox Sports. "And that’s
stretching it a bit."
Attanasio moved on from his teenage disappointment, the Major League
dream lingered and was realized in 2005 when he purchased the
of the finalists bidding on the team, was sitting at home waiting for
a call from the firm handling the sale, a call that was several hours
they’d call by 4 or 5 p.m. West Coast time. I was in my office at 7
p.m. and there was still no call." Attanasio had his concession
speech ready when the phone rang with the good news.
"I let out
a scream you could hear all through my house," Attanasio recalled
when being declared the winning bidder after an agonizing stretch of
waiting for the final decision.
He had never
owned a baseball team, but as a successful businessman and money
manager, he knew a bit about high-stakes acquisitions. "If you
want it, you need to put out a high number," Attanasio told Fox
Sports. "A lot of folks were bidding in the $150 million to $180
million range at that time. I said, ‘$200 million.’ The next thing
I know, I’m in the finals with three or four other bidders. At that
point, I thought, ‘When are you ever going to get an opportunity to
buy a Major League Baseball team? You’d better get it done.’"
excitement was tempered by the reality of taking over a small-market
team that had a tiny payroll and little success on the field.
me as someone who was a fan and knowledgeable about the game,"
says Milwaukee Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger, who
had joined the club after the 2002 season, about meeting Attanasio for
the first time. "He was an impressive guy but approachable."
New owners of
any business routinely stage a wholesale house cleaning of personnel.
That didn’t happen with the Brewers. "The one thing Mark
brought to the organization was a willingness to let folks prove
themselves," Schlesinger says. "Mark came in and he kept the
business and the baseball staffs and the senior leadership
"He let us
supplement on the baseball side and the business side with additional
personnel and resources and gave us a lot of confidence that we could
prove to him that we were worthy of staying in the organization,"
combination of an intelligently increased payroll to reward the team’s
home-grown young stars and a steady stream of improvements to Miller
Park, the Brewers broke a 26-year playoff drought in 2008, won the
division in 2011, and have hovered around the 3 million mark in
attendance the last eight seasons.
took over the franchise the payroll was a fraction of what it is
now," Schlesinger says. "We’ve also invested multiple
millions into the physical plant. And we’ve been able to hire and
dramatically increase our staffs."
old and new at all levels, appreciate Attanasio’s trust in their
abilities. "He gives us the responsibility and authority, and we
take ownership of our decisions," Schlesinger says. "He’s
always challenging us in a positive way, always asking how we can do
things better, but he’s not going to micromanage us."
always pushed us to think big and be bold," Schlesinger adds.
"To take educated and calculated risks because he’s got our
back. Sometimes we’re not going to succeed, but he’ll be
astute observer of every facet of the club’s operation, talked about
scenarios for a more hands-on approach. "I don’t know that you
ever know when the right time is," Attanasio told Fox Sports.
"When I insert myself into the process a little bit, it’s a
function of two things: Passion, and in some cases, I was too
inexperienced to know better, but it turned out to be the right move.
Now I worry because I have experience to draw on, and I’m more
patient — I don’t know that (General Manager) Doug (Melvin) would
think I’m more patient — that I don’t insert myself the way I
might have before."
has been positive and supportive, he has also been brutally honest
during two of the most difficult stretches of his tenure — Ryan
Braun’s 65-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use in
2013, and the team’s late season collapse in 2014.
"He made a
terrible mistake, but America is founded on giving people a second
chance," Attanasio says of his decision to keep Braun on the
roster. "But Ryan needs to make the most of his second chance. He
As far as the
late season collapse last year, Attanasio said, "I was
disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They’re better
than this and they didn’t show it."
very successful, very wealthy individual, but at his heart, he’s a
regular guy who loves baseball," Schlesinger says. "I think
the fans in Milwaukee appreciate that kind of sentiment and
personality and excitement when we win and disappointment when we
recognizes that Brewers fans have paid for Miller Park and considers
the team as custodians of the ballpark. He wants to reward that fan
commitment with a state-of-the-art baseball experience and multiple
championships going forward. He knows it won’t be easy competing
with bigger markets’ vast payrolls, which he calls
"mind-boggling and frustrating," but feels the rewards are
greater leading a team in Milwaukee to baseball glory.
a baseball fan, what’s better than this?" Attanasio told a New
York Times reporter at Miller Park while a sellout crowd celebrated a
home run. "You can talk about Los Angeles or other cities, but
what’s better than this?"