Interview with Derrick Hall: President and CEO of the Diamondbacks
Monday July 18, 2011
MLB reports: Today on MLB reports, we bring you our biggest and most important interview to-date. From the executive side of baseball, we present our interview with Arizona Diamondbacks President and Chief Executive Officer, Derrick Hall.
Derrick joined the Diamondbacks in May 2005 after working in the front office of the Los Angeles Dodgers for many years. In September 2006, Derrick was named President of the Diamondbacks and later added the title of Chief Executive Officer in January 2009.
The Diamondbacks are very fortunate to have one of the most progressive and dynamic baseball leaders at their helm. Derrick developed the “Circle of Success” mission statement, the foundation for the management of the Diamondbacks. A true ambassador to the game, Derrick Hall is a tireless worker in promoting and developing baseball in Arizona. Derrick is often mentioned by many baseball commentators as a candidate to succeed Bud Selig as Commissioner after Selig’s contract expires following the 2012 season.
As part of our Q&A, we covered many topics with Derrick Hall. This year’s MLB All-Star game in Arizona, the hiring of Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers, MLB realignment, the state of the Los Angeles Dodgers and even the possibility of Hall becoming MLB Commissioner one day were all covered. We now present Derrick Hall, Arizona Diamondbacks President and Chief Executive Officer:
MLB reports: Mr. Hall, Derrick. Thank you for joining us today on MLB reports. With the All-Star game held in Arizona this year, you must have been an extremely busy man. How did the planning go for the big event? How did the Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball make this year’s All-Star game different from those of past years?
Derrick Hall: The All-Star festivities were extremely successful and we were told by many they thought the experience ranked up there with the best ever. I received zero complaints and heard rave reviews from all of my colleagues and fans. I am so proud of my hard-working staff. The fact that we brought nearly $70 million of economic impact to our region, in addition to $5 million in legacy community projects makes this All-Star summer a much-needed success.
MLB reports: It must be an incredible undertaking to put together the All-Star festivities. I had the pleasure of attending many such events and literally entire cities get taken over by the festivities. Can you give us an idea as to the amount of people working just for this project and what your role is in seeing the event from beginning to the end?
Derrick Hall: It is safe to say that over 2,000 individuals worked on the All-Star game, either from my staff or as volunteers. We oversaw all planning and coordination in conjunction with MLB Special Events. They put the Mid-Summer Classic on every year and have it down to a science. We then direct them based on our knowledge of our fans, economy and market.
MLB reports: On a personal note, you joined the Diamondbacks in 2005 and was named President in 2006. What factors were part of your decision in joining Arizona? What was the process like to becoming President and how quickly did you jump at the chance?
Derrick Hall: I worked for the Dodgers for many years before coming over. It was always a hope and dream of mine to run the Diamondbacks. My wife is from Arizona, and we both attended and met at Arizona State University. It is a dream come true to be back home and changing the employee and fan culture on a daily basis. We are considered the most fan-friendly team in all of sports, and were just named the most positive sports team in the world by the United Nations. I am proud indeed.
MLB reports: Since becoming President, how has the role itself been for you? Please give our readers an idea as to your day-to-day functions and the various front office staff that you work with. Does the job today differ from what you expected when you first started as President?
Derrick Hall: My days are jam-packed, but I love it that way. I work closely with both the baseball operations side and the business side, but leave baseball decisions to the experts I have hired. I am responsible for all aspects of the organization and oversee about 350 full-time employees and 2,000 part-time and worldwide employees. It is similar to a large corporation and is a 365-day business.
MLB reports: The Diamondbacks have received great feedback on the hires of Kirk Gibson as manager and Kevin Towers as the GM. Please give us a glimpse as to your role in the hiring of each of these fine baseball men. How do you rate the job that each has done so far in their respective roles? Why did the team choose these individuals specifically?
Derrick Hall: I first decided to make Kirk Gibson interim manager with the thought of him becoming permanent, but wanted my new GM hire to have a say-so because they need to work closely together. Before the end of last season, I concluded a GM search and hired Kevin Towers. I have known him for years and have always admired his reputation and track record. He agreed that Gibby should be our guy. They have been terrific. They have completely changed the culture in the clubhouse which is now one of accountability, results and grittiness. I could not be happier. We still have a long way to go, but for the first time in years, we are all on the same page, from CEO to GM to manager. And I am most proud of the coaching staff that Gibby has assembled, which I consider the best in the game hands down.
MLB reports: The 2011 MLB Draft is completed and the Diamondbacks appear to have done very well in stocking the farm. How do you view the players that your team chose and can we get a glimpse into the future Diamondbacks superstars?
Derrick Hall: We did very well according to the post-draft reviews and experts. It helped that we have the numbers 3 and 7 picks. And with those picks, we picked the best college pitcher and arguably the best high school pitcher respectively. We have been restocking our farm system over the last year or so, so are excited to be adding this talent to the list of prospects like Skaggs, Corbin, Parker, Holmberg, Goldschmidt and Owings to name a few. Trevor Bauer is very close to Major League-ready and could be an impact on our team soon, when focusing on our recent draftees.
MLB reports: The topic of realignment has been thrown around in many circles. I have proposed the idea of moving the Diamondbacks to the American League. What do you think of realignment in general and if given the choice, would the Diamondbacks move divisions at all?
Derrick Hall: I would not be in favor of us moving to the American League. I personally am a big fan of the National League. I like its strategy and I enjoy seeing the pitchers hit. I am not a fan of the DH, but understand its place and like the fact that it prolongs players’ careers. We have established some great rivalries within our division and want to stay here. I also think there are better candidates for a move if one is needed. But not sure 15-15 works. That would include too much interleague throughout the season. I like interleague play as it is conducted now. However, I would recommend AL rules in NL cities and NL rules in AL cities.
MLB reports: “The Circle of Success” is a topic that is associated with Derrick Hall as President. Please give our readers the ideas behind the Circle and how it has worked in developing the Diamondbacks organization.
Derrick Hall: I am so proud of the “Circle of Success.” We created it in 2007 and it is proudly displayed in our hallways and in everyone’s office. These are our five main areas of focus: (i) performance on the field, (ii) financial efficiency, (iii) community impact, (iv) culture in the workplace and (v) fan experience. We recognize and reward employees every day for excelling or displaying a commitment to these areas. We constantly refer to these, as well as our mission and values statement to remind our staff who we are and what we stand for.
MLB reports: Watching the turmoil surrounding the Dodgers must be painful for you, having spent so many years in the organization. How did you find your time in Los Angeles? Was it difficult to leave the team after being there for over a decade? What do the Dodgers have to do in your opinion to go back to the glory days as one of the proudest franchises in baseball?
Derrick Hall: It is sad, having been there more than a decade and beginning my career there. I learned under Peter O’Malley and developed my skills there. I began as an intern and worked my way up to Senior Vice President in a short amount of time. I am proud of that achievement and will always hold that franchise near and dear to my heart. The Dodgers will be fine, I know that. This is one of the most relevant brands in all of sports with too rich a history not to. With a brand that includes Scully, Lasorda, Koufax, Valenzuela, the Dodger Dog, Chavez Ravine and beach balls, I have no doubt this organization will bounce back and be a force to be reckoned with.
MLB reports: Fans must ask you all the time about the team’s big picture plans and chances of playoff success. Do the Diamondbacks have a 3/5/10 year type plan? With the goal of winning the World Series this year and future years I’m sure, how will the Diamondbacks get there?
Derrick Hall: We will get there. We do have short and long-term plans, but they all include being competitive, and adding revenues that will in turn be added to player payroll. We needed first and foremost to bulk up our prospect list and minor league system. A market-size like ours needs to develop from within, and we are now in a strong position to do so. There are several teams doing just like we are with success, such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Colorado, Florida, to name a few. This is an exciting time for all of us with bright futures ahead.
MLB reports: What do you see as the future of Derrick Hall? If you had to look into crystal ball and see yourself in 10 years, where will you be? Any chance we will see you as a candidate as a successor to Bud Selig as the Commissioner one day?
Derrick Hall: I am often asked if I am a future Commissioner, which is a tremendous honor. I do not know what the future holds, but I am extremely content right where I am at. I want to bring a World Series back here before I do anything else. This organization is a great one, and I love all of my employees. What we are building here is special, and time has been flying. Ten years will feel like one, so if I still have the honor of leading this franchise, I will be grateful and satisfied.
MLB reports: Last questions Derrick. Why do you work in baseball? What do you love about this game? What are the positives in baseball as an industry and what areas need improvement? Are you happy/satisfied with the state of the game today?
Derrick Hall: I work in baseball because I love this game more than anything other than my family. And my family would tell you I love it more than them most of the time. You have to have love and passion for what you do. I often tell young employees that if you truly love what you are doing, you will never work a day in your life. I can tell you, what I do every day does not feel like a job. I love all of our employees, players and fans. I arrive at work every day with a smile on my face and challenge our staff to be pioneering and show leadership in the sports industry. I work in paradise and have my sites set no further than right here and right now. I feel the weight of responsibility to help grow the interest and intrigue in our game and to create technological solutions that will compete with the many options our youth, and future fans, have before them.
MLB reports: Thank you again to Derrick Hall for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to talking with us today and to sharing his insights and opinions with us. Derrick shed light on many pertinent baseball topics as part of this interview and we encourage everyone to leave your comments and feedback. We congratulate Derrick and the Diamondbacks organization on a stellar performance in hosting this year’s All-Star game. We also wish the Diamondbacks the best of success this year as they battle for a playoff berth. To stay current on the Diamondbacks and support the team, you can follow Derrick Hall on twitter.
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