Dan Duquette, Former MLB General Manager Talks Player Development - Work In Sports Podcast

Dan Duquette, former 2-time MLB Executive of the Year and General Manager for the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles joins host Brian Clapp on the Work In Sports podcast!

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning at WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast…

There is a bit of an unfortunate truth in the sports industry… sometimes job titles can mean very different things to different people in different organizations.

Take the term marketing for one. People tell me all the time, I want to work in sports marketing! And I say...OK, what specifically in marketing, because that is a very broad term. Marketing could be project managing billboards, or email outreach, tossing t-shirts on game night… or it could be google paid advertising, sponsorships, and activation. dan Duquette former MLB general manager Red Sox orioles expos

So when you see a job listing for a marketing Manager -- make sure you read the job description and tailor your resume and cover letter for that specific role and the demands of it.

Another term that has a pretty wide berth is player development. Taken on its surface, you are in charge of developing the player. Makes sense right? 

But there are really two different aspects of this -- on the field of play, and off the field of play. 

You will see player development roles that involve assisting athletes, whether they be in college or in the pros, adjusting to their new life, getting settled, knowing their way around town, where to get food, how to get set up with a financial advisor. 

These are vitally important roles that colleges and pro organizations take on to make sure they get the most out of their investment. If a player is worried about having a place to live or knowing what classes to take - they are more likely to be distracted and not perform at their best.

But there is another type of player development, and that’s what we are going to focus on today. 

That is the magic that happens in organizations between acquisition and true potential. 

Let’s use baseball as an example. 

Player gets drafted, they are 18 years old just graduated high school, and now they are in your system. 

Unless their name is Mike Trout, it is a long way to a major league city. 

Player development is everything that happens between acquisition and making the major leagues.

  • How to play
  • How to eat
  • How to train
  • How to mentally prepare
  • How to practice
  • How to identify and work on your weaknesses
  • How to understand game strategy and organizational philosophy

These development plans are all customized for each individual in the organization. Having a plan, and executing it, is the best way to make your investment in a player reach its true potential.

It’s a fascinating process, one that happens behind the scenes of sports organizations at all levels. Because success equates to value...and failure costs time, money and effort. 

Over the last 40 years one of the most respected men in baseball team management, and player development has been Dan Duquette, former GM of the Red Sox, Orioles, and Expos. 

The list of players he has acquired and developed into major league talent is stunning. I won’t list them all here...it’s too long. But what is really exciting, is that Dan is teaming up with our friends at Sports Management Worldwide to share his knowledge and teach an 8-week online course in baseball player development. He joined me earlier this week to talk about his career, becoming an executive, decision making, trusting yourself and a breakdown of what he’ll teach in his upcoming class... 

Here is 2-time MLB executive of the year...Dan Duquette...


Questions for Dan Duquette, former General Manager for the Red Sox, Orioles and Expos 


1: There is so much we have to talk about and discuss – but let’s start out with this. You’ve reached the highest heights of the sports industry and… you were an English major in college.

I ask you, in today’s sports industry can you still become a 2-time executive of the year as an English major…or are we living in a completely different world with different expectations?

Follow: So are we looking for the wrong things when we hire staff?

2:  You were a dual sports athlete in college – played linebacker and catcher at Amherst College in Massachusetts – a great school. I’ve read for years that when you were in college playing ball, you were always talking with scouts that came to your games, and picking their brain… were you just a curious kid, or did you have it in the back of your mind you wanted to pursue a career in baseball?

3: You started in baseball as a scout with the Milwaukee Brewers – being a scout is a grind, what do you remember most fondly about these days?

4: You have an eye for baseball talent, no denying that, we could go on for the next 20 minutes just listing the players you identified, drafted, signed and developed over your career. How did you learn and refine this skill?

5: So many young people I speak with have trouble trusting themselves – as a scout, I imagine you had to trust what you saw and have great confidence in how it would project -- how did you learn to really trust yourself?

6: As fans, we first get introduced to a player at the draft, and then there is this multi-year gap where we don’t really see them until they make it to the majors. But within the organization, this development window between acquisition and potential is hugely important.

What are the key components as you see it in player development?

7: You are launching a new online class, along with our friends at Sports Management Worldwide, teaching this very concept of Player Development – it’s a big subject, what are some of the main points you will focus on?

Follow: How will this online course help someone achieve their dreams in baseball? 

8: You can hear the joy in your voice as you talk about player development -- Was this your favorite part of being a GM?

9: You’ve been the architect of many famous transactions. Trading for Pedro Martinez, signing Manny Ramirez to a huge contract, trading for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek – and there are many more I could list off from just your Red Sox days. 

I’m curious about your mentality as you approach any deal – are you resolute, knowing this is the right move, or do you allow for any doubt, fears or inhibitions?

10: You’re a Massachusetts kid, a Red Sox fan at heart, looking back was it a blessing or a curse to come lead your hometown team? It can’t be easy to be a fan AND stay objective for the long term.

11: As fans, we see the game through the 4 hours a night on the field… but there are huge staffs of people behind the scenes we never see, there are hours of time spent together traveling and practicing.

How important is it to overall organizational success to establish a positive culture, and how much of that is on the GM to help establish?

12: When you were the GM of the Expos there wasn’t quite the same media attention and scrutiny as there would later be in as GM in Boston. When you came to Boston, of course, you knew what to expect a little, but were there any eye-opening moments you remember from your early days with the Red Sox?

13: Looking back -- did you get frustrated with the media?

14: You are an ideas guy – what does baseball need to do a better job of? 

15: We’ll finish up with this… if you were going back today, starting college over again with the dream of working in baseball – what would your strategy be?

By Brian Clapp | March 04, 2020
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