Making the Majors: Clearwater GM John Cook

<i>Making the Majors</i> takes a look at some of the people who make Phillies minor league baseball a success, but aren't always visible or known to fans. In this edition, we take a look at Clearwater general manager John Cook. It's been a busy time in Clearwater, with a new stadium, a name change for the team and a Hall of Fame manager all on the docket.

John Cook attended the University of Alabama and finished with a degree in advertising. His love for baseball - which he played at U of A - helped lead his path in career choices after college. "I thought it would be neat to work in baseball as a career," remembers Cook.

While Cook's minor league career has him in Clearwater now, it also started very close to Clearwater with an internship with the Dunedin Blue Jays. Thanks to some staff moves, the internship didn't last long and was turned into a job as Dunedin's assistant general manager in the same year that he started with the club. That's progress.

As usually happens in minor league baseball, Cook left Dunedin and found himself in Amarillo as the general manager of the Amarillo Dillos, where he spent one season on the job. Before long, there was an opening in Clearwater and Cook was back in Florida as a part of the Phillies minor league organization.

So, what about that degree in advertising? "I would be perfectly fine with staying in baseball. It's been great and I truly enjoy what I get to do," said Cook. And why shouldn't he?

Cook's position with Clearwater came at the perfect time. A new stadium was in the planning stages and was originally supposed to open in 2003, but was delayed until 2004. Of course, Cook played a key role in the stadium's construction and is proud of the finished product. "We were able to include pretty much all the things that we wanted," said Cook. "We have the finest ballpark around. Eventually, somebody may build a better one, but this place is something that we're all very proud of."

With the stadium - BrightHouse Networks Field - came other changes. "Our new logo has made us more of a national team. The logo sells well all across the country, because it's a great logo," beams Cook. Obviously, the combination of a new stadium with a new team name and a logo that has become very popular has made things exciting in Clearwater. "This was all by design," remarked Cook. "We wanted ro bring about a whole new image and coincide it all with the stadium."

Now, the club needed a manager. Again, it all came together well. "Mike Schmidt wanting to manage was the icing on the cake for us," says Cook. "You add a Hall of Famer to everything else that we had going and you can't imagine the excitement that was going around." That excitement has lasted throughout the season with strong attendance and continued growth in the marketing of the club.

So, with putting together plans for a new stadium, a new name and logo and getting a Hall of Famer to manage the club, what else does a minor league GM do? After all, he doesn't get to trade players. He doesn't scour for free agents or figure out who to draft. "The easiest way to explain it is that a major league general manager handles everything on the field and a minor league GM handles the business end of the operation," explained Cook. That means from the operation of the ballpark, to the food at the ballpark, to ticket sales and of course, corporate sales, John Cook has a lot on his plate.

"I'm fortunate because there are four other people in our front office that were general managers. They know what to do and how to get things done," said Cook.

As for the future, Cook is not unlike minor league players. "I would be interested in working for a major league club at the top level," admitted Cook. How that will pan out remains to be seen, but with everything that Cook has experienced in Clearwater, you have to figure that he's developed quite a resume of projects that could help lead him to other positions.

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