By Alex Stumpf, Point Park News Service:
Former Pittsburgh Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy talked with the Point Park News Service about the baseball team’s winning season, changes in the business side of the game and what he wants to see for the future of the club. Earlier he spoke with Point Park University students about the business of sports management.
Q: How did you feel about the 2013 Pirates and the team’s first winning season in 20 years?
McClatchy: ’13 was amazing. I was probably as pessimistic as a lot of other people were going into the season. I just didn’t necessarily see where the change was going to come from. … The season continued to evolve and get better and just get more exciting, and I think (Team President) Frank (Coonelly) and(General Manager) Neal (Huntington) and (manager) Clint (Hurdle) and (owner) Bob (Nutting) all deserve a lot of credit for that. I think especially Clint did an amazing job. He’s just got such a positive attitude, and he got these guys to believe when I don’t even know if they believed in the beginning of the year. He’s been terrific with the fans. It was great to see so much passion at the playoff games, and I think they have a good, young foundation, so they can have some good teams for a long time.
Q: How rewarding was it to see PNC Park filled so many times this year?
McClatchy: It was great. When they were kind enough to ask me to throw out the first pitch, when I went out there, I just saw the enthusiasm. PNC Park — I always kind of look at it a little bit like my kid or something, and to see it grow up and to see we put all that time into PNC Park for those moments — and there hadn’t been enough of those moments at PNC Park — and to see people enjoy it and having a great time with it, that’s why we built it. I think it also frames the city in a special way.
Q: For years there was a general consensus that the Pirates ownership did not put enough money into the team. How did it feel to see the team succeed with a relatively small payroll — that the original plan worked?
McClatchy: Well, I would say it took a lot longer for that original plan to work. I was as disappointed as the fans were on that. But I do think maybe overtime they hopefully understood that I wanted to keep this team here, and I worked my tail off to try to do that. We had a lot of good folks around us in the organization. We had a lot people in the community that helped us and a lot of fans who supported us. It was a culmination of things, but to see the enthusiasm and to see people having fun, that’s what it’s all about. To see families having fun, that’s why we built it.
Q: Do you think baseball adequately compensates small markets today?
McClatchy: They’re getting better. The revenue-sharing has improved from a time when there was virtually no revenue-sharing except some gate revenue-sharing. It’s gotten better. It still needs a little ways to go, but it’s going in the right direction, and I think teams like the Pirates will always be at a slight disadvantage. I don’t think it’s ever going to be cured completely, but it is a lot better than it was 15 years ago.
Q: As a fan, what would you like to see happen this offseason for the Bucs?
McClatchy: I’d like to see them keep a couple of pieces. I’ll stay away from saying names because I know having been in their job, the last thing they need is me saying things and adding more pressure on them. But there’s a couple of key pieces that would be great to keep on the team that were with us at the end of last year. They have some work cut out for them, but I think they are in pretty good shape, and I think the playoffs probably helped the situation a lot.