Posted by Lauren Sager
On Oct. 25 Skidmore graduate Rick Shapiro '77 came to the college to speak to students, faculty and community members about his career in the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). At 4 p.m., he led a discussion on sports business, career entry and paths and labor-management relations in Emerson Auditorium.
At 7 p.m. in Gannet Auditorium, Shapiro held a lecture titled, "Power and Influence in the Context of Business and Sports." The management and business department, the athletic department and career services sponsored Shapiro's visit.
In the first part of the lecture, Shapiro briefly explained the purpose of the MLBPA, as a "labor union under federal labor laws." According to Shapiro, it is not only the most powerful union in sports, but also the most powerful union in the U.S.
The union was founded in 1965 when the average salary of a professional baseball player was about $6,000. While star players don't necessarily need representation, there are many players who do, especially those who make minimum salaries on split contracts between the major and minor leagues.
The remainder of the lecture was dedicated to questions from the audience. During the question period, Shapiro spoke about his experience of watching sports now that he is in the industry.
He said, "Watching baseball was simple growing up. I rooted for the Mets, and it didn't matter who was on the Mets. I rooted for the uniform. Now I watch baseball differently because I know many of the players and cannot help but root for them. Watching a game can easily turn into a work situation."
Then he explained why he believes that approximately 800 professional baseball players should make more than their average $3 million per year: baseball players can be traded at any time and move to a new city within 48 hours, it takes them longer to achieve free agency than it does for a professional athlete in any other sport and they can be sent down to the Minor league at any point in the season.
Shapiro also spent a portion of the lecture reminiscing his time at Skidmore. When he began his career at Skidmore in 1973, he was one of the few male students and asked the administration to put up a rim and backboard for him and his friends.
He lived on the seventh floor of Jonsson Tower and was a government major. At the time, he had no intentions of entering the sports industry and only took one business class in his time at Skidmore.
Shapiro has been with MLBPA for close to a year, where he holds the senior executive position. Before joining the association, he represented professional baseball and hockey players as a long-time arbitration consultant. Shapiro holds a degree from Brooklyn Law School and has served as an attorney for many players and player agents in hockey, baseball and other sports.