Update On Jeff Wilpon and Pro Ball

Last week we discovered an inconsistency between the published bio / resume of Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and the memory of the 1983 Jamestown Expos manager.

Again, for your indulgence … this is what has been the “canned” bio for Jeff Wilpon, on the official websites of both Sterling Equities and the Brooklyn Cyclones:

jeff-wilpon-se

But, the manager of the Jamestown Expos back then — Moby Benedict — said that Jeff Wilpon never played for him.

It took a few days for the information to sink in around the blogosphere, but finally Shannon Shark of MetsPolice re-confirmed the facts, as posted on MetsBlog.

You know how us bloggers sitting in our parents’ basements can be quick to make assumptions and spew wild speculations that could significanly damage a person’s reputation. So before John Gonzalez or some other well-respected journalist accuses us bloggers of being irresponsible or not doing our due diligence, I provide you an update to the lingering question of Jeff Wilpon’s professional baseball career.

This from the June 21, 1998 edition of The New York Times (page ST-4):

From the time he was 10, Jeff Wilpon had been eager — maybe too eager — to follow his father. At that age he carried a homemade business card identifying himself as Director of Construction. His father, Fred Wilpon, was an owner of Sterling Equities, a real estate conglomerate he founded with his brother-in-law Saul Katz.

In 1980, when Jeff was a high school senior in Roslyn, N.Y., his father and uncle bought the Mets. Jeff was so gung-ho to join the front office that he gave up every boy’s dream — a potential career as a professional athlete. He had been drafted by the Montreal Expos out of college and believes he could have started at catcher in the major leagues, he said, but quit after one spring training session to join the family business.

“I always knew I wanted to do what my dad did,” he said, sitting, like his father, with legs crossed in Fred Wilpon’s office in Sterling Plaza, on Fifth Avenue at 47th Street. From time to time, his father glanced dotingly at him.

So there you have it — Jeff was drafted by Expos, as we confirmed, but his pro experience consisted of “one spring training session”. Now it makes sense that Moby Benedict didn’t remember him — Jamestown was in the NY-Penn League, a short-season rookie league that doesn’t begin play until June. By then, Jeff was long gone from the Montreal system and getting himself comfy in the Mets’ front office.

Though, I’m not sure what “one spring training session” means. I can tell you that after my own college career, I spent a few weeks at MLB spring training camps warming up minor league pitchers and playing in some scrimmages as a means of trying out. However, I do not label that experience as “professional”, since, technically, I wasn’t under contract and didn’t play in an official game. But maybe someone else would interpret that differently. Although it would certainly help my baseball instruction business if I told people I “played for the Sarasota White Sox”, I wouldn’t feel right saying it because, to me, it’s simply not true. But furthermore, I don’t want to gain clients because they think I played pro ball — I want them to come to me because they’ve heard I do a great job teaching baseball. You don’t have to be a pro ballplayer to be a good teacher — as they say, “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach”.

Similarly, there’s no correlation between playing baseball and running a professional franchise. In fact, I’m not sure there is another COO in MLB who has baseball playing experience above the Little League level. And if there is, who cares? What would it have to do with managing a $500M – $1 billion business?

But I digress. What I wanted to do today was present evidence that suggests that Jeff Wilpon spent some time (hours? days? weeks) in the Montreal Expos spring training camp in 1983. How you want to interpret that is up to you — and how Sterling Equities wants to describe it, is, obviously, up to them.

Shea What?

About the Author

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.

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