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Lee Benson: Talking about life, Larry, baseball and the Bees with Marc Amicone

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 12:55 p.m. MDT

Marc Amicone, general manager of the Salt Lake Bees, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — He had just finished his schooling at the University of Utah where he played four seasons on the baseball team and had joined a fast-pitch softball team for the summer sponsored by Yates Industrial Park. A short while later, the team added a softball junkie — a pitcher — who had just moved back to Utah from Denver.

In the dugout, they introduced themselves.

“Hi, I’m Marc Amicone,” said the 22-year-old third baseman.

“Larry Miller,” said the 35-year-old pitcher.

There are more details to tell — and we’ll get to some of them in a minute — but all you really need to know to understand the relationship between the two men is that initial handshake.

In the summer of 1979, long before Amicone would become the first and only person born in Utah to be named Executive of the Year in both professional baseball and hockey, and long before the late and legendary Miller would build his auto dealership empire; buy the Utah Jazz, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles and the Salt Lake Bees; and add the "H.," they were teammates and friends.

“If he was your friend he was your friend,” said Amicone on a recent weekday at Smith’s Ballpark where he is maneuvering his way through his 10th season as general manager of the ball club. “Loyalty and friendship meant everything to Larry. It’s who he was.”

That loyalty and friendship is why Amicone was the only call Miller made in 2004 when he bought the Stingers, Salt Lake’s Triple-A minor league baseball franchise — he would later rename it the Bees — and needed to hire a general manager to run it for him. And that's why Amicone didn’t hesitate to leave a stable and enviable position as an assistant athletic director at the University of Utah to partner with him.

“We had an understanding,” said Amicone. “If he ever bought the baseball team I would run it. Neither of us knew if it would ever happen, but if it did we had that understanding.”

Amicone remembered Miller first talking about the possibility of owning a baseball team when they were softball teammates, first with Yates Industrial and later with a team sponsored by Engh Floral. It wasn’t serious talk, just dugout scuttle. It was something to help pass the time during a rain delay or between doubleheaders, but it was a dream.

Amicone was a good audience because, one, he loved baseball as much as Miller did, and two, he’d majored in sports management in college and fresh out of school he was already working for the Golden Eagles, Salt Lake’s minor league hockey team. He was in the sports business before Miller was in the sports business.

By the time Miller had sold enough Toyotas to purchase (with the bank’s help) the Utah Jazz basketball team in 1985, Amicone was the Golden Eagles general manager — owner Art Teece’s righthand man. The hockey franchise won four league titles while Amicone was there. In 1987 and 1988 he was named International Hockey League Executive of the Year.

Amicone left the Eagles after the 1988 season to return to his alma mater, where newly appointed athletic director Chris Hill hired him to be in charge of marketing. He was later promoted to assistant athletic director, the position he held when the call came from his old pal.

In a wide-ranging interview at the ballpark, Amicone, the 2009 Pacific Coast League Executive of the Year, sat down with the Deseret News to talk about life with Larry, baseball and the Bees.

DN: How surprised were you when you got the call that Larry H. Miller had bought the baseball team and wanted you to run it?

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