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O’Conner to retire as MiLB President and CEO

Pat O'ConnerMinor League Baseball President and CEO Pat O’Conner is retiring at the end of the year, as the future of the sport remains to be determined while talks between MiLB and MLB continue.

O’Conner logged 38 years in professional baseball and 28 years with the Minor League Baseball office.

“It has been a privilege to serve in Minor League Baseball leadership for the past 28 years and I will be forever indebted to all of the staff who worked with me in St. Petersburg over the years,” O’Conner said in a press statement. “It was an honor to work alongside the owners, executives, players, umpires, fans and communities that have made our organization so successful.”

He joined the Minor League Baseball staff in 1993 as chief operating officer and was named vice president, administration, following the 1995 season. In December 2007, O’Conner was named the 11th president of Minor League Baseball, embarking on a 13-year run as president as he was re-elected in 2011, 2015 and 2019. O’Conner’s tenure is the fifth-longest presidency in Minor League Baseball’s 120-year history, behind Michael Sexton (23 years, 1910–1932), George Trautman (17 years, 1947–1963), Mike Moore (16 years, 1992–2007) and William Bramham (14 years, 1933–1946).

O’Conner began his baseball career as administrative assistant with the Vero Beach Dodgers (Florida State League) in 1981. He then spent the 1982 season as general manager of the Greenwood Pirates
(South Atlantic League) and followed that stint with two seasons as assistant general manager of the Beaumont Golden Gators (Texas League). After 18 months as director of athletic marketing and promotion for Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, O’Conner returned to baseball in November 1986. At that time, he became head of Florida Operations for the Houston Astros and served as general manager of the Osceola Astros of the Florida State League from 1986–1993. He was named the Florida State League Executive of the Year in 1988.

Under O’Conner, MiLB became a major entertainment offering across the country, attracting over 40 million fans in each of the last 15 seasons (2005–19), and in 2008, Minor League Baseball drew over 43 million fans for the first time since 1901. He guided MiLB into the digital era with a first-ever MLBAM agreement and led diversity efforts.

The big question: How will this affect negotiations between MLB and MiLB? The early consensus from owners: Probably not much. Though O’Conner’s reluctance to ask MiLB owners for further facility upgrades is cited as a reason why MLB officials decided to pursue a takeover of Minor League Baseball, it was never the only factor in the current state of the MLB/MiLB relationship. The current MiLB negotiating committee headed by The Elmore Group’s D.G. Elmore may have more room to maneuver once actual talks begin , but they already had a certain measure of freedom in their current configuration.