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

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

MA: It was always something I knew might happen but when it did it was a total surprise. Of course we’d chatted about the possibility through the years. I remember one time he said if we haven’t spoken for eight years — I don’t know where eight years came from — but he said if we haven’t spoken for eight years and this happens, you’re my first phone call and you can decide what you want to do. I was getting ready to start my 17th year at the U. when Larry called. He said he wanted to talk to me at his office. I didn’t know what he wanted, but I went there, walked in, sat down, and he said, 'I just made a deal to buy the Stingers, do you still want to do it?' He reached out his hand and I shook it and that’s how it happened. I was his baseball guy. For Larry there were no time frames. If he said something there was no expiration date.

DN: The camaraderie from sports is obviously a powerful thing?

MA: It certainly can be, and has been in my life. Playing softball is also how I first became associated with the hockey team. Chuck Schell, play-by-play voice of the Golden Eagles at the time, was on the softball team and that led to an internship opportunity before I finished school. That’s how I got started in hockey. And I met Chris Hill before he was athletic director at the University of Utah when he was basketball coach at Granger High School, where I went to school. I met him there the year after I graduated, and that’s how we got to know each other. Connections can be valuable in the sports world.

DN: Is it safe to assume that Larry H. Miller, who became a household name as owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, set his first sights on owning a baseball team, not a basketball team?

MA: He always liked baseball and I know as far back as we went he always wanted to buy the baseball team. Then the Jazz thing happened and everything went a different direction, but Larry loved baseball and softball. He was winding down as a player when we met but he was still extremely competitive. He just loved to play.

DN: The first pro sports owner you worked for was the late Art Teece, who owned the Golden Eagles and Salt Lake’s Minor League Baseball affiliate when they were the Gulls. What was it like working for Art?

MA: Art was fabulous. He was in his 70s and I was 23 or 24 or whatever and we just hit it off. I went through the Central Hockey League era when everything was going great, and then when that league folded I went through all the International League craziness when the only way they’d let us in is if we’d pay for everyone’s travel to come to Salt Lake. I saw the extremes, what you could do when you had the resources and what you couldn’t do when you didn’t.

DN: That experience and your work at the University of Utah exposed you to a lot in the sports business before you ever got to the Bees.

MA: I’ve seen plenty. At the U. I started in marketing, but I did a little bit of everything over the years and enjoyed the heck out of it. I did ticket sales, football team travel for a while, supervised baseball, golf and swimming. I was tournament director for the men’s basketball tournament a couple of times and did some gymnastics nationals and regionals.

DN: But you didn’t hesitate when baseball came calling?

MA: I’ve always loved baseball. When I graduated from Granger High School I had an appointment to the Air Force Academy — this was in 1975 — and I actually went there for a brief period of time, but all I wanted to do was play baseball and at the academy first you had to do basic training. Baseball was way next spring. I couldn’t wait that long, so I came home and went to Utah where I was going to go if I hadn’t gone to the Air Force Academy. Tom Kilgore was the baseball coach. I played ball there for four years, got my degree and started doing the hockey thing with Art. Then I went to work for Chris. I was away (from baseball) for quite a while, but when I had the chance to get back in, I couldn’t wait.

DN: The best part about your job?

MA: The fun I have at the ballpark during games interacting with fans. I walk around the ballpark pretty much every night. I love walking around the berm and seeing grandma and grandpa with their grandkids or moms and dads and young families. We get everything from business guys with their buddies in the suites to people on their first date. It’s an easy first date, kind of informal, relaxed. You’d be surprised how many people get engaged at the ballpark because that’s where they first met. I love that. And I really enjoy the baseball people I work with. The interaction with the other GMs in the PCL is great and working with the (Los Angeles) Angels has been fabulous.

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