Field of Dreams
Brockton Rox owner Chris English, a former hedge fund manager, wants to turn the team into a winner on the field and a money-maker off the diamond. Sound familiar?
You’ve owned several minor league professional teams in the Northeast. What about owning a team of college players in the Futures League in Brockton interested you when the previous owners, who included high-profile people like Bill Murray, couldn’t make the Rox work with professional players? We have a very disciplined business model. We know how to run professional baseball teams. The former Rox team had a $3 million budget. Our annual operating budget is about $500,000 a year so we need only about 1,200 [fans] a night to break even.
What did you see going on in Brockton that made you think you could succeed? Brockton is a city that has had its challenges. We looked at Brockton, we saw a lot of development coming and there was strong leadership in City Hall. We view baseball as a civic trust. But we’re not a nonprofit; we’re in this to make money.
You’re in a baseball hotbed in this region, with the Red Sox and the Cape League. Is there a point of saturation? We don’t compete with the Red Sox, we compete with the movie theater. I’ll go to a couple Red Sox games a year but it’s expensive, let’s face it. A family of four going to a Sox game is like $300. Coming to our game for a family of four is about $50.
A casino is being proposed for across the street. How would that affect your plans? Whether or not the casino gets built — we hope it does — we’re trying to create an entertainment center for the South Shore. When the casino comes to town, we’ll become sort of this destination complex where you can come for all your entertainment needs.
Your season goes from June to August. What’s the plan for cashing in the rest of the year? One of the things we did here that nobody has done was we looked at our demographics and saw we had a big Haitian and Cape Verdean population and none of them are ever coming here. So we asked why not? We put together a couple of really fun events. We’re going to turn our baseball field into two six-on-six soccer fields, have a tournament and a championship, then hold a Caribbean festival.You were a hedge fund manager, like [Red Sox owner] John Henry. You talk about applying analytics from that field to the game, much like he has. Is there a parallel? There’s absolutely a parallel, on a microscopic scale. What they do is light years ahead of where we’re at. We’re only in the second-inning of moneyball. Having a hedge fund background where you think analytically is really a commodity.
Do you get involved in day-to-day baseball decisions? Absolutely. But let me give you the caveat. We have an operating philosophy that is based on analytics. We don’t steal, we don’t bunt, we have an eight-man rotation, we employ shifts, then the lineup card is [head coach Jason Szafarski’s.] I second guess after the game.