Touring The Bases With…Lexington Legends GM Andy Shea
Andy Shea is the General Manager for the Lexington Legends located in Lexington, Kentucky. They are in the South Atlantic League and have been an Affiliate of the Houston Astros since 2001. Their stadium is Whitaker Bank Park. (a)
Seamheads.Com: What was your first job working in baseball? How did you obtain that job?
Andy Shea: My first job was as a Season Ticket Sales Representative. I did that for two seasons and worked in the parking lot for my game-day duty. I obtained that job after college. I played baseball for two years at Boston College but stopped playing due to a shoulder injury. I told myself, if I cannot play baseball, I was going to work in it. That job allowed me to overcome any and all issues with cold calling and talking to people. In our industry, we have a target demographic, but realistically everyone is a potential customer and fan so we talk to absolutely everyone about the Lexington Legends.
Seamheads: What are your responsibilities for the Legends?
Shea: My job consists of managing ticket and advertising sales, company outings, field maintenance, community and media relations, non-baseball events, facility management, merchandise sale and everything in between. On a daily basis, I work with and manage white and blue-collar employees and vendors that provide for a great challenge and change of pace.
Seamheads: What do you love the most about your job?
Shea: I love the variety of things I do; every day is different. Sometimes at days end, I will be amazed how time flew by.
Seamheads: What is the most difficult part of your job?
Shea: The time constraints and commitments are difficult during the season. For six months during the season, I am pretty much glued to the ballpark. It is a challenge making sure that my staff and myself has the proper balance in our lives. If you go one hundred percent every single day for your job, you will be burned out fast and become counterproductive, resentful and eventually useless.
Seamheads: What are a few outstanding moments for you with the Legends?
Shea: When Roger Clemens pitched here with his son Koby playing third base in front of a nine-thousand plus sellout crowd, an unbelievable experience. That was the first game Roger pitched in the minor leagues during his comeback. That made it extra special having that huge buzz and having three innings of our game on ESPN.
My other favorite moment was our Jason Adean and Miranda Lambert concert. (b) That was the first concert I booked and we ending up having the largest crowd our ballpark ever had, ten thousand-three hundred in the ballpark. It rained the entire night but it did not matter at all, if anything, it enhanced the experience with that crowd.
Seamheads: When and how did you get interested in working in baseball?
Shea: I was at Boston College when Theo Epstein became the Red Sox General Manager. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that a young man who grew up in the Boston area was returning to be the Red Sox GM. When I tore my labrum and was done playing baseball, I dedicated myself to working in the game.
Seamheads: When did you get interested in baseball as a child? Who influenced you?
Shea: Both of my parents influenced me to play baseball and my love the game grew. As I got older, I never needed much influence. I have always loved the game because it requires must as much, if not more head strength as it does athleticism. I was a catcher and I believe catcher and quarterback in football are the two best positions to play in sports.
Seamheads: Since you were a catcher, who are a few ML catchers you admire?
Shea: When I was growing up, I always admired Darren Daulton of the Phillies. I liked Mike Piazza because he grew up in the same area as me and because he was drafted in the sixty-second round but worked his way up to become an all-star. I also liked Craig Biggio © although most people may not remember him as a catcher, the position he played when he broke into the Big Show. One of the best baseball compliments I ever received was on my official visit to Seton Hall. Their head coach said, “You remind me a lot of Craig Biggio.” I was a smaller catcher but could run and play other positions.
Seamheads: What was the first professional game you saw?
Shea: The first pro game I saw was at The Vet in Philadelphia where I grew up. It was Juan Samuel baseball glove giveaway; I still have the glove!
Seamheads: When you were a youngster, who did you root for? Who were a few of your favorite players?
Shea: As a lifelong Philadelphia Phillies fan, my favorite all-time players were the guys on the 1993 Phillies: Lenny Dykstra, Darren Daulton, Curt Schilling, John Kruk and Pete Incaviglia and others.
Seamheads: Who are a few of your favorite ALL-TIME players?
Shea: As a youngster, I was a huge fan of Ted Williams and Carl Yastremski even though I never saw them play. It probably was because they were my Dad’s favorite players.
Seamheads: Of all your accomplishments with the Legends, what are you most proud of?
Shea: I am most proud of what our company does in the community, what our staff does. This past off-season I challenged myself to get every employee on a Chamber of Commerce in Central Kentucky and on a local charity Board. We are one hundred percent on Chamber’s ad about eighty-five percent on charity boards. I will get the final fifteen percent soon!
Seamheads: What were a few of your stops before coming to your current team?
Shea: My first full time job out of Boston College was working for the Legends. Before that I was a three-year summer New Jersey Shore lifeguard in Avalon, New Jersey.
Seamheads: Where were you born and raised?
Shea: I was born and raised in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. I attended Conestoga High School.
Seamheads: Did you play sports in High School?
Shea: I was football and baseball captain at Conestoga High School. I played three years football and two in baseball. Dave Bush (currently on the Texas Rangers) played catcher in High School and since he was two years older than me, he held down that position while he was there.
Seamheads: What College did you attend? What was your major?
Shea: I attended Boston College and played baseball a year and a half but I tore my labrum and frayed my rotator cuff; that was the end of my playing career. I was a catcher and played outfield. My major was in Marketing and Human Resources.
Seamheads: What career were you considering in college, how, when & why the change to a baseball career?
Shea: When I stopped playing baseball after my sophomore year at Boston College, I decided if I was not going to be playing the game, I wanted to work in it. Working for the Legends was my first full-time job out of college.
Seamheads: Do you attend the Baseball Winter Meeting and if you do, what do you do there?
Shea: I have attended the last seven Winter Meeting. I use it for networking and idea sharing opportunity. Our industry is unique in the sense that the one hundred and sixty minor league teams are not “competing” against one another when it comes to drawing fans, selling sponsorships, promotions and hosting events. Sometimes the best ideas come directly from other teams.
Shea: The community voted on the team name and our organization took it from there. The thought was always to have more of a “big league” hat/logo rather than a goofy MiLB logo. We call the logo on our hat “L-State” and it does have more of the major league feel.
Seamheads: Recently, Commissioner Bud Selig confirmed that baseball is well on its way to adding another wild-card team in each league as early as 2012, creating a fourth layer of postseason games in a likely best-of-three format. What are your thoughts?
Shea: I think this is great because with the current format, the one “Wild Card” team is treated the exact same as a division winner. The new format should put a renewed emphasis on winning the division instead of “sneaking in” as a Wild Card.
Seamheads: Should MLB take a greater role in disciplining players for criminal acts such as DUI (5 players this year have been arrested for this offense)?
Shea: Absolutely! People easily forget how many kids see MLB players as role models. If kids see people do bad things and not receive a consequence of their action that is tremendously damaging to kids growing up.
Seamheads: If you were made Commissioner of Baseball, what one change would you make?
Shea: I would put a salary cap on teams. I think that is why football and basketball have different teams succeed every year because there is an extra emphasis on spending your money on players wisely. In baseball, the highest paid team does not always win, but it sure helps when you are recruiting players to be able to offer the highest salary. That is why the same teams are good every year. The champion changes pretty much yearly, but the top ten to fifteen teams are virtually always the same in baseball.
Seamheads: What advice would you give a young person considering a career in baseball?
Shea: Whether or not it is job in MLB or MiLB, I would say any or all experience one gets in sales is beneficial. That is the name of almost everything we do and almost every position we have on our staff. As an intern or any other position, you get a feel for what it is like to work and be on your feet for seventy plus hours per week. Many people think since they love baseball, they will be good at working in baseball. What they do not realize is the tremendous hours we work and that most of that time is on our feet waiting around the ballpark.
Seamheads: What was the best baseball advice you have received?
Shea: My old Assistant GM, Luke Kuboushek told me a long time ago before we even worked for the same team, “it is great that you are starting out working in the parking lot because you will always be able to tell other people that you once did that.” I think about that almost every day. This is definitely not an industry when you can have an elitist attitude and feel that certain things are beneath you. I stress to every employee and in every interview that everyone does everything. Including pulling tarp, even the women help out.
Seamheads: What makes you successful at your job?
Shea: It is my willingness to do anything, handle any assignment and my dedication to the community. I still pull tarp; I come in on off days and do many things I probably do not have to do. But, I want to be part of the team.
Seamheads: What is the most unusual promotion you have seen with the Legends?
Shea: Our funeral giveaway was very unusual and was taken either with a laugh or as incredibly morbid. That was definitely a one and done promotion for us.
Seamheads: What is your favorite ballpark to watch a game?
Shea: Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. I love the atmosphere, the center field open/concessions area with a ton of really popular Philly foods, and you cannot beat the Philly fans.
Seamheads: Opening Day is such a special day. What are your thoughts about this special day?
Shea: It is amazingly special because it is the beginning of a fun long season. It is the accumulation of seven months of long hard work in the off-season.
Seamheads: Have you attended any World Series games?
Shea: I went to a few World Series games in Atlanta in the 90’s but my favorite was 2008 when the Phillies won the Series beating the Tampa Bay Rays. I went to games three and four in Philadelphia. Game four was incredible because I went to the Philadelphia Eagles game during the day and saw them beat the Falcons, then walked across the street to Citizens Bank Park and watch the Phillies beat the Rays.
Seamheads: Who are two or three of the greatest players to play on the Legends?
Shea: The two best players hands down were Hunter Pence (d) and Ben Zobrist. Pence is the starting right fielder for the Phillies and Zobrist starts all over the place for the Rays.
Seamheads: What are the funniest or most amusing things you have seen in baseball?
Shea: The play when Manny Ramirez dove to cut off the throw from Johnny Damon to the infield was absolutely hilarious and weird. He was probably only about thirty feet away from Damon in left center field. Never in a million years would there be a reason for him to cut it off, yet Manny was being Manny and dove to catch Damon’s throw for some strange reason.
Seamheads: Are you related to Mr. William H. Shea Jr., the President of the Legends?
Shea: Yes, he is my father.
Seamheads: Do you follow other sports or teams other than the Legends?
Shea: Yes, I am Philadelphia across the board. I follow the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers and the Flyers.
Seamheads: What is the most creative part of you?
Shea: It is my ability to tie several companies, promotions and sponsorships into one and make everyone happy. We have a ton of different things and people going on at the ballpark so you need some creativity in order to make everyone happy.
Seamheads: Are you married?
Shea: I am not married and have no children.
Seamheads: What do you for relaxation after work?
Shea: I love to chill out and read non-fiction. I am a Big Brother in Big Brothers-Big Sisters. I love hanging out with my little brother (he just turned thirteen) and his friends and cousins.
Seamheads: What got you active with Juvenile Diabetes Research?
Shea: About a week after my sixteenth birthday, my Aunt Debbie passed away from Diabetes. She was like a second mom to me. When she was in the hospital, she had pictures of my brother and me and the nurses and doctors in her room. It was like we were her sons.
Seamheads: Do you have a favorite quote or motto?
Shea: “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think…you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Seamheads: Should MLB utilize instant replay?
Shea: Yes! It has been successful in every other sport so why would it be any different in baseball?
Seamheads: What kind of music do you like?
Shea: I like everything from Disturbed to Jason Aldean to Lil Wayne to DJ Tiesto. It depends what I am doing and what type of mood I am in.
Seamheads: Which Major League team was the greatest in your lifetime?
Shea: I believe it was the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies even though they did not win a championship. They had the best way of playing and of representing themselves as well as Philadelphia. My “non-home town” call is the mid-90’s New York Yankees. I despise the Yankees more than any sports team in the world but I will give credit where credit is due. That team was flat out great for many years.
Seamheads: If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about the culture within the baseball industry, what would you change?
Shea: I would make it less of a Caucasian-alpha male culture. There needs to be more women and minorities in the front offices and more people who truly appreciate the beauty of the GAME and how FUN it is!
Seamheads: What is your favorite American city to visit?
Shea: New York City. I do not think I could live there but I love going there for a long weekend. I love the chaos; the millions of things going on at every street corner; the restaurants; bars; retail stores and all the businesses. It is an amazing city.
Seamheads: A movie called “Moneyball” about Sabermetrics has been released. Have you read the book and what are your thoughts about Sabermetrics?
Shea: I read the book and believe it is a fad that worked for a few years for one team, the Oakland Athletics. The A’s were a good, fun team when they had Giambi, Damon, Tejada and Chavez and three studs on the mound: Zito, Mulder and Hudson. But the team has not been good for years and neither are any of those pitchers. I am a HUGE believer in scouting and Sabermetrics discounts and devalues the art of scouting. I am a firm believer that ninety percent of a ballplayer, especially a pitcher, is from the neck up. Sabermetrics cannot tell you about the soul of the man or his mindset and personality. There is a huge difference between the level of play between college and the big leagues and stats can only get you so far.
Seamheads: What is you best baseball memory?
Shea: It was my senior year of high school and our team won our first playoff game. One of my best friends, Mark Minicozzi came in to close out the game. He had a great curve but did not pitch much. He struck out the final batter for us to win the game. I ran out to the mound and he jumped into my arms. (I was the catcher) I swear, when I shut my eyes, I can still feel that and it feels like it happened yesterday.
(a) Whitaker Bank Ballpark is the home field of the Lexington Legends and was built in 2001. The stadium was named Applebee’s Park but in January 2011, the naming rights to the stadium were purchased by Whitaker Bank Corporation. The Ballpark is modeled after larger minor-league and major-league stadiums and features two large video boards and one manual out-of-town scoreboard.
(b) Grammy Winner Miranda Lambert’s albums have earned glowing accolades from The New York times Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Entertainment Weekly. She hit the stage in Lexington KY with Jason Aldean, the 2006 Academy of Country Music Top New Male Vocalist.
Miranda Leigh Lambert is an American country music artist who gained fame as a finalist n the 2003 season of Nashville Star, where she finished in third place and later signed to Epic Records.
Jason Aldine Williams was born in Macon, Georgia and is an American country music singer known professionally as Jason Aldean. He has recorded for Broken Bow Records releasing four albums and twelve singles.
© Craig Alan Biggio played his entire twenty-year baseball career with the Houston Astros. He played from 1988-2007 and was a catcher, second baseman and outfielder. He ranks 20th all-time with 3,060 career hits. He is currently the head varsity baseball coach for Saint Thomas High School in Houston.
(d) Hunter Andrew Pence was born in Fort Worth Texas April 13, 1983. He was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2nd round of the 2004 amateur draft. He played for The Lexington Legends in 2005 hitting 25 home runs.
He played for the Astros from 2007 until 2011 when his contract was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies in early August. He is signed through 2011.
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Norm Coleman is a sports writer, actor and photographer. He lives in Half Moon Bay, CA.
This interview has been published with permission from Baseball Digest.