Lewis Wolff has always been a patient man. Going all the way back to his days in Wisconsin as a young boy, he was never known to be overly temperamental or one to get too worked up. Maybe it was that same patience that allowed Billy Beane to pull off all of those wacky moves all the way back in 2002 to start playing a brand of “Moneyball” that the league had never seen before. Yet even the most lenient men run out of rope to give sometimes.
Nobody gets into sports to lose. When you think back to the glory days of childhood, of yourself playing ball in the backyard with your buddies on those summer evenings, the fondest moments are always the grand slams in the bottom of the 9th to eke out the win, or the fadeaway jumper that scorched the net as you counted down “3…2…1…”. Of course, you can’t win them all. For every home run on those glorious nights, you can probably recall one hundred more groundouts. Lewis Wolff is tired of grounding out in the bottom of the 9th.
Maybe it was the third straight losing season that inspired him. Maybe it was the latest pre-season rankings that placed his beloved Oakland A’s squarely in dead last. Maybe it was the rumors of the rifts in the locker room among some of his best players. Maybe it’s that the list of his best players keeps dwindling down to naught. It’d be impossible to say why with certainty, but some nasty combination of those very things led Athletic’s owner Lewis Wolff to pull the trigger and make a switch at General Manager on opening day of spring training of all days.
He had options. Rumors swirled that after evaluating person after person, the Athletics brass narrowed it down to three. After weeks of interviews, résumés and hard decisions, one man stood out amongst the trio. Gage Horn was not the most experienced candidate, nor the most talented. In fact, he had the least lengthy background amongst nearly every man who was interviewed and tested. Yet time after time, every time the front office interacted with Horn they were left with a feeling of wonder.
It’s not that he always knew the right things to say because frankly, he often said exactly what you’d not want to hear. Other candidates came adorned in full suit and loafers while Horn would show up in jeans, boots and his favorite blue flannel. The true magic came when he opened his mouth to speak.
When he tasked with tough questions about his take on managerial processes and his overall vision for the ball club, he would expound and illustrate his vision with such burning passion it could only be compared to that of an old time preacher shouting fire and brimstone at his weary congregation on a Sunday morning.
Many white collar folks don’t particularly like passion. Routine and repetition are far more intriguing to them. The wanderlust and adventurer in them often dies and reincarnates as trusty dependability and stability. Wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, repeat, pay taxes, die.
So when this fiery young mind showed up in Oakland preaching a vision so grand you couldn’t help but giggle, many of the A’s office staff didn’t take it so kindly. A’s owner Lewis Wolff however was awe struck. He’d spent the last decade listening to General Manager candidates ramble on about their fiscal responsibility, how they intended to marginally improve the record and get 7% more fans in the seats. Yawn.
Wolff himself has always been an adventurer. It’s how he found himself from meager beginnings in Wisconsin to the big city of Los Angeles where he founded his first company that later sold for millions. That internal longing for adventure took him over the world with that wealth and finally somewhere along the line landed him in the driver’s seat of the Oakland Athletics baseball club, a dream he’d had since he was a boy – to own a baseball team.
So when Gage Horn waltzed in with his oversized passion and the head knowledge to match, Wolff knew he’d found his guy.