Three big shots from the big leagues paid a visit to their alma mater Tuesday afternoon.
Three Major League Baseball franchise officials – all of whom graduated from GW over the past 60 years – participated in a panel discussion after being inducted into the GW School of Business Sports Executives Hall of Fame in the Jack Morton Auditorium. Theodore Lerner, managing principal owner of the Washington Nationals; Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees; and Sam Perlozzo, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, spoke about their careers and the future of baseball.
Levine said higher ticket prices are a problem, but they are not as bad as people think. “(Baseball is) still the most affordable sport,” said the 1977 undergraduate alumnus.
He said that while player salaries affect the price of admission, the Yankees’ management does everything possible to keep the game reasonably priced.
The Yankees have been at the forefront of debate on the structure of the MLB. Baseball is the only professional sport in America without a salary cap, which critics argue leads to large disparities in team talent. The Yankees have been the most expensive in recent history.
Lerner, a former member of the GW Board of Trustees who earned a bachelor of law degree in 1950, said he plans on keeping ticket prices for the D.C. team affordable. Tickets for the 2007 season at RFK Stadium range from $5 to $130 per game. Lerner added that higher-end box and club seats help to keep general seating pricing reasonable.
The Yankees’ $193 million payroll was the largest in Major League Baseball this year while the Nationals’ $63.3 million was toward the bottom.
Baltimore Orioles’ Manager Sam Perlozzo, who graduated from GW in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree, said he is also concerned about high prices but believes baseball is incredibly resilient. Regardless of past events, fans have stayed loyal to the game, he said.
“It shows how fun it is,” Perlozzo said of baseball’s ability to maintain loyalty through difficult times. Within the past 15 years, a players’ strike, steroid scandal and skyrocketing salaries of top performers have marred the image of America’s pastime.
The discussion, which drew more people than the 250-seat auditorium could hold, was titled “Major League Baseball’s Scorecard: What Does the Future Hold?”
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg handed out certificates to the newly inducted hall of fame members. Trachtenberg was billed to introduce the men at beginning of the event, but arrived late.
The three panelists shared anecdotes about their GW and baseball careers.
Perlozzo said his career path leading to baseball was atypical. It started when he needed money to pay for his education. While he was too small for football, he received a full scholarship from the baseball team.
“I came here first to get my education, and it’s the thing I’m most proud of,” he said.
Lerner, who first came to GW for an associate’s degree after serving in World War II, credited the G.I. Bill with paying his way through college. The New Deal legislation he discussed provided free college or vocational school to veterans of the war.
Levine said that although GW gave him the education and tools, it was the city that influenced him the most.
“I don’t know if anything prepares you for a career in Major League Baseball, but the environment here in Washington – with so many diverse people – it started me on a way of developing a thought process that has stuck with me all these years,” Levine said.
The School of Business Sports Management Program hosted the event. Approximately 90 undergraduate and 40 graduate students are enrolled in the program that teaches topics such as sports law, marketing, event management and sports media communications.
-David Ceasar and Jake Sherman contributed to this report.