Detroit’s Colangelo Has the Tigers Communications by the Tale
Whether it’s showing Richard Branson how to throw a pitch, making sure Women’s World Cup gets a proper tribute or that their manager is effectively engaged in the social space, the Detroit Tigers seem to always be in the mix helping to raise the profile of MLB off the field.
Leading the charge for the Tigers is someone who has already earned a ring in baseball and one in hockey, a rare double, for his work with the then-Miami Marlins and the Florida Panthers respectively, and in between those stops and his current one in Detroit helped build a solid and effective communications team with the New York Jets. His name is Ron Colangelo, and we took some time to talk about best practices and the business of baseball with him in his role as Detroit’s Vice President, Communications.
What’s the best part of your job in Detroit?
Working for the Detroit Tigers is a unique opportunity in that there is a treasure chest of history and tradition to tap into from a branding perspective. At any point of the day, I could speak with Hall of Famer Al Kaline, Detroit Tigers hero Willie Horton or should be Hall of Fame shortstop Alan Trammell. These former greats remain active with the organization. The franchise is now in its 115th season and there are generations of Tigers fans everywhere not just in Detroit. We work the non-sports media to gain coverage of the business initiatives of the team, the community activities and programs and all that Comerica Park has to offer for fans on game day.
You come from an Italian family, what does that mean to you as a professional in MLB?
There have been some great Italian players and ambassadors in the game, and it’s been rewarding professionally and personally to have worked with some of them. Mike Piazza comes to mind for his brief stint in Miami when we were at the Marlins. Tommy Lasorda, while always the opponent when he was with the Dodgers, has been an acquaintance for years, and it’s always fun just to be around him. The late scout Al LaMacchia, who I first met in my minor leagues days with the West Palm Beach Expos, would always pronounce, rather loudly of course, every syllable of my last name. Irish man and former manager Jim Leyland, would always do the same. As I have progressed along with my career, heritage has become even more important to me. I have a long-time Italian friend and broadcast journalist, Massimo Marianella, who loves baseball and comes from Italy each year to cover baseball for Sky Italia. Massimo is a wonderful paesan who brings wine from the Italian vineyards and chocolate.
You have held senior communications positions in three of the four major sports in the US. What is the biggest difference between the three from a work standpoint?
The biggest difference are the hours and days in the office. Baseball, by far, is the most taxing on the hours in your day especially when the ball club is home. For example, for a 7:08 p.m. game during the week, you’re in the office by 9:30 a.m. and you’re generally home at 11:00 p.m. of course, if there is not a rain delay, which you don’t have in the NHL where I worked for three plus seasons and in the NFL they play through the rain for the most part. Also in baseball, there is much more media access, which again is more demanding on your communications team. There are 162 regular season games and 30 spring training games, plus, hopefully, post season. The manager for a MLB team will meet with the media twice a day which is a total of 384 press conferences. There isn’t a leader of any company in the world who addresses the media that much. The point is, you have to be prepared for each session, on what the subject matter, topic of the day will be, and anything that may happen during the game.
How are you able to strike a balance between family and work with such a hectic schedule?
My daughter, Catalina and sons, Nicolas and Ryan are huge Tigers fans, and come to games often, so I try my best to spend a few innings with them when I can. I have become much better at spending time with family. Still a work in progress of putting down the cell phone and ipad at home. I also make it a point and carve some time for myself with regards to running and staying fit. Discipline of your diet is paramount. Drink lots of water, and eat smaller meals. Lol.
Having been a part of championships in baseball and hockey, do you have a favorite memory?
Being part of a World Series championship organization in 1997 with the Florida Marlins is the ultimate reward. Receiving my personally engraved World Series ring at a dinner from the owner and manager was special. Touring the White House and meeting President Clinton is 1A. Getting to work and know NFL legend Joe Namath and taking a photo with him on Times Square was pretty cool. Winning a championship (I have a ring) in minor league baseball was exciting. Getting a game ball from the Jets head coach Herm Edwards after the team won the AFC East title is right up there too.
What advice to you give to young people starting out in the business?
Be good listeners and a sponge for all facets of the business you are in at that particular point. If you are interested in a career in sports, a great place to start is in the minor leagues, whether it’s baseball, basketball, or hockey where you can learn everything about running a team. Be assertive with your ideas but don’t ever think you know it all. Ask questions. Make it a goal to learn something new every day. Stay humble.