Q & A with John Angelos

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April 23rd, 2017

Interview with John Angelos

John P. Angelos is the Executive Vice President of the Baltimore Orioles, a position he has held since April 1999, leading the club’s front office and overseeing day-to-day business operations. He also serves as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), overseeing the network’s business operations. John went to college at Duke and then got his JD at the U of Baltimore School of Law.

Q: John – I know our readers would love to hear about your early years. How you picked Duke, what you majored in and how you decided to go on and get a law degree?

A: I selected Duke in the aftermath of attending an all boys prep school for twelve years. Gilman School in Baltimore had a strong focus on preparing students to attend some of the most highly regarded colleges and universities and among those Duke offered an early action program. Through that program, I was accepted very early in my senior year and after visiting just a handful of schools including Duke and a few Ivy League possibilities, I made a decision based on Duke’s reputation, size, and campus environment. While that decision did work out for me, in retrospect I likely did not visit enough diverse schools and really consider schools based outside of the east coast, of various sizes, or offering differing emphases on curriculum, mission, and campus culture. Today, I advise college candidates to visit as many different types of schools as economically possible, including urban and rural, small and large, private, parochial, and public, and schools on both coasts and all regions of the country of any interest as this will challenge the many assumptions we make as teenagers about what is important. I also advise some students to consider taking a gap year, or traveling the world, or taking advantage of one or several paid or volunteer internships and deferring entering college immediately after high school as this may be a better choice for some. College is a great opportunity and a great time in life, and it will be the best of both when entered into with a lot of thought and without following a any one accepted approach to learning.

Q: Since you sort of grew up in a baseball family what was that like – baseball talk at the kitchen table?

A: Baseball talk and sports talk in general is a great thing, and when it is experienced with those across generations it takes on the added dimensions of expanding not only the pool of player knowledge and different ways in which the game was played and the business of baseball was conducted from Era to Era but expanding the inevitably different points of view we each have in part simply because of circumstances of when we were born and how and when we grew up. Baseball is a game of vast data and statistics but that data is just a way to express the vast company of characters who have populated the history of the game. Baseball is a game of the people because it engages the most fans, players, scouts, coaches, and staff, and that bigger than life scale of the national passion makes baseball talk the best of all sports banter. For me, adding in the dimension of team ownership and family business certainly overlaid a few unique aspects to the conversation, including the role of finances, public relations, team operation, and others, but over the past many years that I have been involved and whether in my twenties, thirties, forties, or later years, that the best way to sort through the business issues that overlay the game is to filter out the business bias as much as possible and view the game just as you did when you were a kid, long before team ownership was a gleam in the eye, for by viewing the game as every kid in America does you will most easily stress what is most important in arriving at the best solution to whatever the business or baseball issue may be.

Q: You not only run the Orioles but you also run MASN – what is a typical work day in your life?

A: The Orioles ownership group has over the past quarter century developed a multi-platform approach to sports brand presentation that only a handful of other sports teams in the four major sports have been able to create. Developing and managing a team owned and managed subsidiary media network in the forms of a regional sports television network, an in house radio network, and an iconic sports venue in Oriole Park at Camden Yards is rewarding for the two primary reasons that such a platform allows those interested in the team to experience it in an integrated manner on all platforms presented by one guiding force as opposed to by many different participants with often competing interests and objections and also allows the media platform to backstop and secure the long term financial stability and presence of the team in the local community free of a threat of relocation from a smaller market to a larger one. The major benefit of MASN is that as long as it exists in strong financial form it insures the Orioles franchise could remain in a market the size of Baltimore permanently. MASN’s guiding business objective however is to promote the game of baseball in the form of 300 games of two MLB clubs, the Nationals and Orioles, across a seven state Mid Atlantic region and the fourteen Nielsen designated market areas that we reach. MASN promotes a two teams on on one network, with a chance for fans to see every club in MLB play and to see hundreds of games from the powerhouse AL and NL East divisions. My job is to make sure that MASN sells the concept of the power of MLB as the best entertainment form in America and promotes equivalently the two teams across those markets and reinforces the fact that MLB is the number one spectator sport and highest cumulatively rated sports media property in the US, just as that is the joint goal of MASN and both of its clubs.

Q: Do you find the television world interesting?

A: The larger media world contains within it the television industry, and the television industry in turn includes within it the sports media world. When a club management is running it’s sports team operation and it’s venue, and all that entails, and while that is a considerable and interesting involvement, without having direct access to the television and larger media industry the team is missing tremendous opportunity. My experiences over the past eleven years of having unique access to the sports team and sports television world’s has provided that opportunity for the club and has been just about the most interesting involvement I could imagine.

Q: Since you are such a forward thinker – what challenges do you see ahead for Major League Baseball?

A: The future off Major League Baseball and the broader game of baseball is incredibly bright. Last year, major and minor league baseball attracted almost 110 million paid fans to see a professional baseball game, and tens of millions more boys, girls, and their families in the US and around the world participated in college, amateur, and youth baseball. With that said, the challenges and opportunities ahead for Mlb and for the great game are considerable, and they are exciting as well. The five areas where Mlb and the game have vast opportunity to grow and improve our business performance by best practices are in my view: 1. Achieving significantly expanded, proactive, and professional industry-standard levels of promotion and marketing of the league, game, and sport domestically to all core and casual demographic groups around the country in support of every local club in their markets; 2. Reaching a state of on-field competitive balance in MLB that is equivalent to that already existing in the best sports leagues in the US and globally as the only realistic and responsible method of growing and protecting the business and popularity of the game of baseball and protecting it from a flattening and then decline in popularity, revenue, and general financial health; 3. Defining a sensible ballpark re-investment and franchise expansion business plan at the major, spring training, and minor league levels that makes all franchises part of a collective league-wide ballpark preservation masterplanning and funding effort that in turn protects the integrity of the league, the presentation of it’s jewel events, and the value of its local clubs by protecting the quality of it’s venues; 4. Reviewing the manner in which MLB and the clubs deploy substantial percentages of revenues to the research and development function of scouting and player development with the goal of better and more appropriately compensating our scouts, minor league coaches, and players who execute that function while making the research and development system far more efficient, less redundant, and more accurate in predicting future performance of amateur athletes at the professional level; 5. Realigning the international marketing of MLB and efforts to grow the game abroad around existing dominant institutions such as the Olympic Games, “dream team” methodology, expanded international amateur programming and marketing, and other international models to reach equivalency with the international efforts of the other major sports US leagues; 6. Reenvision multimedia content distribution in ways that serve the best interests of fans, consumers, players association members, and clubs.

Q: You’ve built such a great team of people working on both the MASN and O’s side of things – what hiring strategies have you employed to end up with such great people working for you?

A: The first and last guidelines in building business or baseball teams for me are the ones that a great baseball man, former Orioles general manager and farm director, and a friend explained to me. Syd Thrift used to explain how building successful teams that possessed chemistry was about recruiting for it by design not trying to create it after the group was built. Syd also was an advocate of measuring everything, coaching the coaches, and evaluating the evaluators using internal communication and external experts to constantly evaluate how the Orioles were doing as compared to other teams. Syd brought that mentality to the Orioles from his many decades with the best baseball minds and in his building the renowned Royals Academy that Ewing Kauffman supported, rejuvenating the Pirates, and many other accomplishments. I took that same mentality to MASN when I recruited the executive team and we launched the new twenty four hour, 365-day media network, and we have the same group together eleven years later.

Q: You love the world of music – who is your favorite song writer/singer?

A: My favorite songwriter is Margaret Valentine, who is also my wife. My favorite singers vary across many diversity talented people and genres, including everyone from Neko Case to Shirley Bassey, Billy Joel to Tom Waits, Johnny Cash to Neil Young, Roger Waters, Eddie Vedder, Edith Piaf, Led Zeppelin, and many more. The best live performances I have recently seen were Florence and the Machine at the Hollywood Bowl, Tom Waits and the Kronos Quartet at the Bridge School Benefit, and the Blind Boys of Alabama at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. The best album I recently listened to was Ryan Beaver’s Rx, and in my view we all need to get back to listening to albums and away from rushing past the great collected work artists create to sample this or that. As Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society famously explained, science and math help us live and the arts are what makes life worth living. We would do well to live by those words and get out and support what songwriters, singers, and artists of every type do to better our lives and make society more livable.

Q: For all of those young people reading this who aspire to work in the sports industry – what words of advice do you have for them?

A: Read a lot of Books. Thirty or more every summer throughout your younger years. Never stop doing that. Give time to books and they will give you back much more time than you put in to them. Go as far in your education as possible as additional exposures, education, and credentials will distinguish you from your peers. Learn to write and communicate as well as you can as doing so will help you think clearly, and the ability to think clearly will permit you to be marketable to any employer in any field. Don’t worry with learning the substance of any one profession as you will be taught that later. Worry only about learning the thinking process applied to any and every profession and human endeavor. As an aside, learning how to read, think, analyze, question, write, and speak will not only make you marketable, distinguish you from others, and get you a job that is rewarding, it may also help you to save yourself and your society from those who will use demagoguery and propaganda to infringe your freedom and individual rights. So, start reading and never stop.

Q: Last question – what National League team do you predict the O’s will play in the World Series this year?

A: The San Francisco Giants. One of the best run organizations in sports, right up there with the Spurs, Steelers, and others, and the Giants focus on pitching, defense, and thinking outside the box between and beyond the lines. Moreover, the Os and Giants colors complement one another, and although I am a bit biased, I think we have the two best cities and two best ballparks anywhere.

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