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Interview With Royals VP Mike Swanson

Thanks to Mike Swanson and Royals for the opportunity to interview him last week -JZ

Who made the decision to cancel FanFest and concentrate on the All-Star Game? There have been several different reports. Was it the Royals decision or did come from MLB?

This was a Royals decision. Quite frankly, the All-Star Game Fan Fest will be such a huge event. Parts of the All-Start Game Fan Fest will have parts or elements of our [Royals] past Fan Fests. It was an organizational decision. It is one of those things. There just wasn't enough man hours to put one of those things on [Royals Fan Fest] and still be able to get all the All-Star Game work accomplished to put on a show this summer. In this one case, in this one winter's case, it was the right thing to do.

What community events are currently planned for the All-Star?

It is an on going process on right now. We don't specific dates and times. Fan Fest itself will begin on the Friday. We are having meetings every month with major league baseball. They are coming here. We are going to New York. Between the Fan Fest, the 5K run, a potential concert, home run derby, futures game, celebrity softball game, parade, gala at the ball park the night of the home run derby. There is just a ton of events. The All-Star Game fantasy camp. The major sponsors of the All-Star Game, Fox and ESPN, will be putting on functions around the city. While everything is not nailed down, it is going to be a really hectic and busy week to 10 days.

Any idea when season ticket holders will find out their ticket packet options?

No firm date yet. We are hoping sometime in February and March is when we will have the tickets on sale. Right now we have everyone working it. There are so many things that have to go into place. If you have a season ticket for the Royals, you will have the opportunity to get the All-Star Game ticket strip. That is a guarantee. It is a matter now to figure out how many tickets go to MLB, Fox, how many go to the sponsors, how many are available for public consumption, the breakdown of seats we need for ESPN, seats for Fox's TV cameras. There is just a lot of things that need to be done between now and when the decision needs to be finalized.

Since contractually, not quite every game is broadcast, what are the main factors that go into deciding which ones don't make it?

It is a 142 game contact. 2 exhibition games, 140 regular season games. It is set with the pay scale on the contract with our rights. The decision is made by Fox with our input to appoint. A lot has to do with where they have equipment. If you notice with their TV schedule, a lot of the September games are not on because we are competing with college football in those areas. The time is going to come when we will be playing some meaningful September games and we will have more telecasts. The one thing I will tell you is that we will have 6 exposures on Fox national this summer. They [FSKC] will add 6 more telecats to the program. We are going to have to have more September telecasts than in the past. That eliminates 6 games the FSKC can't televise. So, of the 162 games, only 156 are available for them to choose from for the 140 games.

Over the last couple of years, the September TV games seem to be really few and far between. Can they fix that if the team ended up competing in September?

I think in the contract there is an out. That is where I think common sense will enter into things. If we are not scheduled to televise a game, but it will factor into the race, I think conversations between the two entities will fit it in and make it work. It is just a matter of dealing with the financial aspect of it because with every telecast, there is a rights fee for it. We hopefully will find a way to make it work. When that time comes, I am sure very reasonable men will get into the room or get on the phone and talk about it and get it figured out.

Is there anything the Royals can do to get the blackout restrictions lifted in TV markets that don't carry the FSKC broadcasts?

That is beyond the ball club. The blackout rules are sketchy at best, but those decisions are made back east.

Why was Frank White dropped from the broadcast team, and how much say did the Royals have in that decision, as opposed to FSKC?

It was a collaborative decisions. It was made by both parties. I have said it on more than one occasion and I will repeat it. It was not something that was done on a whim or an over night decision. A lot of conversations were had. There is a lot more to this story than anyone will ever know. It was a business decision and we will stick with that.

Since you were a statistician with MNF, what do you think of advanced stats and their place in evaluating players?

They [advanced stats] are fine to a point, we have 2 guys that work upstairs with Dayton. They are the baseball guys that do advanced metrics and all the numbers used for that. I am an old timer in the game. I am still a very strong firm believer in watching and seeing what you see every night. Metrics are nice for guys that put numbers on papers. I am a statistician, have been my whole life in one phase or another, but I am a firm believer in watching the games played and taking it in. Not taking in what I see on a computer.

After perceived hostility regarding the online blogging community, what (if any) change was there in relation to how the organization was going to deal with the growing fan base that was taking to the internet and writing about the team through less than formal channels?

I do not know where this hostility came from. This is new to me; the hostility between bloggers and us. We have opened up to blogger nights at the ball park and try to be informative as we can with people. We are going to continue having blogger nights. There is no hostility. It is not an accurate portrayal in any way what so ever.

How did Blog Your Way to the K get started?

Us reacting and realizing that it is more than just the general media that covers an event. Us recognizing that there is a lot of people out there that have opinions and it is basically our way of given those individuals, or a percentage of those individuals -- you can't have everyone here as a blogger -- we can try to get as many as we can over the course of a year or years to come, an opportunity to have informed opinions. It is one thing to sit at a computer, see what you saw on TV or read what you read in some other publication and form an opinion on them. That is fine. That is what opinions are. But if you would like to ask questions to people who have actually made those decisions as their lively hood, that is what Blog Your Way to the K is, an opportunity to come out an ask Dayton Moore what his thoughts are and why he did this. Ask Ned Yost what his thoughts are and why he did this. It gives us an opportunity to allow some people to get some informed opinions.

How has Blog Your Way to the K been received by upper management?

Everyone has been fine with it. It has been a very positive experience. We have made plans to do it a couple of more times this year. I think we will do it from this point forward. We will select the dates when the year goes on and promote them from within our website. We will do 6-8 people on a couple of occasions. It is a thing you can't do an abundant number of times because the people we need to make available to do something like this have to have their schedules cleared. You have to make sure Dayton is around. Make sure Ned doesn't have anything pressing. We open up his schedule up for that night. We still feel like it is something important to do and we aren't going to back off from doing it.

Does the media relations staff look at the blogs to get a pulse of the fans?

We glance it. We will read on occasion. There are times I will go on and read. There are times I won't. I don't have a schedule to do it. Sometimes I will hear about something that is written and go look at it when I have an opportunity and time to read. There is a lot out there. I don't have enough hours in the day and others don't also have the time to read all of it. But when we have an opportunity, we will look at it.

What are the most challenging PR situations that you have had to deal with?

That is a memory bank tester. There have been a lot of things that have happened in my career. I had an owner fired in Arizona while on the job. I had the whole 9-11 disaster when we were leading our division in Arizona. [I've] had the various assortment of player get in trouble with the law, but have had the good fortune of that not happening since I have been here. There are a lot of things that happen over the course of your career. You have to take a step back, take a deep breath, and think things through slowly. For one isolated incident, I don't think I can pull one out of my hat.

How awkward was it to have Tony Pena Jr. out of the lineup on his bobble head day?

Yea, you have to roll with with it. Things happen. When I was with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Florida Marlinshad Matt Mantei bobble head night and he wasn't even on the team any more. He was with us on the Diamondbacks. Things just happen. You have to plan things out longer than the night before to see if the guy is or isn't in the lineup. It has to be planned out months in advance. In the past, people didn't understand that aspect of our business. It takes time to plan everything you do. You just don't wake up one morning and say we are going to have a bobble head night and have it that night. Sometimes things happen.

Dayton seems to be an illusive character, what is something we don't know about him besides his love for sweater vests?

I don't know how illusive he is. I don't have a problem chasing him down. He is very business like. He is organized. He is a detailed orientated individual who knows his stuff. He has more contacts in the game then anyone I have been around in a long, long time. He has made fantastic in roads with a lot of people in baseball. His passion for what he does and the passion for the people that work with him may be unmatched with the other GMs I have ever worked with. I have worked with a ton in the game.

He has a low, if no, ego. It's all about team. The guys that are out there doing the grunt work to make this organization look good. Turning every rock over for a player's perspective. He was one of those guys. He respects and understands what those guys do. It didn't take much for me to come from another organization to work with a man like that. He is all baseball and knows his stuff.