SBD/Issue 138/MLB Season Preview

Catching Up With Marlins President David Samson

Marlins President
David Samson
After years of dedication and determination, the Marlins' proposal for a new ballpark was finally approved last month, and helping to lead the charge was team President DAVID SAMSON. But Samson isn't just one of MLB's most recognizable front-office figures, he is also an accomplished athlete. Samson has been participating in Iron Man triathlon events since '06 and has inspired his fellow employees to join in the fun. Staff Writer Jessica Collins recently spoke with Samson about plans for the new ballpark, the South Florida sports scene and preparing for the upcoming Boston Marathon.

Favorite vacation spot:
Kona, Hawaii.
Last movie you saw: "Miss March," and it was so terrible.
Favorite Miami restaurant: Little Japan Sushi.
Favorite Web sites: ESPN.com, Marlins.com, EOnline.com.
An executive you admire: BILL GATES.

Q: Do you or the team use social-networking sites to reach fans?

Samson: No. I would say that I’m not into it. There are areas of our team on the marketing side that are definitely into it. Personally, I do not have a Facebook site nor do I Twitt -- if that’s a verb -- but on the marketing side they do.

Q: You are an Iron Man triathlete. Have you been training lately and are you going to be participating in upcoming events?

Samson: Yes. In two weeks I’m running in the Boston Marathon. I'm in a six-days-a-week training program that’s been going on for four months. There’s a bunch of us doing it from the front office. People here got motivated after I did the Iron Man in ’06 and since then I would say we certainly have the fittest front office in sports. A bunch of us have run marathons, half marathons and there’s about eight of us going up to Boston to do the Boston Marathon.

Q: Has the fact that the new ballpark has been approved really sunk in?

Samson: No. There will be different times during the day when it sinks in a little more but sometimes I’ll get a call from someone or I’ll be dealing with an issue thinking that it hasn’t actually happened and then realize it has.

Q: How did you celebrate?

Samson: We have not yet. We all agreed that we will celebrate the day after Opening Day in 2012. Right now we want to get it built on time, on budget and we want it to be perfect. We don’t want to allow ourselves to celebrate because the truth is the hardest work starts now. As much as the last seven years have been very difficult to try to get a deal done, it’s the next three years that will really define this franchise for the next 50 years, so there’s no celebrating right now. 

Q: What design elements will you and Marlins Owner JEFFREY LORIA attempt to implement to make the new ballpark unique?

Samson: It’s going to really reflect the diversity that is Miami. We are the gateway of Latin America and having a Miami franchise will reflect, and our ballpark will reflect, that we are a Miami franchise.

Minute Maid Park One Of MLB
Ballparks Samson Admires
Q: Are there any MLB ballparks you may use as a blueprint and any that you particularly admire?

Samson: I don’t think we’ll use any as a blueprint, but we admire very much Minute Maid Park and PNC. As far as a blueprint, this is going to be a very unique ballpark other than, of course, the four bases and two foul posts.

Q: What do you think makes South Florida an appealing sports market?

Samson: The challenge of being a part of a market that is very new is very appealing to me personally. Recognizing that our job is simply to build a tradition, not to maintain a tradition, and our franchise, this is only its 17th season, so it has no history yet. Even though we’ve won two World Series, we’re just beginning to build a history. Being a part of that is unbelievably exciting and challenging. I would not say that South Florida is either a good or a bad sports market right now because it’s too young to have any sort of reputation.

Q: How would you best describe your fan base?

Samson: Tired of the ballpark issue, excited that they know the team is staying here forever and they are always hopeful and confident that we will win given what our front office has been able to do year after year. 

Q: How are ticket sales selling heading into this season?

Samson: It’s been tough. It’s been a tough offseason. It certainly has picked up since the ballpark announcement. I would say that we are going to be flat to a little bit down, which is something we’re not accustomed to. We prefer to be growing every year, but we are being very aggressive in ticketing and promoting to try to get people out to Dolphin Stadium, especially with seat priority becoming an issue and ballpark seating. We think that will have a positive impact on our ticket sales but just not yet. We have a very hard time building a ticket base because it’s such a big stadium.

If Samson Were Commissioner For A Day He
Would Keep Labor Peace Established By Selig
Q: If you were MLB Commissioner for one day, what would you do?

Samson: For three hours I would go to a game. For six hours I would meet with every president and owner of all 30 teams to discuss with them the importance of understanding that everyone’s actions has an impact on everyone else. I would meet with the media for one hour. For the other 14 hours I would try to sit with the players union and try to come up with a system where the labor peace under Commissioner SELIG would continue in a way that would ensure baseball would be played for the next 20 years uninterrupted in an economic system that works for both players and management.

Q: Local columnist Mike Berardino recently wrote you “must be taken seriously” and cannot be “dismissed as a mere stepson of a major league owner, someone whose sometimes-abrasive manner has a tendency to place the organization in a negative light.” He said you “got the deal done, and for that he should be commended.” What was your response to that?

Samson: I never pay attention to anything negative written about me, so therefore I don’t allow myself to pay attention to anything positive either. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t ignore the negative and then believe the positive. That’s not exactly being fair. So I choose to ignore both the negative and positive. I guess I would philosophically tell you that I’m not running for office so it’s not a popularity contest. I have a job that requires making unpopular decisions from time to time and I take it very seriously, and I recognize that not everything we do is understood or appreciated. But I certainly hope that as people look back on the Marlins franchise they’ll realize that getting the ballpark and everything we do helps solidify baseball for all sorts of unborn kids.

Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?

Samson: David Samson the president of the Marlins is completely different from David Samson the father and the friend. 

Q: What sports business story will you be watching closely this year?

Samson: What happens on the sponsorship side and how companies allocate resources, and then what is the impact to a company of either increasing or decreasing its sports sponsorships.

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