Arizona Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall
Though it may be the off-season in baseball, Derrick Hall and the Arizona Diamondbacks are hard at work preparing for the 2010 campaign. Hall, the team’s president and CEO, earned his stripes during a 12 year stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He joined the the organization’s Single-A Florida State League affiliate in Vero Beach, Fla., in 1992 and departing as the club’s Senior Vice President, Communications in 2004. Derrick was kind enough to take time out to answer our 10 questions about his experience, vision and the game of baseball.
As President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, I oversee the entire organization, both from the business and baseball operations sides. I have surrounded myself with a talented leadership team of Vice Presidents, who I allow to do their jobs. Though much of my time is spent with my direct reports as we concentrate on growing our team’s revenues, much of my days are consumed with speech-giving, board meetings, and governmental relations.
2. Tell Us what your average week is Like?
My weeks are hectic, but I would have it no other way. I overheard my assistant on the phone last week trying to schedule a lunch for me saying that my first availability was almost two months out. I check my calendar each night for the next day’s events, and take it one day at a time. I typically start at a board meeting or early breakfast meeting around 7:30 and finish around 6:00 or 6:30 on non-game days. I often have dinners to attend, but try to reserve my early evenings for my family. After dinner, I go straight to my home office to catch up on the day’s e-mails and shut it down around 11:00 PM.
3. Tell us about your career path including jobs in the sports industry
I attended Arizona State University and Ohio University for undergrad and graduate respectively. After leaving Ohio, I joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as an intern in Vero Beach, Florida, working with both the big league club during spring training and the single-A team located there as part of the Florida State League. The minor league work prepared me perhaps best for who I am as an executive today who cares about fans and fan experience. I did everything from pulling the tarp, to stocking the concession stands, to selling program ads.
After a year or so in Florida, the Dodgers sent me to the big leagues in Los Angeles, initially as Assistant Publicity Director, before becoming Director of Publicity, and ultimately Senior Vice President of Communications. I left the Dodgers for one year to host my own morning drive sports talk show in Los Angeles, as well as the Dodgers pre-game show,, and also did some weekend sports anchoring on NBC.
I left sports for one year to try my skills in a Fortune 500 company, where I served KB Home as Senior Vice President of Communications. That was a phenomenal experience at the height of homebuilding with some of the smartest business leaders I have ever been around. This lasted for an action-packed year before I realized I missed baseball and the state of Arizona.
I was able to marry the two when I came to the Diamondbacks in May of 2005. This has been the perfect setting for me and my family and I truly love this franchise.
4. What was the best advice you ever received and let us know if you follow it today?
I absolutely do follow it today. We were in the midst of a workplace campaign and our owner, Peter O’Malley said he noticed I had not taken part yet. I told him, “With all due respect, I don’t make that much.” Without missing a beat, he looked at me and said, “Then don’t give that much.” That has always stuck. That is a philosophy I embed in my family and staff. Those who have should share with those who do not.
I have a fond memory of the first time I met Sandy Koufax at a Dodgers Old-Timers Game. He and I became very close friends after that introduction. I also remember the amazing night in Colorado when Hideo Nomo did what experts believed would never occur – he pitched a no-hitter at Coors Field. And, he did so after an hour-long rain delay and the need to pitch from the stretch all night because of the wet and muddy mound. Most recently, I will never forget going to the NLCS in 2007 with such a young and exciting team. We need them to get back there now.
6. Tell us about some of the unique programs the Diamondbacks have started to help people in community during the downturn
We have created so many great programs and initiatives for our fans. To start, we are the most affordable average ticket price in baseball for the third straight year. We created value pricing this season, offering caps for $7, t-shirts for $8, $1.50 kids menu items (hot dog, corn dog, popcorn, soda, milk), $4, 14-oz beers, $5 ticket prices in the upper deck, $15 ticket prices in the bleachers, just to name a few. Additionally, we provide our President’s Pass for all Title 1 schools within a 15-mile radius, giving principals and teachers cards to distribute at their discretion that provide the students with six free tickets.
Two years ago I started a first-of-its-kind in sports Season Ticket Scholarship program. We provide full season tickets and parking (often food vouchers as well) for season ticket holders who have had a change in circumstances and can no longer afford tickets, or for fans in general who apply and qualify.
7. If you were not working in baseball today, what kind of jobs would you consider and why?
I enjoyed my time in broadcasting and believe I would revisit that. However, since becoming a CEO, there is no other job I would prefer.
8. Name a few mentors you have had and why they’ have had an impact
First and foremost, Peter O’Malley, my first owner in baseball. Peter taught me the importance of valuing your fans and your employees. To reward and recognize them while putting the franchise first at all times. He and I are still very close and keep in contact.
Secondly, Commissioner Bud Selig. I admire where he has taken our game. We are achieving all-time highs in revenues, attendance and ratings. He is responsible for Inter-League play, the unbalanced schedule, realignment, the Wild Card system, the World Baseball Classic, and so much more. He is deeply committed to the health and welfare of our sport.
9. Where do you see opportunities for growth in major league baseball in the coming year and why?
I believe we have tremendous opportunities, even in this economy. Fans need to escape and they want that affordable entertainment option for their families. We are the most affordable of all of the major sports. And in a new age of the “stay-cation,” we will benefit from residents staying in town and coming to the ballpark for family fun. We need to continue challenging ourselves to remain affordable and priced correctly. If we treat the fans well and provide them with a safe, clean and entertaining fan experience, regardless of the outcome of the game, we will remain on our growth path.
10. Executives always talk about passion in your job. What are you passionate about and why?
I am passionate about my job and my employees. I always say that if you truly love what you are doing, you will never work a day in your life. I created what we call our “Circle of Success.” It is displayed prominently throughout our hallways and offices and displays our five main areas of focus – Performance, Financial Efficiency, Fan Experience, Community and Culture. In order to survive, we must exercise financial efficiency and performance. My passion is for culture in the workplace, community involvement, and fan experience. I preach them to our leaders and staff constantly, with a desire to treat our fans, employees and players better than any team in sports. Three years running, we have been named “Best Places to Work,” the first sports team to receive such recognition in Arizona.
Past Interviews and links to sports business leaders
Dennis Bickmeier — VP, Michigan International Speedway
John Olguin — VP, Communications, Chip Ganassi Racing
Dan Rossetti - Founder, Ascension Sports Partners
Tom Simmons — Athletics Director, Ohio Northern University
Mark Schwartz – National Advertising Manager, SportsBusiness Journal
Lawrence Cohen — Sports Consultant