Shapiro's generation next shares ideas across 2 sports

The Baltimore Sun

The first family of sports management convened an impromptu meeting on the field at Oriole Park the other day.

Mark Shapiro, the general manager of the Cleveland Indians, and his brother-in-law, Eric Mangini, the coach of the New York Jets, carried on an animated conversation near the visitors' dugout, while Ron Shapiro, who wears too many hats to fit them all into a tidy paragraph, beamed like a proud father nearby.

That's because he is a very proud father and a very proud father-in-law.

"The ultimate satisfaction standing here right now is watching them exchange ideas," Ron said. "They'll both be better for it."

They don't appear, at first glance, to have a lot in common. Mark is a little bit GQ. Eric is a little more regular Joe. Mark is a lifelong baseball guy. Eric is a football animal.

Ron, of course, is the Baltimore attorney who represented Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray and just about every other Oriole of note during the team's better days. He's also an expert corporate negotiator and author and presides over a large family that includes several other accomplished children who just happened to pick professions outside the media spotlight.

They all grew up around baseball, but Mark worked his way up through the Indians front office to become one of the most respected young executives in the game. He replaced John Hart as GM in 2001 and was named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News in 2005.

Eric, who met Ron's daughter Julie when he was a young assistant coach with the relocating Cleveland Browns, was the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots before becoming the youngest head coach in the NFL a year ago. In his first season, the Jets reached the playoffs and he was named 2006 AFC Coach of the Year.

No wonder Ron is beaming. He even gets a little misty-eyed when Mangini saunters away - unprompted - to spend a few minutes with the family of a young patient from Johns Hopkins who is on the field to meet some of the Indians.

"They are both good men, and that's good enough," he said. "Being a top executive in sports is not important. They succeed because they build character into the equation."

It's no surprise that the conversation has come around to Ron Shapiro's philosophy of success, which starts with character and emphasizes long-term relationships over short-term results.

His ability to network on both sides of baseball's labor-management dynamic made him an important liaison at several junctures in the game's difficult collective bargaining history. His philosophy of relationship-based negotiation is laid out in his well-regarded 2001 book, The Power of Nice.

So, it should also come as no surprise that Mangini considers him an important factor in his growth as a football coach.

"He's a great resource," Mangini said. "I don't know if I can cite one example, because I learn from Ron all the time. I learn from Mark, too. There are so many different areas of experience to draw from. ... I love his organizational approach and the tremendous insight he gives me."

Mark agrees that the family connection creates a unique environment where the baseball GM and the football coach can feel comfortable sharing information and personal management concepts that they would be reluctant to talk about with other executives in their own sports.

"The greatest thing about the cross-sport relationship is that there is no competitive aspect," Mark Shapiro said. "There's no competitive advantage to be taken. There are limitations on what transfers from sport to sport, but we are able to share what works and doesn't work."

Ron clearly enjoys his role as accomplished family patriarch, but he insists that the transfer of wisdom travels in all directions. He is finishing a new book, Dare to Prepare, which includes interviews with Eric and Mark as well as many other successful celebrities about the importance of good preparation.

"I interviewed Eric, and when I finished the interview, I said to my co-writer, 'Wow, that's everything we preach and believe in,' " Shapiro said. "He reinforces for me everything I believe in. That's the big thing. He's brilliant. They are both brighter than I am."

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

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