Major League Career

Groat winner started learning about labor dynamic as a child
Monday, April 4, 2016

Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., ’80 got his start in the foothills of the Adirondacks in a small city where copper-bottomed pots and pans were manufactured.
“My interest in labor relations was really a direct result of the community I grew up in,” he said, referring to Rome, N.Y.

Manfred’s father was an executive at Revere Copper and Brass Inc., which had two collective bargaining units, and his mother was a unionized school teacher.

“I had both sides of the labor dynamic in my house.”

When labor contracts were being negotiated, “I remember quite vividly how tough that can be on a small community. I was aware of the tension.”

Manfred, receiving ILR’s Groat Award April 14, has spent most of his career in Major League Baseball. He directed collective bargaining issues with players, became the chief operating officer and started as commissioner in 2015.

Through it all, the Harvard Law School graduate says he has trusted his father’s advice: “‘Focus on the job you have now and don’t worry about the next job. It takes care of itself.’ And, that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

Many decisions he makes these days are high profile. They include continuing to ban Pete Rose from working in baseball, drug testing, the historic Cuba-United States game, player discipline, the financials of an industry spawning billions in annual revenue.

ILR taught him to think analytically, he said, and those chances come along often.

“The quantitative stats and analytics are absolutely vital to sound decision making in this economic climate. In today’s workplace, everything begins with good analytics.”

Manfred happily posed on Tower Road for selfies taken by strangers when he returned to campus last year to talk with ILR students, but opts out of the limelight shone on professional sports.

“When I do things not directly related to day-to-day business, I accept invitations that are important to advancing the game and that serve the sport” such as recruiting alums at Harvard Law or sitting on a Police Athletic League panel to attract youth to baseball.

Colleen Manfred, his wife, and he live in Westchester County north of New York City and have four adult children. One is a senior at Colgate University and three live in the New York metro area.

For fun, Manfred likes to golf. “I don’t hit it very far, but I hit it straight,” he laughed.

At the Groat & Alpern Celebration in New York City, he expects “to talk about the significance of work in people’s lives” and the challenge of finding a way to draw satisfaction from work.
How is that done?

Manfred’s amused reply: “Saving that for April.”

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