September 25, 2013
by Wayne McBrayer with photos by Rebecca Herman
For the Padres last two home games, Mike Feder, and his wife Pattie, will be the guests of the San Diego Padres. You may see Mike & Pattie around the ballpark and we wanted to be sure you give them the Friar hospitality! Mike will be throwing out the Ceremonial First Pitch of our last home game on Thursday. His catcher will be Pat Murphy, Manager of the Tucson Padres and currently working with the coaching staff for the San Diego Padres. It will be great to see them teamed up in this manner. Be sure to get to the game early to see him honored!
Mike Feder, Tucson Padres VP & General Manager
Mike Feder is a man who loves his family, his job, the people that work with him, and his community. He has spent over 30 years in baseball with the biggest part of it in Tucson. From the Toros to the Sidewinders to the Padres, Mike has helped bring a quality product to the fans of Tucson. In his last season, he has been awarded the 2013 PCL Executive of the Year for his hard work for the Tucson Padres. We interviewed him in June and we hope you’ll enjoy reading about Mike’s career.
What is your earliest memory of baseball?
I’m 61 years old I was born and raised in Chicago and I lived in the city. I took the L to Cub games growing up. I helped clean the stadium to get a free ticket to the next day’s game. I was an avid fan at a young age in Chicago. My mom and dad both grew up in Chicago so needless to say (my dad is 87 years old) he has not celebrated a World Series victory of the Chicago Cubs. If you’re a Cubs fan you’re longsuffering. The Cubs will always have a warm spot in my heart. I have run minor league teams, this is my 30th year as a GM, so generally I know the players and I’m a part of everything that goes on, especially at the AAA level, they are the team I follow so I’m a big Padres fan. You know, I snuck off for 5 years to the NFL and worked for the New Orleans Saints. So career wise, virtually 35 years running teams. As a Minor League GM for 30 years I was never an assistant – I was always the guy in charge.
What is the difference between being a Major League GM and a Minor League GM?
The obvious difference is Josh Byrnes makes a lot more money than I do. LOL. The difference is he is the baseball side and I’m the business side. The Minor League GM is totally responsible for anything non-baseball. The San Diego Padres make all baseball decisions. For me, I’m in charge of the teams wearing 1980 uniforms, having two Mexican performers perform after the game yesterday, the concession operation, the ticket operation, the outfield signs, the PR, the website, the Facebook pages, we’re responsible for all that. That is the distinction between what you call the player development contract. With the PDC, the Major League club does players, Minor League club does business, and the two don’t really mix.
Who are your all-time favorite major league players and what do you like about them?
That’s easy and I guess I’m going all the way back to my childhood, but it’s Ernie Banks, #14, he was the best. For a young kid he would sign an autograph for everybody. His outlook was, “let’s play 2 today” and he was a great human being. At least from what the public could see, I mean I didn’t know him any other way. He would have to be #1 by far. For me, it’s not always about the best player, it’s the best guy. I could tell you a guy like Tuffy Rhodes. Played for the Cubs, played for the Astros, played for the Toros. I was the GM in Tucson from 1989-1997 when we were in High Corbett and Tuffy Rhodes got married at home plate. He had a horse and carriage. He was really one of the best guys around. Joe Mikulik was another who was around. For me, it’s all about the special guy. Daniel Robertson is one we have here. He’s just a joy to be around. He’s just so great with the fans. He’ll come to me and say, “when can I do an appearance?” You don’t have many guys that will do that and he’s very sincere. So, Ernie Banks number one, and a lot in the 2nd tier.
What is your proudest career moment or fondest memory?
I can’t say it’s the proudest moment, because I had nothing to do with the on field, but my most enjoyable memory was the Tucson Toros Championship in 1991. It was the first PCL Championship ever for this franchise and the club had been around since 1969. Bob Skinner, a guy whose name you’ll recognize from San Diego, Bob was the manager of our team. It was just a team that just never game up, I mean it’s obviously a terrible cliché in sports, but they gave 110%, I’m just joking. They gave 100%, I’ll tell you that. It was really special.
I’ve got 6 Championship rings over the years. The Tucson Toros won 2 Championships, the Jackson Mets, when I was there, we won 3 Championships. I mean, we were Billy Beane, Darryl Strawberry, Greg Jefferies, Lenny Dykstra, and all those guys played for us. We were virtually the kind of lock that Sacramento has on this division, we won all the time. So we won 3 there and I have a New York Mets World Series Ring from 1986 because I was running their AA club and the Mets asked me and I worked all the playoffs and World Series games that year and for the Jackson newspaper I actually wrote a diary of every day in the World Series. Not necessarily about baseball things, but about things that happened off the field.
One of the funniest stories that I still remember to this day and you guys might be old enough. Bill Cosby, the Bill Cosby Show was gigantic, this was in the 80’s and Major League Baseball moved the game time to 8:30PM to accommodate the Bill Cosby Show. So I was, come on this is ridiculous, you’ve got young kids that need to be watching the World Series. How do you change it for a show? That night, I go in the locker room and in the locker room with the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets, the players are watching the Bill Cosby Show. So those are the funny things that happen in sports. My first year as a GM was 1974 and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the years spent in the game.
Coming back to Baseball after working in Football.
That city you have across your chest right now (referring to Portland) I thought I was out. After running and working with the New Orleans Saints, I was director of regional sales and marketing, also ran an Arena Football team, the New Orleans Voodoo. We started it. When the hurricane hit, we went to San Antonio. After leaving that job, a week later I was hired as the GM of the Austin Wranglers. The team was owned in part by a person affectionately named ‘Neon Deon’ Deon Sanders and that was fun to be around a guy like him, his energy and his life. I was there a year and I decided to come back to Tucson in 2006 thinking, you know I’ve had a good career. I’m involved in the community and I serve on a lot of boards.
So, 2006, 2007, 2008, I just kind of minded my own business and did my own thing and jumped into whatever was needed and then I get a call from Jeff Moorad and Branch Rickey III and we need you to come back and run the Tucson team. We’re going to put a team in Escondido and we need a home for a year. So I was willing to do it. That was 2011. 2012, I think you guys all know what happened with Escondido, so there is still the hope in 2012 that something can get worked out and they’re looked like there was a compromise. There was going to be at least some money allocated to build the stadium, but there was going to have to be some other funding to go along with it and with what the City of Escondido was going to do. Well, the Supreme Court votes no, no redevelopment money can be used and there goes a billion dollars and the ownership decides to sell the team.
You know, we never lived up to what I hoped we could attendance wise. Last year, we drew just over 200,000 and the next lowest in AAA was 315,000. So we couldn’t do it, but we were always lame duck and I don’t think the community relished this location, the south side of town. High Corbett was in the middle of town and it was nowhere near the ballpark. I thought we could convince people that this location wasn’t bad, and I was just never that smart. I never could really achieve it and it’s a shame with our long history with AAA baseball. It’s going to be strange next year not having any professional baseball in this community. I guess at this point we’re going to do the best we can. Tonight (6/8/13), we’re going to be rolling back the clock with the 1980 Tucson Toros jerseys, Friday we’re giving away Tucson Sidewinders Championship t-shirts from 2006. We’ve got another variation of Toros jerseys from the 90’s when I ran the club that the players are going to wear and the players have actually embraced the word Toros. Every time we go on an airplane, they welcome the Tucson Toros on the flight. Pat Murphy’s perpetrated that, so it’s been a fun group to be around.
Future Projects and what Mike is all about
Next year, I’ll continue to work on bringing spring training games to Tucson. Last year we had 2 and they both drew around 11,000 people. We had the Padres play the Diamondbacks on St. Patrick’s Day and then we had the Dodgers playing the Chicago Cubs 4 days later in a fundraiser for the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation. She was the little girl who was Dallas Green’s little granddaughter and John Green is a scout for the Dodgers. That occurred 2 miles from my house and the last 3 years we’ve raised a lot of money. This year we wrote a check to their Memorial fund for $120,000, so that’s what my life is all about is helping people, doing the right thing. At the end of the 3 years when we’re in Tucson I know I can put my head on the pillow and know we helped a lot of people and did a lot of good things and that’s all I can do.
During both of our visits there, Mike always was there to ask how we were and made sure we were able to talk to the Tucson Padres players that we wanted to interview. He was engaging, friendly, funny, kind, and truly a baseball fan. It is and has always been more than “just a job” to Mike. If you doubt me, look again at his last statement in our interview, “that’s what my life is all about is helping people, doing the right thing. At the end of the 3 years when we’re in Tucson I know I can put my head on the pillow and know we helped a lot of people and did a lot of good things and that’s all I can do.”
Interview & Story by Wayne McBrayer, TheCasualFan
Editing & Photography by Rebecca Herman, TheBaseballPHD