As your friends retire and move onto another phase in their lives, you’re libel to feel a full gamut of emotions.
For Peter Bragan, Jr., I’m nothing but happy.
“Pedro” (or “Pee-dro” as his Dad used to say) sold the Suns franchise to baseball entrepreneur Ken Babby after 31 years running the team as a family business. Babby paid a reported $25 million for the team, acquiring the Suns as his second minor league franchise. His first is the Rubber Ducks in Akron, OH.
No doubt Babby will bring a different feel to the ballpark. He’ll upgrade some things; he’ll implement some of the things that have worked in his short ownership in Akron that have worked. He’s increased ticket sales there dramatically, so he’ll no doubt have a positive impact on the franchise across the board.
But he won’t be Pedro.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’ll just be different. Babby already has a management team in place, bringing in a new GM, sales people and the like from his experience in Akron as well as his relationships from his previous life on the digital side of the Washington Post in DC.
Pedro’s came by his family feel for ownership naturally. He’s part of a famous baseball family that stretches from his father through his uncles. But it’s not as if the Bragan’s, here or elsewhere were a soft touch. They’re known as tough businessmen and moneymakers. Nonetheless, when there was a game at Wolfson Park and then the Baseball Grounds, Senior, as he was known, and then Pedro, were there every night, shaking hands and giving a resounding, “Thanks for coming,” to the fans headed to the exits.
Getting close to the Bragans wasn’t easy. They didn’t let you inside right away. They measured you to see if you measured up. But once you did, you really were family. That’s why I’ve fished with Pedro, smoked cigars with Pedro, traveled with Pedro, played baseball with Pedro, played guitar with Pedro and sat in his office for hours talking baseball and life.
We once sat on a boat listening to our Dads talk about life in the ’40’s, how Senior made some money coming out of WWII and eventually bought a baseball team. “I’ve never heard those stories,” Pedro told me later. Luckily, both of us sensed it was such a special moment we didn’t say a word.
His commitment to kids reading in Jacksonville is legendary. His recitation of “Casey at the Bat” impeccable. His impersonation of Babe Ruth, spot on. So nobody should be surprised that Pedro wrote a song and performed it in the pregame ceremony at Monday’s game.
“Pedro’s Last Dance” is far from “Goodbye.” He and his wife Nancy want to travel, build a beach house, and stay involved in the community with their philanthropy.
I’m excited and happy for both of them. And happy for me as well.
Maybe I’ll get to see them more!