Make no mistake about it, Pat Daly, Mid-Missouri Mavericks general manager, likes to win.
He will be the first to tell you that Frontier League baseball is about providing “fun, affordable family entertainment,” but he is a competitor at heart. The Mavericks players learned that on the first day of spring training.
“I came from River City and there are some people over there that I don’t like,” Daly said when the team met for the first time May 9. “So we really have to (beat them) this year.”
The Mavs put together a 7-5 record against River City, but that wasn’t enough for Daly.
In mid-July, the team had moved beyond struggling. It was playing poorly. As the Mavs were losing their sixth straight home game, Daly did something no one expected. He started a promotion to guarantee home wins.
Anyone attending a Mavericks’ home game after July 21 in which Mid-Missouri lost was allowed admittance to every subsequent home game until the Mavs won.
The players said it didn’t affect their game; they wanted to win every night. The new promise, though, took its toll on the Mavs’ front office staff.
On the third night of the promotion, the Mavericks were tied at 1 with the Cook County Cheetahs through nine innings. Then in the 10th, the Mavs had two men on with one out, but Blake Blase struck out and Jose Carreno flied out to center. The staff had had enough.
Joe Schmitter, director of sales and marketing, threw his red Mavs’ hat across the press box and Jake Carr, head of the Keystone Staffing employees working the Mavericks games, fell to his back on the floor with his hands over his face.
“Sorry about that,” Schmitter said. “It’s tough to watch these guys day in and day out . . . . listen to them on the radio . . . everything.”
Moments later, Daly’s calming voice came on Carr’s walkie-talkie when someone asked him if the “Guaranteed Win” promotion was going to continue.
“Yep,” Daly said. “We may end up with 5,000 people here by Saturday, with most of them here for free, but that’s all right. We’ll just have a big party.”
Despite his thirst for victory, Daly seems to grasp the most important concept of being a Frontier League general manager: It’s about more than wins and losses.
Sure, the stress of dealing with players and putting together a winning team is there, but when was the last time you saw a major league general manager handing out uniforms on the first day of practice? Or checking on beer vendors during games? Or outfitting his players with souvenir caps?
Fewer than 24 hours before the first practice, Daly hurried into the waiting room of the Mavs’ office on Walnut Street and began pulling all the red souvenir hats off the sales rack.
What was wrong with the hats?
“Nothing,” Daly said. “Our game hats never came in, so we’re gonna wear these for spring training.”
Life as a Frontier League GM
On Opening Day, Mavericks’ owner Greg Wendt introduced Daly to Gov. Bob Holden as, “the hardest working man on the Mavericks team” and it’s true.
Daly is often the first man to arrive at Taylor Stadium and always is one of the last to leave, but only after standing by the front gate at the end of the game to thank the fans for coming. He takes a hands-on approach to running the game-day operations.
If you need to find Daly, your best bet is to check the stands, where he is most likely checking in on an usher, chatting with a member of the booster club or enjoying some baseball in the stands.
Daly’s love of baseball is what keeps him involved in the game. His playing career peaked in college where he spent three years as a backup catcher for Missouri, but his real success in baseball came after he graduated in 1983.
Daly started out as an intern for a minor league front office and by 1991, he was the general manager of the Rockford Expos, a Class A farm team.
When the River City Rascals joined the Frontier League in 1999, Daly got the team off the ground and led a front office that was named the Frontier League organization of the year in both 1999 and 2000. But after an unceremonious departure from the Rascals last year, Daly sought to recreate his success in Columbia. He was anxious to see what his players had to offer in the spring.
Daly grumbled as manager Tony Torchia went over the signs with pitchers and catchers before the team’s first intersquad scrimmage on May 12.
“Come on, they should have learned signs in Little League,” Daly groused. “Let’s play!”
Jeff Johnson, who had just arrived in town a few days before to become the official broadcast voice of the Mavericks, smiled.
“You’ll have to excuse us, we’ve been waiting for this day for weeks,” Johnson said.
Soon the game was under way and Daly was hard at work evaluating every player.
Jose Carreno looked impressive behind the plate. If Justin Hendrickson is going to call for a cut-off, he had better make it. He has missed three in a row. And that pitcher. Who is that guy anyway? He needs to be backing up on a relay to third.
As much as Daly loves baseball, he can’t escape the fact that minor league ball is about much more than that.
“The best players in Missouri still play in Kansas City or St Louis,” Daly said. “There’s no doubt about that. We give fans a chance to interact with the players, and many times it’s not even about the players. It’s more about the contests and games.”