LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After devoting more than a half-century of his life to a game that will forever remember him as one of its most successful and influential executives, John Schuerholz is prepared to now travel down a new, less hectic path that has been paved by the
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After devoting more than a half-century of his life to a game that will forever remember him as one of its most successful and influential executives, John Schuerholz is prepared to now travel down a new, less hectic path that has been paved by the dedicated efforts he has made to the Braves organization and Major League Baseball.
"There is so much joy to me to be a part of this great game," Schuerholz said. "I love it. It's not a chore for me to come into the office. It's not a chore for me to go to my work. But I keep being reminded by my lovely wife that I'm doing too much of that grinding and working on holidays and so on and so forth. That's how I am. It's not work for me."
Blessed with leadership skills that would have likely enabled him to serve as a successful CEO for most any Fortune 500 company, Schuerholz has spent the past 25 seasons enriching the Braves organization as a general manager and team president. He still possesses a genuine passion to be around baseball, but he now looks forward to the chance to take a half-step back and separate himself from the daily grind while serving as the Braves' vice chairman -- a title that was officially bestowed upon him on Thursday morning.
"I'm thrilled," Schuerholz said. "This is actually the sweet spot of where I wanted to be at this stage of my life, at 75 years old, with 51 years as a baseball executive. I still love being involved. I don't want to go play golf every day. I want to go play a little more, but this job will allow me to continue my affiliation in a very, very important position."
Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk created this position in order to provide Schuerholz the opportunity to continue being an integral part of the organization with the understanding that he does not need to be a part of the daily grind. Such efforts have become particularly challenging recently as the organization prepares to open SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta, a mixed-use development that will surround the stadium when it opens before the start of the 2017 season.
"We changed, not John," McGuirk said. "John is not 50 years old; he's about to be 76, so he needs to redirect to the things that are most interesting to him for the rest of his career, which I expect to last a lot longer."
Schuerholz's affiliation with Major League Baseball dates back to 1966, when he left his job at a Baltimore junior high school to join the front office of the hometown Orioles. Two years later, he relocated to Kansas City, where he helped the Royals evolve from an expansion franchise to World Series champions in 1985. His journey carried him to Atlanta in 1991, when he became the Braves' GM and proceeded to help guide the club to 14 consecutive division titles and a World Series title in 1995.
After the Braves won the last of those consecutive division titles in 2005, Schuerholz admittedly began to lose some of the fire necessary to capably handle the job. But his passion was reignited after the 2007 season when he became the team president and was given a chance to utilize his leadership skills beyond the baseball-operations department.
"To work with guys directly on the business side broadened my perspective of my involvement as a leader," Schuerholz said. "I enjoyed it very much. With this new position as vice chairman, I've got a fancy new title and I look forward to those responsibilities, which fit me and what I can do for this organization better. It will be a really good fit."
Schuerholz will keep a hand in the club's efforts to open SunTrust Park, and he will continue to head the search for a new Spring Training home. But he will now have a chance to direct most of his efforts back toward the familiar comforts of the baseball-operations department, which is led by good friend John Hart and one of his prized pupils, John Coppolella.
Since hiring Hart to serve as the president of baseball operations and elevating Coppolella to GM, Schuerholz has once again been invigorated by the rebuilding process the Braves began after the 2014 season. Last year created some unwanted heartache, but it did not extinguish the passion he continues to bring to whatever endeavor he encounters within the baseball world.
"It has been wonderful," Schuerholz said. "I've loved what I've done, and I've been very blessed. I've had two jobs in my life, and I can't call them jobs. I've gone to work for 54 years of my adult life. I loved every day of teaching, the impact I was having on adolescent boys and girls who became men and women. I love every day of this work, and however many years I'm fortunate to have, that is how I'm going to feel about it."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.