David Montgomery has one of the toughest jobs.
He is the President of a Major League Baseball team. Not just any team but his hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies.
David Montgomery, who grew up in Roxborough, PA just outside of Philadelphia, was born and raised in Philadelphia. He grew up watching the local professional Philadelphia teams play.
He graduated from William Penn Charter High School, went to University of Pennsylvania. He started working for the Phillies some 30 years ago.
On Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 he spoke a capacity crowd at Springfield Township High School in Erdenhiem, PA. He was a featured speaker in a “Local Gems” program that the Township runs, highlighting local celebrities and famous people who have made an impact on the township and the community.
Montgomery spoke about his job as President of the Phillies, and what his job entitles. As well as spoke about what makes this franchise unique. Fan support, as Montgomery stated during his discussion, has helped the franchise become successful both on and off the field.
“The players can ‘feel’ the fans,” Montgomery stated and continued, “One of the things that Cliff Lee mentioned was the fact that the fans don’t need a teleprompter to get loud.”
He said the players notice the fans, and notice that they travel well. Whether it’s as many Phillies as Nationals fans in D.C. or Phillies fans out west, everywhere they go, the team always sees Phillies fans, Montgomery stated.
“It’s that passion for sports in Philadelphia,” he said. “Whether it’s at home or on the road or even at Spring Training at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Phillies fans travel excellently.”
Montgomery started to talk about Spring training in Clearwater. Bright House Field, the Phillies single-A and Spring Training site in Clearwater, has been averaging greater than capacity (8,000). The average attendance at Bright House Field during Spring Training, according to President Montgomery? 9,100 on average. That’s 114% filled on average. In other words, it’s sold out thanks to not only the seats inside the stadium, but the grassy areas outside of the outfield fences.
Of course, one of things that he mentioned, was the big league ballpark: Citizens Bank Park. This is the 8th season that the Phillies have played there. According to Montgomery, one of the main points with the ballpark and attendance, is that ballpark’s design is appealing to fans. It’s intimate design and close proximity to the field gives, Citizens Bank Park a Minor League Baseball feel, but at the Major League level. Montgomery credits Standing Room tickets and the fans who are willing to stand for two-plus hours to watch a game.
“Another factor with fan support is the demographics of the fans. We focus on a two-pronged design: hardcore + family and the young adults.” As he stated, the demographics of Phillies fans have changed a lot since 2000 – even 2004.
Now, more and more young adults are attending Phillies games as a place to meet, be seen at, or a cheap date, etc. Montgomery continued on the young adults: “those young adults, we hope eventually become the family fans, who take their kids with them and teach them the sport of baseball.”
There is no doubt about it that Phillies fans are some of the most passionate fans in the league. Montgomery noted this and said, “because of the fan support, it makes Philadelphia a premier destination for players. Roy Halladay waived a no-trade clause to come play in Philadelphia. Roy Oswalt did the same. And Cliff Lee (this offseason) spurned more money to come play here.”
Not only, but he mentioned the atmosphere of the clubhouse, from Charlie Manuel to the rest of the players. “Players focus on the overall success of the team, not their own individual success,” he noted.
Chase Utley was a key player he mentioned, “no one plays the game like Utley. His focus on the game…” Montgomery gives credit to the plays by saying, “the players respect game by focusing on team success and that the players “get it” by just focusing on the game.
Montgomery credits Charlie Manuel for the team’s success. “He’s had a lot to do with the success. It’s his approach… his ‘style’ as well as the coaching staff he utilizes. Charlie pretty much has handed over the pitching staff to Rich Dubee; and the pitchers know that when they talk to Dubee, they are talking to Charlie,” he mentioned.
Montgomery gave a look forward into the future. “To look ahead, the goal is to extend current success as long as possible.”
Part of this, as Montgomery noted, was to maintain the current nucleus of ballplayers as well as the tone in the clubhouse. He mentioned the change in ball club dynamic.
“In years prior, it was built for offense, with guys like Chase, Ryan [Howard], and Jimmy [Rollins]. Now it’s built towards pitching, with Doc [Halladay], Roy [Oswalt], Cole, and Cliff.”
He even gave the reasoning behind GM Ruben Amaro Jr. going after Cliff Lee: “it was because, we have Oswalt for one more year with a mutual option; Cole for two more years; Doc until 2013 with a vesting option (vesting: if he hit’s a certain stat it’s triggered, in this case innings pitched) for 2014; and finally Cliff Lee until 2015 with an option for 2016.” He also picked up on the fact that both Rollins and Raul [Ibanez] were free agents. “We would love to re-sign Jimmy [Rollins]…”
For the nucleus of this ball club he gives credit to the farm system and the scouting/player development departments.
“The goal is to be able to produce enough inside the farm for use with the big league club or for use in trades,” Montgomery said.
He even admitted that the Phillies were not rich in top level prospects at the three major stops: Lehigh Valley, Reading, and Clearwater. But he did mention some current prospects: Dom Brown; a shortstop prospect at Reading named Freddy Galvis; and relief prospects Vance Worley and Justin DeFratus. But he stated that the next group of talent was at least 2 to 3 years away from the Major League level and that they are not going to sit around and wait that long.
Mr. Montgomery has had nothing but praise for GM Ruben Amaro Jr. He even credited him with some of the current success that the franchise is having. Most people know that, Ruben Amaro Jr. was a local talent.
But as Montgomery stated, “it was Ed Wade who convinced Ruben to stop playing baseball and come up to the front office as an advisor to him. His years under Wade and Pat [Gillick] compliment him now.”
And it’s not just that it’s the business aspects. “The fans view the players not just as talent, but as people too.” Majority, if not all of the current Philadelphia Phillies, according to Montgomery are heavily involved inside the community of Philadelphia. He also mentioned the reason behind the cap on season tickets: “it was so there could be more for our group and individual ticket sales”.
After Montgomery finished his talk and the Question/Answer segment, he was kind enough to sit down with me to answer some questions.
BM: “What’s the deal with [Jamie] Moyer? Do you know what his plans are?”
DM: As you know, he recently had Tommy John Surgery on his left arm. He is going to rehab as if he is going to pitch again, just not this season… in 2012. Of course he will be age 50. He would also like to expand into broadcasting if he can not pitch again as well as help the expansion of his charity, Camp Erin into 25 major league cities (cities with at least one MLB team).
BM: “Tell me about this Scoreboard upgrade”
DM: In ‘04 when Citizens Bank Park first opened it was only Standard Definition, since no one even thought about High Def. But if would of waited until ‘06, it would have been High Definition. It got to the point where the SD Scoreboard became too much to operate and service, thus the upgrade.
BM: “Your thoughts on the right field situation with Werth leaving”
DM: As you know, we made an offer to Werth. It was a three year with an option for a fourth year. He obviously left. But we feel that given the proper at bats, Ben Francisco can become a more significant hitter with more at bats. Of course, there is Dom Brown who is also going to play a big part. We also have a AAA prospect in John Mayberry as a right-handed bat, and of course we can use [Ross] Gload for Werth’s production with the bat.
BM: “Alright, how about your thoughts on Joe Blanton”
DM: Blanton is going to be the fifth starter. We are just fine with Blanton as our fifth starter or whoever else it made be: Kendrick or Worley.
BM: “Okay, fun time! If you could pick any five pitchers, current or retired, who would you pick?”
DM: I stick within our franchise. I go with some of the starters I’ve seen. Robin Roberts, Hall of Famer; Steve Carlton, Hall of Famer; and Roy Halladay, future Hall of Famer. I’ll stop there.
BM: “What do think will happen first: Flyers winning the Stanley Cup, the Eagles winning a Super Bowl or any of the Phillies starters throwing a no-hitter/perfect game?”
DM: The Flyers have a good shot at winning the Cup this year.
BM: “What would you be doing if you weren’t the President of the Phillies?”
DM: I don’t know. I was a marketing major in college.
BM: “Finally, what is it like being President of the hometown team?”
DM: It is like a dream come true.
David Montgomery has one of the most interesting jobs in the world: president of a MLB team. But it’s not just any team; his hometown team in Philadelphia. He is grateful that he has been with the Phillies for so long and he looks to help continue the current success of the franchise into the years to come. I would like to personally thank him for sitting down with me to answer my questions.