By Karen Billing
In anticipation of the start of the new Major League Baseball season, The Bridges of Rancho Santa Fe held a special event March 18 on “The Business of Baseball.” Guests noshed on bacon cracker jacks, warm hot pretzels and mini hot dogs as they heard from baseball voices such as Mike Dee, CEO and president of the San Diego Padres, and Ron Fowler, the Padres’ executive chairman in an interactive forum. Former Padres player Mark Loretta was also in attendance.
Fowler is the executive chairman of the San Diego Padres’ ownership group composed of the O’Malley and Seidler families that completed a $800 million purchase of the franchise in 2012.
Fowler has always had a love for baseball and set his sights on playing professionally. His plans to play in college for the University of Minnesota were dashed when he tore his ACL.
“For me to be engaged in baseball over 50 years later is really special,” said Fowler.
He had always enjoyed the business of sports and thought it would be fun to be a part of a group like the O’Malley and Seidler families represent.
“You need to become a part of the community and work with the community and listen to the community. I think that’s what we’re all about,” Fowler said, noting the organization’s commitment to philanthropy. “If we don’t engage the community, I don’t think we have the ability to accomplish all we want to accomplish,”
Dee was with the Padres from 1995 to 2002, assisting in the financial planning and construction of Petco Park alongside Larry Lucchino. Both Lucchino and Dee left for the Boston Red Sox in 2002, where Dee was CEO.
In 2009, he became CEO of the Miami Dolphins until 2013 before being wooed back to San Diego.
Fowler said part of the reason they brought Dee back to San Diego was because of how he embraces all the elements of community which is good for business, not to mention his contagious energy.
Dee said since he’s been gone, downtown San Diego has evolved into everything they dreamt up when Petco Park was first envisioned.
“It’s an exciting city,” Dee said.
Dee said there’s still a lot of potential both within the walls of Petco and with ownership and management to come together and build a team that will bring the community together as in 1998, the year of the team’s World Series run.
Dee said he doesn’t view the Padres as a small-market team but believes they can compete as a mid-market team.
“We’ve got to go out and take care of business,” Dee said.
The Padres will get some national attention right off the bat as the Padres’ March 30 home opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers will be the Padres’ first nationally televised Sunday Night Baseball Game on ESPN that they’ve hosted since 2008.
It will be a chance to showcase Petco, which Dee said has become nationally renowned since its opening in 2004. Even though Petco is only celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Dee said a four-to-five-year process to modernize the stadium has already been set into motion. They will start with a new sound system, new video board and a lot of technology that can be personally incorporated through fans’ handheld devices unlike any sports venue anywhere.
“We want to customize an iconic seat experience,” Dee said.
The Padres offer experiences such as the Lexus Home Plate Club or the On-Deck Suite, an on-field suite for eight adjacent to the visitors’ dugout. Dee said businesses can send clients to the game and they will likely say it is the best experience they’ve ever had at a sporting event and that will make an investment with the Padres well worth it.
“It’s incumbent on us to make that experience great and we spend a lot of time on it,” Dee said.
This season, the Western Metal Supply Co. Building will also feature two exclusive new seating concepts: The Rail and the Foul Pole Suite. The Rail is Petco Park’s version of the Green Monster seats at Fenway Park, with an elevated bar rail on the patio deck of the Hall of Fame Bar and Grill, with in-seat service.
The Foul Pole Suite along the third base line is a 12-person, semi-private suite with corner access seats on the Rail.
Dee said the Padres will fit businesses of all shapes and sizes and at different price points.
Gordon Cooke, who spent the last nine years as director of sales and marketing for The Bridges, is now the senior director of Padres Premium Plus. Padres Premium Plus is a new venture to engage local businesses and provide the most elite guest experience in the sports and entertainment industry, including unique seating, five-star food and beverages, partner networking and speaking engagements.
Premium Plus is designed to help local businesses “do more business” with customized plans and focus on generating a positive return on investment.
Craig Edwards, owner of Rancho Santa Fe Insurance, talked about how he successfully uses the Padres as a business tool.
He said he gets twice as many compliments when he sends clients to the ballgame than when he sent clients to another event.
“Business-wise it has been a great deal,” Edwards said.
To learn more about premium ticket packages, visit
MOST Photos/Jon Clark