Over the years, Dick Monfort (BA-76) has pursued his passion for athletics in many different arenas: first as a fan, then as a competitor on UNC’s Hall-of-Famer ‘72/’73 Swimming & Diving Team, and now as owner and CEO of the Colorado Rockies. With pro baseball just starting to get into full swing, Mr. Monfort took some time to give us an exclusive look into the team’s approach to the 2014 season and explain how his time at UNC was instrumental in shaping his professional philosophy.
Are there any key takeaways from last season that have really helped shape your approach to this season?
After the season, you always take some time to reflect on what went well and what you need to improve on for next year. Then, when you’ve finished that assessment, it’s time to dive right in and take action, start making definitive steps toward the place you want to be.
It’s my belief that, at our core, we’re a strong offensive team. We’ve done a good job of showcasing that in our home games, but that talent hasn’t always shone through on the road. So we’ve spent a lot of time working on a new approach to get that consistency we’ve been looking for. Things like getting more ground balls, having more power arms in the bullpen, and pitching to contact have been major areas of focus for us.
What are you most excited about this season?
The development of our players. We have several extremely talented, young guys on our roster who are ready to step up to that next level and start playing to their true potential, so I’m really excited to see how that plays out on the field. Our third baseman, Nolan Arenado, and our catcher, Wilin Rosario are going to be players to watch. I also think our starting pitching this year is some of the best in our team’s history. Some of our other young guys—Tyler Chatwood, Chad Bettis, and Juan Nicasio—are all showing a lot of promise in that respect.
What would you say are some of the qualities that really define the Rockies as an organization and set them apart?
I think we’re more fan-driven than any other team in the sport. We think of every one of those 3 million people that come through the gate as our very best customers and we try to make sure that we have everything in line so they can have the best experience possible—from the quality of our park to the character of our players.
That attitude of respect and support is reflected in our interactions within the organization as well: everybody calls each other by their first names, nobody is afraid to approach a colleague to work out a solution to a problem, and we just have a tremendous amount of trust in each other. The same goes for our approach to advancing the development of our players. It’s a long-term commitment. We don’t trade away our young guys just to get somebody that can help us out for a month. We try to keep them within our system where they can truly progress and grow.
Are there elements of your own experience as a student-athlete at UNC that inform the Rockies’ commitment to their players?
You know, I had a great experience at UNC and I think so much of what I did there, inside and outside the classroom, has had a lasting impact on who I am today. I competed as a collegiate swimmer and played just about every intramural sport I could. Now those are different games and different levels of play, but I think having that opportunity to experience athletics from the standpoint of a competitor has been hugely beneficial.
Nobody likes to talk about it, but nervousness, and making mistakes are all a part of playing the game. I felt those butterflies first-hand when I was competing. Being able to understand what it’s like to compete under those conditions is a huge asset, because if you think of your players as robots who can just go out and make it happen every time without fail you’re never going to take the necessary steps to prepare them for those high-pressure situations. With coverage of games and commentary on individuals’ performances extending into more and more media platforms that anxiety isn’t going away. Baseball has increasingly become a game of confidence and the mentorship and leadership structures we’ve set in place are going to keep us out ahead of that.
Do you see that same ethic of support reflected in your relationship with UNC and your ongoing Bears fandom?
Like I said, I loved UNC as a student, as an athlete, as a fraternity president, and as a member of the community. I still love it today. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished by embracing who we are and leveraging those unique qualities into some of our biggest assets. That approach takes a lot of hard, coordinated effort and I’m always excited to see what we’ll be able to do next.
Thank you for taking the time to share these insights with us! For more information on Mr. Monfort and his ongoing work as chairman of UNC’s Board of Trustees, visit the board’s homepage here.
Has all this talk about UNC and the Rockies made you want to get together with your fellow Bears for a day at the ballpark? You’re in luck! Registration is now open for the UNC Alumni Association’s Second Annual Picnic at the Rockies on 6/8.
Get registered now for a day of good food, fellowship, and family-friendly fun! You can check out our photo gallery from last year’s event to get a sneak peek into the excitement that’s in store for you.
Looking for a meaningful way to make your mark on UNC athletics? Our 6th Annual Women’s Walk on 4/26 isn’t just a critical fundraiser supporting student-athletic scholarships, it’s a chance for you to personally interact with all the players, coaches, and staff who make our programs great.
Get signed up here, then head over to the UNCAA Facebook page to browse our official photo gallery from the 2013 event.