By Jill Ewert
There is a place where a person can go when life gets complicated—a place where he can feel completely at ease and safe from the big, bad world. It is a wonderful place where one feels at home not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Life is easy there. Life is good.
That place is called Comfort Zone. Yet, in spite of its welcoming title, it’s often located at the address of 1000 MissedBlessingsAndOpportunities Dr., in the city of Half-Lived, Life.
Dayton Moore remembers his comfort zone. As the Assistant General Manager/Baseball Operations of the Atlanta Braves, he and his family were in a great situation: great town, great job, great family environment, great church. And his reputation as a savvy front office man was on the rise. Undoubtedly, that’s why he got the call.
The struggling Kansas City Royals were experiencing one of the most difficult seasons in franchise history, both on and off the field. The team was losing, the players were restless, and the front office was being slaughtered by both the media and the fans. Drastic change was flat-out demanded.
He almost didn’t take the job. At one point he even verbalized his decision to stay in Atlanta. But as a Christian man, he had to, instead, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. And it was compelling him to Kansas City—miles and miles from Comfort Zone.
But just like so many would-be success stories, Dayton Moore and his family took a risk. Which they, of course, recognize as a leap of faith.
Jill Ewert: You came to Kansas City from Atlanta, where you’d been part of a team that had won 14 straight division titles at that point. Did you feel any intimidation at the thought of coming to the Royals, who have struggled so much recently?
Dayton Moore: Yeah. It would have been very easy and very safe for us to stay in Atlanta. Our family was thriving, we had a great church home, [my wife] Marianne loved it, the weather was great, I knew all the players, I loved the people I worked with, we’d won 14 consecutive division titles, and the players there are in place to continue to win. In fact, toward the end of the process I told Marianne we were staying in Atlanta, that we were not going to Kansas City. But as the day unfolded, as we began to continue to give it to God and pray about the decision, it became, “You know what? Go try to do something special.”
|“Our Baseball Chapel leaders are a very important part of what we do as an organization here in Kansas City, and they are going to be made to feel that way. If anybody thinks we need to do things differently, there will probably be a new guy sitting here.”|
It was risky, and “risk” is a scary word for me and, I think, for a lot of Christians. In many cases, you have a great support group around you. For us, it would have been very easy to stay right there and continue to do well in an environment with all the pieces in place to continue to be successful. We had all the resources necessary and the great players and a great group of guys who are strong believers in that clubhouse, and it is a great family.
It is still scary.
JE: What did you learn spiritually through that transition?
DM: Just to really depend on and sell out to Him, and know that He has a perfect plan for your life. As long as you are seeking His wisdom and His will, you are always going to be in His will no matter where He puts you, whether it is Kansas City, Atlanta, Boston, Arizona, Cincinnati, wherever. Truly, I don’t believe God cares as much that Dayton Moore is the General Manager of the Kansas City Royals. I think what He is most concerned about is how I use this platform to honor Him and how I use the gifts that I have been given.
JE: You’ve spoken before about the power of a leader. What makes a good leader?
DM: To me, leadership is all about servanthood. I have always felt that people who are in leadership positions to gratify themselves and their egos are not good leaders. I’ve always tried to look at any leadership position I’ve been in as an opportunity to help encourage others and help people get where they want to be. And I feel that works out the best.
The actions you take day in and day out are crucial, and people are always watching. Not that you are living your life based on what you think others want you to do, but it is important to live a consistent life. And it is harder for me to do that in the home than it is in the baseball arena. The hardest challenge is being a husband and a father. The baseball stuff takes care of itself. We’ve got a lot of great people who have been in the game and are involved with the decisionmaking and who have been successful.
The hardest challenge has been at home and dealing with the critics. Like today, you pick up the paper and they are talking about everything that Gil Meche does, and everything the Royals do is looked at with a critical spirit. You just have to deal with it and know that there are bigger things in the world.
You know, this is baseball. It is something that we have all been doing since we were little boys. It has been that one constant that we have all had in this business; it is what we have been doing our whole lives. So, it really isn’t that big of a deal.
JE: As a GM, what does your relationship with the athletes look like?
Moore with KC’s 2007 All-Star pitcher, Gil Meche
DM: Right now I take the approach to hire the best people I can and support them, encourage them and do everything I can to help them be successful. I know when I was a scout and in other positions I’ve had, I was always given the freedom to make decisions and be creative. I think that is the best philosophy, and it was the philosophy that my boss, [Atlanta GM] John Schuerholz, had.
I really believe that is the best way to develop a management team—just hire the best people and let them do their job. Will I get out there and scout out players for the draft? A little bit, just to keep my hand in it and be aware of what’s going on; but Deric Ladnier is our scouting director, and he’ll decide who we will take with our draft picks. He and his staff work on that all year, and I don’t think it would be in the best interest of the Kansas City Royals for somebody to get involved and tell them what to do when they have been living it for a year.
JE: Talking a little bit more about your athletes, we interviewed [Atlanta’s] Jeff Francouer during Spring Training this year, and he referenced you as one of the godly examples in his life. How does it feel to know that you are playing a role in shaping the lives of influential athletes?
DM: I didn’t know that, but it makes me feel good. It is an awesome responsibility. Jeff is a great kid with wonderful enthusiasm for life—just a very impacting person who has that energy and that passion that makes people want to be around him.
It does make me feel good; but, at the same time, I know that I am a human being and I make a lot of mistakes. I want people to see me as somebody who, when he makes mistakes, admits it; because I make them every day.
JE: As a leader in the Royals organization, do you feel a spiritual responsibility for those on the field and in the front office?
DM: Absolutely, but there’s a certain way to do it. We reach out to our Baseball Chapel leaders and make sure they are a part of what we do. It’s helpful if management believes in what they are doing and supports them as they invest in the lives of our players.
One thing I’ve learned is that baseball players have been gifted to be athletes; but the only way they are able to use those gifts day in and day out and be successful is if they have the balance they need in their lives. This game beats you up terribly. It is a game of failure, and if you don’t learn to manage failure, you won’t be successful. And the only way to manage failure, in my opinion, is to have a relationship with Christ. That is why our Baseball Chapel leaders are a very important part of what we do as an organization here in Kansas City, and they are going to be made to feel that way. If anybody thinks we need to do things differently, there will probably be a new guy sitting here.
“This game beats you up terribly. It is a game of failure, and if you don’t learn to manage failure, you won’t be successful. And the only way to manage failure, in my opinion, is to have a relationship with Christ.”
JE: As a leader and as someone in charge of personnel decisions, what, for you, constitutes a good hire?
DM: Guys with very little ego. People who can put the good of the team and the good of the employees first and their own needs and wants second. I think those are crucial to being a good leader and a good decision-maker. Because if your own ego is involved, you are going to make decisions based on what you want to see happen. If you seek the opinions of the people around you, you will be able to make a good decision.
Now, you have to listen to the right people. That is why you have to hire good people. Those individuals who are willing to sacrifice their own personal desires are the ones who are ultimately successful. The ones who are so ambitious that they will crush anybody to stay on top don’t stay up there very long. Like I said before, guys in leadership positions to gratify their own egos ultimately fail.
JE: Have you ever not signed a player because he would be detrimental to the team’s chemistry?
DM: Absolutely. Character is the most important thing when putting together a baseball team. The players are together for 162 games throughout the course of the year. And for nine months out of a year, they have to like being around each other. Every successful team, every successful organization, every successful situation I have been in, we’ve had a group of people who have had the ability to put others first, and, like I said, put their own needs and wants and desires second.
JE: Do you see that developing with the Royals?
Moore with Royals Manager Buddy Bell
DM: I think so; I hope so. Ultimately, it is up to the men in the clubhouse to make sure that type of attitude is created and that type of atmosphere is maintained because they’re the ones who have the greatest effect on each other. [Manager] Buddy Bell and his staff do a great job of keeping the politics out of it and have a fairness in the way they do things, but ultimately the players are the ones who are going to feed off one another and make sure the other players fall in line. So, it’s important to make sure that the right people are in the clubhouse.
I look at it one way: if I don’t want them at my dinner table 10 out of 10 nights, I shouldn’t make a decision to put them in the clubhouse. That being said, we aren’t going to run away from players who are so-called “high maintenance.” Because, if you put most players in an environment that is nurturing, team-oriented and self-sacrificing, those players will respond, and they will conform to that type of clubhouse setting.
JE: Does that happen a lot?
DM: Absolutely. I remember people talking about certain players, and they would get in our clubhouse and would conform and be great teammates.
JE: That has to be so rewarding.
DM: It is awesome, and it’s going to happen here—it is happening here. But you’ve got to grow it through your culture; and you start it in the minor leagues. So, there is an expectation level that every player understand what it is like to be a professional—the importance of being involved in your community, the importance of the characteristics that make up a great team. Then you graduate them to the major leagues, and the veteran players in your clubhouse bring those young players on board to see them living up to that expectation level; they make sure the young players understand that. Then players evolve, and that is how you breed a winning culture.
*For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Photos courtesy KC Royals