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Saturday, May 18, 2024

A-Rod Sounds Off On Broadcasting, NBA Ownership, and ‘The Captain’

  • ESPN/Fox analyst predicts Brady will ‘crush’ it as NFL broadcaster.
  • Thinks ‘KayRod’ format could be the future of baseball television.
Alex Rodriguez
Credit: Presidente Beer

Like him or not, Alex Rodriguez is the most successful athlete-turned-business-mogul since Magic Johnson. 

But the Chairman and Chief Executive Office of A-Rod Corp. is not too busy to notice that the notorious rift between him and Derek Jeter will be explored again in ESPN’s upcoming documentary, “The Captain.”

The 46-year-old analyst for ESPN and Fox Sports sat down with Front Office Sports to discuss his new “Step Up to the Plate” initiative with Anheuser-Busch to help Hispanic students seeking careers in sports business. In conjunction with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, A-B has awarded nine students three-month paid internships in its New York office worth $15,000 apiece.

Almost 30% of MLB players are Latino — which makes recruiting more Hispanic executives to sports business both personally and professionally important to Rodriguez. Among his many business hats, the son of Dominican immigrants serves as Chairman and President of Presidente beer. Founded in the Dominican Republic in 1935, Presidente ranks as the No. 1 selling beer in the Caribbean.

Last year, the 2009 World Series champion ascended to the elite ranks of team owners when he and Marc Lore bought the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves for $1.5 billion. FOS quizzed Rodriguez on topics ranging from his current relationship with the 48-year-old Jeter to owning a team.  

FOS: So ESPN’s “The Captain” premieres this Monday. Episode 3 will delve into your frenemy relationship with Jeter. How are things between you two?

A-Rod: Derek and I are good friends. We were texting last night during the “KayRod.” He was watching. I don’t know if he is a fan — but he was watching, having some fun with me. I think he was making fun of my white pants. But I love the Captain — he’s a five-time world champion. We’ve talked about the documentary. We’re completely aligned, and I’m excited to watch it.

You’re getting critical acclaim for the “KayRod” telecast on ESPN2 with Michael Kay this season. Does the more relaxed, freewheeling style of a “ManningCast” format suit you better than the traditional studio?

I’ve really had a lot of fun and success with the Fox studio. I think we have an incredible team. The continuity is great. We know exactly who we are. It’s a little bit what they’ve done with NFL football, with Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw. But I think the “KayRod” is an example of where baseball and sports could move — especially baseball, because you have sometimes up to four hours to fill. 

It’s almost like Baseball Watch meets podcast meets “Good Morning America.” You get a little bit of everything. We get to see the board. We get to present. We get to have really interesting conversations. And by the way, here’s the 2-1 pitch.

Speaking of big sports TV news, how do you think Tom Brady will do in the broadcast booth?

I think he’s gonna crush it, really. I’m so excited for him. I do think he’s going to be one of the best. I think he’s got an incredible personality. He’s a good friend. I’m a huge Tom fan. He’s the greatest quarterback of all time — and he’s even a better person. 

You grew up in Miami. Any interest in buying a piece of your hometown baseball team, the Miami Marlins?

Not for me. I’m laser-focused on the Timberwolves. I’m so excited about where we are and where we’re going. It’s going to take a lot of my attention.

How does NBA team ownership suit you so far?

I’ve really enjoyed the partnership with (Timberwolves owner) Glen Taylor and his wife, Becky [Mulvihill]. They’ve been incredible partners and mentors. I’ve learned a great deal and look forward to learning more. Marc Lore and I are really enjoying it. 

Look, last year we went from 23 wins to 46. We had over 15 sellouts. TV ratings were up almost 50% — which in today’s day and age is saying a lot. And we have a really good core of young players led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards.

Do the biggest sports stars — from Michael Jordan to LeBron James to Magic — really want to ascend to the owner’s box, not the TV booth?

That’s a good question. I can’t speak for other athletes. I know that for me, I’ve always really respected the way Michael Jordan and Magic and some of the other athletes have transitioned to the boardroom.

I know that today, I get more calls from athletes than I have my entire career looking for mentorship, looking for advice. There’s an incredible appetite in investing and transforming to an entrepreneur, more than ever, for athletes. 

How can your ‘Step Up to the Plate’ initiative boost Latino representation, not only in MLB front offices, but acoss sports?

I think this goes beyond sports. If you think about the banking community, private equity, hedge funds, Wall Street — we need, across the board, more representation from Latinos.

I think we’re coming fast and furious. If the opportunities are there, then I think the rewards are going to be great for those who are employing these great young people. In sports specifically, it’s a no-brainer. 

If you think about minorities in sports, about the athletes that are playing, a majority of them are minorities. A majority of them in baseball, for example, are Latino. So obviously it just makes for better business.

If your franchise has more Spanish-speaking executives, won’t that help you attract Latino athletes possibly struggling with a language barrier in the U.S.?

I don’t think people have really understood the power of comfort. For a Latino player that comes here from their native country, it’s a very intimidating and daunting proposition. To have people in place that can help nurture and develop, I think makes them feel more comfortable. All of that would lead to much better results, much better numbers, more winning, better business. 

You’ve been involved with Presidente since 2020. We’re noticing more athletes investing in adult beverages: Troy Aikman with light beer, Conor McGregor with Irish whiskey. Why?

I think No. 1, it’s a very exciting and dynamic space. It’s one that we’ve been studying for years. I think the key in today’s world is that you have to have authenticity. I think the ones you’ve mentioned are very authentic. I’m very bullish on Troy Aikman’s beer. I think he’s gonna do fantastic. 

I think the partnership with Presidente has been a role model for other athletes because of the Dominican connection. Same thing with McGregor. I think that’s also very authentic. I think you’ll see more athletes get involved with alcoholic beverages. I’m forecasting that over the next decade you’ll see an incredible amount of athletes getting involved in business.

Who were your biggest mentors in business? The Oracle of Omaha?

I have had a lot of mentors. (Billionaire) Warren (Buffett) for sure. But other athletes, too. Magic has been a great mentor of mine and a friend, and someone who’s shared a lot of his knowledge with me.

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