THE NATURAL TRAVELER INTERVIEW WITH RED SOX GM DAVE DOMBROWSKI
By JR Rosenthal, Editor
There’s an old saying that it’s always sunny in Kenmore Square in Boston. Fenway Park is to Kenmore what Notre Dame is to the Left Bank of Paris. This diverse Boston neighborhood basks in the shadows of the Green Monster, where memories of Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro mingle with the present-day legends of David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez. On a hot, humid and electric-bright sunny day, NT traveled to Fenway Park to chat with Dave Dombrowski, in his first year as Red Sox President of Baseball Operations and recognized as the architect of the great teams in Montreal, Miami (World Series titles in 1997 and 2003) and Detroit.
NATURAL TRAVELER: How has your job changed since you left the Detroit Tigers to join the Red Sox as the head of baseball operations?
DAVE DOMBROWSKI: I am now only focused strictly on the baseball side rather than both business and baseball. We have a club president here in Boston (Sam Kennedy) who handles the business operations and we work well together. I am still aware of the business side based on the baseball perspective, but now I can focus on baseball and that’s really what I was looking forward to here in Boston.
NT: When you were with the Florida Marlins and building the two championship teams (1997 and 2003), were you involved with both business and baseball?
DOMBROWSKI: After John (owner John Henry) came on board in Miami he asked me to handle some of the business operation as well as baseball. For the most part I was only making baseball decisions with the Marlins.
NT: And when the Tigers job came up there was a business component from the beginning?
DOMBROWSKI: I came in as club president and so that naturally meant doing both jobs. One of the things I really enjoyed was attending the major league baseball meetings, sorting through all of the issues. With the Tigers I was generally the only person who went to the meetings, but here in Boston John Henry goes to the meetings, as does owner Tom Werner and Sam Kennedy, our Club President and business expert. And so the MLB meeting this past May was the first time in 25 years I didn’t attend. But I’m fine with that because focusing on baseball operations is what I wanted to be doing.
NT: How important is chemistry in putting a team together on the field that will mesh in the clubhouse?
DOMBROWSKI: I am not so much concerned about chemistry; it’s more that I am very concerned about a player’s makeup. You are trying to put together guys who represent the organization in a positive way—that they play hard and are good in the clubhouse. This is a passionate media market and the scrutiny on a daily basis is tremendous. You have to have players who can handle that scrutiny and some guys can’t. And then you hope the good chemistry comes together. We are lucky that we have good young players and veteran players like Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia who can offer some guidance and also to lead by example.
NT: So in looking to make trade-deadline acquisitions the goal is to bring in players who can help the Red Sox win and also be good in the clubhouse?
DOMBROWSKI: For example, when we signed David Price during the winter I knew that he was a great clubhouse guy because I had him with the Tigers. And so I knew he could fit in and lead by example and handle the Boston market. Craig Kimbrel, who we traded for during the off season, also had the reputation of being a great clubhouse guy. I didn’t know him personally, but Frank Wren (Vice President of Baseball Operations) here in the front office had him in Atlanta; he knew Kimbrel could handle the pressures and rise to the occasion. Free agent signing Chris Young is another great makeup type of guy in the clubhouse, and so the ability of a player to both excel on the field and fit in with the team is always the goal in acquiring talent.
NT: How do you deal with Ortiz having such a great final season, and then trying to replace those offensive numbers for next season?
DOMBROWSKI: The thing I’ve learned is to not get too far ahead of yourself. I just want to get through the 2016 season before tackling the question of how to replace Ortiz. Let’s look at how our minor league guys develop this season and who might be available through trade or free agency. But right now I want to focus on enjoying this season and the fact that he is still a phenomenal player.
NT: Could he change his mind about retirement?
DOMBROWSKI: He gave a lot of thought to this decision. He is not just a great player; he is a championship player. He is focused on winning a World Championship. I take people at their word and he has said he is retiring after this season and that’s how I am approaching this situation.
NT: Coming to Boston must be such a great opportunity. Was it a tough decision to join the Red Sox over the other options available?
DOMBROWSKI: When I left Detroit last summer there were several jobs open, and I was told by a few other teams there would be jobs open down the road. But at this stage of my career the Red Sox position was perfect. I knew the owner John Henry and he is a great person to work for and that counted for a lot in making the decision. Boston is a great baseball city. The franchise has a lot of prestige and tradition. Once I talked to the Red Sox I was convinced that this was the perfect place to work.
NT: How great is the tour of Fenway Park?
DOMBROWSKI: I was talking to some people who were taking the tour recently and we agreed that you get goosebumps from the thrill of walking into Fenway. I have been in the game for a long time and yet it’s still so exciting to come to work here every day. I can’t imagine a better place to celebrate the tradition of baseball and what makes it so much fun.
TAKING THE FENWAY PARK TOUR
IF YOU GO: The one-hour tour is led by experienced guides who know everything about the history of Fenway Park. It is tremendous fun and a unique opportunity to explore the nuances of baseball’s most historic landmark.
The cost of the tour will vary depending on when you want to go, and so call the Red Sox at 617-226-6666 to determine your best option and its price.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The last tour leaves at 5 p.m. on non-game days. On game days the last tour departs three hours before game time. Tours depart at the top of each hour.
Special Arrangements: Tours are handicap accessible.
Bilingual tours are available in Spanish and Japanese with advance notice.
boston red sox.mlb.com/ballpark/tour.jsp