MLB Commissioner and Times columnist discuss bringing a younger audience to ‘The Game’

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By Shaylyn MacKinnon

Throughout the past few semesters Drew University has hosted a steady stream of well-spoken, nationally known leaders ranging from politicians to historians to NBL athletes. Bill O’Reilly, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anderson Cooper are just a few of the more noteworthy guests who gave their time to speak at graduations or forum events. Rob Manfred, the current commissioner of all of Major League Baseball, is just the most recent name to be added to the long list of inspirational speakers Drewids have had the opportunity to see.

Rob Manfred, 57, was raised in Rome, N.Y., as a Yankees fan. He attended Cornell University for undergraduate school, then attended Harvard Law School, which led to a successful law career fighting for labor rights, later presenting him with all the right connections to become the most important man in baseball.

Manfred arrived at Drew several hours before his scheduled sit-down interview in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts with New York Times sports columnist, Ira Berkow, so that he could personally meet with Drew students. He met with group of students from the Business of Sports course, socialized at a cocktail party with student athletes and Drew faculty members and spent half an hour to talk one-on-one with The Drew Acorn. Manfred amicably answered questions about the MLB, what it’s like to work as the commissioner of America’s pastime, and spoke about his time as an undergraduate student. All of this was done before his publicly advertised hour-long interview alongside Berkow, yet Manfred was never showed any signs of exhaustion from the demanding nature of his visit.

Manfred’s interview with Berkow focused on all of the most pressing questions in baseball today. Berkow’s first question, whether or not the national anthem should be played before every game, was answered with an adamant, “Yes, 100 percent it should be played before every game.” Manfred’s response immediately received an overwhelming applause, setting the tone of the audience’s response for the rest of the evening. He touched upon his thoughts of who should be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame, qualifying that while he is fine with Pete Rose’s—who openly admitted to betting on the game—acceptance, he would not reinstate him into the game. Manfred swears that baseball is still the American Pastime despite its depleting younger audience, which he addressed later in the interview. Manfred explained that to overcome the drop off of youth interest, changes must be made to standardize the rules and ballpark sizes in youth leagues. He also highlighted the need for larger baseball scholarships to be offered at all divisions of college athletics. When audience questions began, Manfred revealed that he was looking into expanding the MLB into Mexico, where he said, “baseball is part of the culture. It could be a great media market for us and I think it would help us domestically in terms of engaging the Hispanic base in America.” Berkow went even deeper with this particular audience question, asking him if the new state of relations between the U.S. and Cuba would ever lead to a team based in Havana, to which Manfred responded he had visited with this in mind, though there are economic issues that must be addressed before they could seriously consider the addition.


Photo by Sotorios Doolen

Manfred’s one-on-one interview with The Drew Acorn focused less on his current career and hot topics in baseball, but rather more on his life before he became the commissioner and what led him there. The interview began with the question of what inspired Manfred to pursue a career in law. He answered with an anecdote about an amazing job offer he received in Texas City, Texas, immediately after school, but one look at Texas City made him determined to go to law school. He added more seriously that it was his interest in Labor Relations, in which he holds a degree, that really inspired him, because the more he studied the field, the more he realized the best way to pursue a career in it was to gain the practical skills he would learn in law school. Manfred discussed his favorite class at Cornell, “You know, this is probably an odd one for someone like me, but the statistics class I took for the statistics requirement. I would never have taken the class except that it was required, and I ended up taking four semesters of it and absolutely loved it.” The importance of this course came up again later on when Manfred was asked for advice he’d give to students considering law school.

“I think it’s very important to try to develop basic skills, as opposed to getting focused too early on what you think your career is going to be,” Manfred said, continuing with, “The ability to write opens all sorts of doors for you in all sorts of careers. Quantitative analysis, you know the fact that you are equipped with that sort of analysis doesn’t mean that you have to be a data analyst for NASA for your career, but it is a skill set that can serve you in almost any career.” This may sound familiar to Drewids receiving a liberal arts education. “I think when you develop those skills, for a lot of people, what you want to be when you grow up emerges.”

Manfred’s final advice for students interested in a life of law? “Even if it’s just working in the mailroom, get inside a law firm and see what it’s like to be a practicing lawyer.”

Photo courtesy of

Sept. 16, 2016

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