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Bart Given is the former Assistant General Manager of the Blue Jays.   Given has filled many roles with the Blue Jays including the role of travelling secretary.  Since leaving the Blue Jays Given has created his own website,  On his site Given provides perspective on front office activities such as rules around roster management and dates, waivers, player options, rule 5 draft and other rules the front office needs to be aware of.  Given agreed to be interviewed by Batters Box.

When and how did you get started with the Jays and what jobs did you do for them?

I started as an intern in 1997.  At that time, Interbrew owned both the Jays and the Argonauts so I bounced back and forth working for Bob Nicholson.  My first job was actually working on the 1997 NFL American Bowl between the Packers and Bills.

My internship was extended into the winter before I was placed in the Jays Community Relations Department for a few months.  This was my first exposure to the players and it happened t be the group led by Tim Johnson including Randy Myers, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens et al.  I didn't know how "historic" this group would be...

From there I went to work with the Argos and was in charge of Marketing and Game Entertainment for a couple of seasons before returning to the Jays in 2000 to take over the In-Stadium Entertainment.  My claim to fame is teaming up with current Scouting Director - Jon Lalonde (who was in Corporate Partners at the time) in the "Great Schneiders Hot Dog Cannon" spectacle.  For those of you who aren't familiar, we ended up covering fans in shredded meat and buns and making Sports Illustrated for it.

Believe it or not, this game entertainment role was how I ended up knowing Gord Ash well enough for him to hire me as the Traveling Secretary in 2001.  I didn't envision the job as long term, but this was my opportunity to get into the Baseball Operations Department and I jumped at the chance.

Many have called the Traveling Secretary (or Manager, Team Travel) the most thankless job in the baseball.  It was a lot of work and travel obviously, but it was a great experience.  It was my first exposure to the CBA and MLB Rules aspect of baseball.

JP Ricciardi was hired after my first year of being Traveling Secretary and he was very open to the concept of me learning about the "baseball" side of the game.  He allowed me to sit in on organizational and coaches meetings and I took advantage of the opportunity and  directed a lot of baseball questions to those around me.

One individual in particular fielded lots of my questions - the late Bobby Mattick.  For whatever reason, he took me under his wing and he loved to "debate" all aspects of the game.  He always challenged you to think and seemingly started every sentence with "Let me ask you a question..." Actually, looking back - he may have asked me more questions than I did of him.   Either way, he taught me a tremendous amount about the game.

After a couple more seasons as the Traveling Secretary, I gradually took on more baseball responsibilities and eventually dropped the travel duties and became the Baseball Operations Assistant.  JP then promoted me to VP Baseball Ops & Assistant GM.

What is your educational background and was it useful in your work with the Jays?

I attended York University in Toronto and graduated with a degree in Kinesiology and a Specialized Certificate in  Sport Administration.

The Sport Admin curriculum obviously wasn't designed to prepare you for a job in baseball, they did however prepare me greatly for the business of sport.  The combination of courses discussing management, sport policy, research combined with "real world" experience were invaluable.

Did you play baseball as a kid?  What would be the Given scouting report on Given?

Yes and no.  I grew up in rural Ontario with no regulation baseball diamonds.  We played fast-pitch softball and I played on several teams.  Scouting report, plus runner and solid CF.  Long swing with power when he connects.  Couldn't handle the high fastball and prone to off-speed.  Loves to play the game.

As assistant GM what were your responsibilities?

Assistant GMs for the most part have responsibilities covering both the on-the-field and off-the-field aspects of the business.

The on-the-field aspects are discussing trade, free agent and roster scenarios with the GM, signing free agents (both Major and Minor League), contacting counterparts to discuss trade possibilities, roster construction, seeing the minor league players as much as possible, coaching staff hirings, executing transactions (DL placements, options, outrights, trades etc),representing the front office on road trips and of course making suggestions for improving the team on the field.

Off-the field (or administrative duties) included preparing business plans, budgeting, payroll management, negotiating arbitration contracts, monitoring waivers, rules interpretation, interacting with the media, managing clubhouse and medical staff and being the point of contact with the MLB offices on various baseball topics.

Other things I was involved in include the clubhouse renovations, uniform changes and the Mitchell Report.

 I understand there is a standard players contract.  When you sign a player to a contract it could be as simple as filling in the salary number in the standard contract and having it signed.  How much variability is there in player contracts?

There is a standard contract and in the case of a 0-3 player it may be as simple as adding the salary and printing the contract.  In the case of a free agent the contract could take on a number of looks depending on the negotiations.  Award Bonuses, Performance Bonuses, No-Trade, Suite provision, Signing Bonus and Guarantee provisions can all be added to a contract.

When agents have an issue do they call the assistant GM or the GM?

It depends on the relationship the agent has built.  If the AGM and agent have had several cordial dealings over the years, they may chat.  It also can depend on the severity of the issue, a "demand" for a trade would go to the GM in most cases.  Of course, sometimes the player may prefer if the agent speaks with the GM - go directly to the top so to speak.

If you consider the average third year player and an average free agent, how often during the season would the players representatives call the front office?

I've never found a correlation between service time and the needs of a player - if there is a major issue, you will have the discussion regardless of the service time.  Truthfully, these conversations happened rarer than most people assume.  Open dialogue helps, as do experienced agents who can counsel their clients through some lesser problems.  The most
active agents would be in contact with the front office every two weeks.

Do players often complain or talk directly to the front office or is at always through their representative?

Depends on the player.  As a front office you try to create an environment that encourages open dialogue.  Some players feel comfortable voicing their concerns, others want to avoid conflict and figure it's their agents job.

Other than spring training, instructional league and the fall leagues do you get to see minor leaguers play?

Not as often as I wanted.  It's tough to "get away" from the Big Club, but I'd try and see Syracuse, Lansing and Auburn at least.  We followed the minor leagues very closely and received daily game reports and had frequent conversations with Player Development staff.

What is the hardest part of the travelling secretary job?

Being blamed for things out of your control.  For example, if a delay occurs because of a mechanical issue on the aircraft - there isn't a whole lot I could do to alleviate the situation.  It was still your fault though.  I found communication with the players was the key to alleviating undue blame.  I also admitted if it was my mistake.  For the most part we had a good group of guys who understood.

Did you ever have a player or players get mad at you over something that happened while you were travelling secretary?

Oh ya.  But no one ever pushed me to the ground.

Do players still get meal money in cash?  Does the travelling secretary have to carry cash on the road trips?

Yes, the players do receive over $90/day per diem in cash while on the road.  The traveling secretary distributes the envelopes at the beginning of each trip.

What does the bargaining agreement say about hotel room sharing, is it two to a room or solo rooms?

The CBA stipulates single rooms for all players.

When it comes to uniform design is that primarily a marketing decision?

It can be both a marketing and baseball decision.  If you see a massive overhaul, it was probably a marketing initiative.  Smaller changes may be requested by the baseball department for design, comfort, cost or practicality reasons.

Is there a Blue Jay you believe that you played a major part in bringing into the organization?

The first guy I signed was Scott Downs.  Looking at the scouting reports and stats, I felt he could be a decent lefty specialist so I presented the idea to JP and he allowed me to negotiate the minor league deal.  He's turned out to be much better than even I thought.

Do you have a favourite player or players?

Several - all for different reasons.  Some were great to chat with and some kept me laughing.  Carlos Delgado gets some of the credit for introducing me to my wife, so I'll go with him.

Are there any minor leaguers who you think are sleepers or who you expect to have a breakout season in 2009?

Most of the sleepers aren't after this spring - Mills, Emaus and Campbell played so well.  Luis Sanchez is a guy I saw play in Auburn for the first time, he's a great fielder with a solid approach at the plate.  I think he could be a factor as he develops physically.  Moises Sierra has great tools and plays the game hard.  I wouldn't be surprised if Davis Romero makes his way to the big leagues at some point, I saw him strike out 11 in relief in Buffalo last year.  He's had tough physical ailments and I hope he's passed them because he could be a valuable guy in the pen.

Many Jays fans felt that the Jays should have offered arbitration to Gregg Zaun on the basis he was unlikely to accept and if he did he wouldn't be that much more expensive than Michael Barrett.  Why did the Jays ultimately decide not to offer arbitration?

I've not heard this one before, and I'm not sure what the logic is.  Zaun would have certainly accepted coming off a base of 3.75 M, even if he was "cut" (which rarely happens) he stood to make over 3.0 M in arb.  Barrett makes just 600K.

On radio call in shows and in fantasy baseball you have people who call up and offer some scrub for a star, do you get some of those calls at the major league level where you say to the other party, "I just can't take that offer forward it is so unreasonable"?

Rarely, but some teams will try and "bottom-fish"

You mention Bobby Mattick's guidance, are there a couple of nuggets you could share with us?

So many.  One day he asks me the question - "What comes first, success or confidence?"  I thought about it and replied "Confidence."  Well, he went up one side and down the other side of me for ten minutes - basically saying "How can you have confidence without success?"

A week or so passes and he asks me the same question.  I'm thinking he has forgotten the fact he's already asked me.  So I feign like I'm pondering and say, "Success" thinking I'm going to avoid an argument.  Well, he went up one side of me and down the other for ten minutes - "How can you have success without confidence?"

It was his way of testing your thought process.  Typical Bobby.

Do you have a prediction for the 2009 season for the Jays record?


Why did you decide to start

It was actually at the suggestion of my wife Jody and a friend Peter Standish.  I was hesitant at first because of the sheer volume of websites talking about baseball.  The more we chatted about the direction and content of the site and the lack of information on the inner-workings of MLB - I began to warm up to the concept.  The hardest part was finding an appropriate name that wasn't already being used.  Inside the Majors just seemed to fit and remarkably wasn't taken (or for sale).

Ultimately it's been a great vehicle to continue discussing the game I've been involved in for most of my adult life.

 Batters Box thanks Bart for his time in answering our questions.

An Interview with Bart Given | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Jdog - Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 08:55 AM EDT (#198079) #
Great Interview, i very much enjoyed it.
Mike Green - Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 09:39 AM EDT (#198081) #
Excellent interview, Gerry.  I will check out Bart Given's website. 

Thomas - Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 10:02 AM EDT (#198084) #
Thirded. Great stuff, Gerry. It's always interesting to read the stories of how some individuals were able to work there way up through the organization.
ayjackson - Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 10:05 AM EDT (#198085) #

Well this has all been one big tease!  The Travelling Secretary of an MLB team and no Castanza jokes?  I was getting excited when uniform design came up, but no follow-up on cotton vs. polyester.

In truth, it was an excellent interview - some great questions and responses in there.

CeeBee - Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 02:53 PM EDT (#198101) #

Once again a great interview by the Batter's Box. Thanks Gerry!  Bart's blog has been bookmarked on my computer as it looks most interesting.

ANationalAcrobat - Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 09:40 PM EDT (#198120) #
Awesome interview Gerry, thanks.
Brian W - Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 10:39 PM EDT (#198126) #
Excellent interview.  I just went and read all of the posts on Bart's site and it's now been added to my RSS subscriptions.  Some great insights.
An Interview with Bart Given | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.