Red Sox CEO talks baseball and politics

By Nathalie R. Miraval

Baseball fans of different ages munched on buttery popcorn as they listened to Larry Lucchino, chief executive and president of the Boston Red Sox, discuss the relationship between baseball and politics yesterday afternoon at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Kennedy School professor Graham T. Allison moderated the conversation, saying Lucchino would provide a unique perspective on the reality of politics.

“Baseball is more than a business. It is more than a sport. It occupies an important role in the psychological life of the residents in this area,” Lucchino said at the beginning of the discussion.

He recounted lessons he learned as chief executive of three different major baseball teams: the Baltimore Orioles, the San Diego Padres, and the Boston Red Sox.

“Politics are profoundly different from Baltimore and San Diego to Boston,” Lucchino said.

“They reflect different cultural and geographical characteristics of the town,” he added.

He recalled the political differences he encountered in his experiences renovating different stadiums.

In Oriole Park, the government controlled the funding and was the main supporter, whereas a grassroots effort was more effective for rejuvenating Petco Park in San Diego, he said.

“There is an extraordinary relationship between sports teams and cities,” said attendee Samuel B. Novey. “I was impressed to hear that Lucchino seems to have thought deeply about the civic role of sports teams.”

Lucchino emphasized in each city, baseball teams should use different techniques to act as social and civic institutions for their fan bases.

He explained that as chief executive, his role is to be a bridge between the baseball team and the city, dealing with elements of taxation, regulation, and instruction.

“As a baseball executive you have to recognize the politics and apply it to what you do,” he said.

Keeping with baseball tradition, during a question and answer session, Lucchino brought out a gift bag and, to the amusement of the filled room, threw signed baseballs, key chains, and t-shirts to those who asked questions.

During the session he spoke of the various changes baseball is undergoing across the country.

He also discussed the obligation baseball has to serve the community as both a sport and a business.

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