How many of you would like to be working for the Toronto Blue Jays instead of whatever it is you are doing today? How would you like to be living in Florida right now, enjoying the warm weather? Meet Charlie Wilson, a Toronto native, who now works in Dunedin as the Blue Jays Manager of Minor League Operations. Currently Wilson is one of the busiest men in Florida as he prepares for an influx of players to minor league spring training.
Pop quiz: If the Blue Jays were to promote Ricky Romero to New Hampshire and send a pitcher down from New Hampshire to Dunedin, how many calls does Charlie Wilson have to make? Charlie will take it from here. “We have a system that works quite smoothly, due to the fact that we have so many moves each year, upward of 150. Dick Scott contacts me then either one of us calls the managers of both clubs to advise the players. I call our affiliate GMs who will advise their league (i.e. Ken Carson, GM of Dunedin Blue Jays will notify FSL president of the roster change). I will advise Major League Baseball through the electronic baseball information system which I can access on my computer, to ensure that the roster is updated at the Commissioners office. I will then call the minor league team trainer who will coordinate the travel (flight booking and airport pickups and taxis etc). Sometimes on weekends I have to do the travel part if the trainer is on the bench during a game. Finally, I send an e-mail to all of our Baseball Operations (front office, coaches, scouts, media relations and affiliates to advise of the moves.” By my count that is eight notifications, two managers; two GM’s; two trainers; MLB and baseball operations. What fans see as a one-line entry on a transaction list has big implications on the administration side of the Jays organization.
Wilson’s responsibilities cover all the administration required behind the scenes to run the minor league operations. Wilson, and his team, are responsible for the budget, payroll, immigration, travel, and most of the behind the scenes administration work that has to happen but that we, as fans, don’t think of. Wilson has to coordinate immigration and travel for John Hattig who has to travel from Guam, for Shane Benson who comes from Australia and for many Dominicans and Venezuelans.
This is the busiest time of the year for minor league operations. Players are getting ready to head to Dunedin for spring training. Mike Shaw, the Blue Jays manager of team travel, looks after getting players on the 40 man roster to major league camp while Wilson has to get the other 150 minor leaguers, coaches and trainers to minor league camp. “Spring training, and preparing for it, is the busiest time of the year, basically organizing and administering 120 players and 30 staff members for March. Budgets, player payroll, per diems, travel, immigration, player insurance, and the maintenance and upkeep of the complex, take up a great deal of time.”
In June the minor league complex hosts the players just drafted, and in October the instructional league brings another batch of players into Dunedin. “It is like another spring training but on a much smaller scale. At the June mini camp after the draft there are only 15 to 20 players and the instructional league has only 40 players.
Once the season starts Wilson’s responsibilities change somewhat. “Personnel is another big task, with six minor league games every day in the summer there is always something that happens, injuries, or player movement such as a promotion or demotion. For example if someone gets hurt in Toronto, it usually triggers a few moves on the minor league end to fill roster spots from Toronto to Syracuse to New Hampshire, etc. Or someone has a family issue that need to be tended too that would also generate moves.”
The Blue Jays $75 million payroll budget has been analyzed in detail here and in the major media. But the Jays have another budget to manage, the administration, or back office budget. The minor leagues are responsible for a part of that budget. “The third major responsibility would be the budget itself, monitoring expenses and paying bills and invoices for the entire deparment.”
Wilson took the Gord Ash route to Blue Jay success, start at the bottom and work your way up. Wilson started with the Jays in April 1993. "An opening came up in the public relations dept for a summer intern as I believe the scheduled summer intern took another job that led to the opening, which I then applied for and was fortunate enough to land."
Wilson then returned to the Jays for summer jobs. “I worked as a public relations summer intern (now Media Relations). I provided statistics and team information to the media, taking fan telephone calls, requests, and complaints. I was a general assistant to Howie Starkman and his Public Relations office.”
After graduating from college Wilson was hired by the Jays as a Baseball Assistant? “A baseball assistant was a general assistant to the Baseball Operations Dept. My tasks included photocopying, filing, faxing, airport pickups, assembling minor league daily game reports, processing expense reports, answering phones, and filling in for secretaries or assistants if needed.”
In 2000 Wilson was promoted to scouting coordinator? The scouting coordinators manage all the files and reporting on prospects for the draft. “When I joined the scouting department Tim Wilken was the Scouting Director and then Chris Buckley took over when Tim was promoted. Basically I reported to them but also the GM or assistant GM when they needed anything.” In 2003 Wilson was promoted to Manager of Minor League Operations and moved to Florida.
Wilson grew up in North Toronto, and went to St. George’s high school for grades 9 and 10. Wilson then switched to Trinity College School in Port Hope where he was a boarder for grades 11 though 13. Trinity has a lot of foreign students so baseball is not a regular sport there. Wilson describes himself as an average athlete. “Baseball, rugby, and soccer were probably my best sports growing up.” Wilson played baseball in the Leaside baseball system. Wilson describes himself as an average player, playing some rep baseball but mainly house league. Wilson’s baseball career ended at fifteen years old.
Wilson was a big Blue Jay fan and as a kid had some favourites. “I didn’t have one favourite player, I loved the killer B's outfield of Bell, Moseby, & Barfield.” Wilson attended as many games as he could. “It was tough as I played sports on the weekend and wasn't allowed to attend games on school nights, but I would go to 10 to 15 games a year. I particularly enjoyed going to the Friday night games at the Ex and purchasing seats in the grandstand.”
After high school Wilson attended Bishops University in Quebec and graduated with a degree in Politics and Economics.
The cream on the cake, so to speak, from a fans perspective is Wilson gets to take a couple of trips per year to see each minor league team for 4 to 5 games. Wilson explains the reasons for the trips. “I am available to discuss or help if players or staff have any questions or problems they want to discus. I visit with the staff to make sure everything on the operations side is running smoothly, and address issues if need be. I meet with the affiliate teams GM, as you know, we work very closely with the affiliate teams and their front office, thus the trip makes it a good time to visit with the team GM to discuss and review how things are going.” Any reason is a good one to take those trips.
A big thank you to Charlie Wilson for taking time at this busy part of the year to talk to Batters Box.