Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 5/14/12
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In the summer of 1976, a 24-year-old Stan Kasten celebrated his graduation from the Columbia University law school by treating himself to a tour of Major League Baseball parks. In St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play the Atlanta Braves, Kasten saw Ted Turner, the relatively new owner of the Braves, in the stands, and introduced himself. "He invited me to write him a letter," said Kasten. "So I did." The next thing Kasten knew, his anticipated work as an anti-trust lawyer in New York City was put on hold. He went to work in the legal department for Turner Sports, which at the time owned TBS, the Atlanta Hawks and the Braves. Now look at him. Kasten is part of the new ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and just finished up his first official week of work as the new team president. "I was reading an article one day and it said, 'Dodgers President Stan Kasten,'" Kasten said with an impish smile. "I told my wife, read this. She started to read it and asked, 'How much do I have to read?' I told her, 'Just the first four words.' It all seems so unbelievable." Kasten isn't some gee-whiz guy. At the age of 27 he was the youngest general manager in the NBA. He is the only person in history to be president of three professional franchises at the same time, becoming president of the NBA's Hawks in April of 1986, the NL's Atlanta Braves in November of 1986, and then the expansion NHL Atlanta Thrashers in November of 1999. When the Lerner family purchased the Washington Nationals, who had been under the direction of Major League Baseball, Kasten became the team president in 2006, where he built off of the principles that allowed the Braves to a record 14 consecutive first-place finishes. Exciting as all that was, now he's been given the challenge of reestablishing the Dodgers. This is a franchise that became the butt of jokes during the nightmarish ownership of Frank and Jamie McCourt. The ownership ended in a divorce, bankruptcy, and a pro sports record-setting 2.15 billion sale to a group that includes Kasten, Los Angeles sports icon Magic Johnson, movie executive Peter Guber, and Guggenheim Partners. "This is a terrific franchise, an iconic franchise, a lot of history and tradition," Kasten said. "This franchise's roots in the community and with its fan base are as deep as any team in baseball.'' It's a matter of nurturing those roots so the franchise can blossom again. The early days of 2012 have been good to the Dodgers, on the field and off. The ownership fiasco has been straightened out, and the Dodgers have established themselves as the team to beat in the NL West. Kasten, however, is not lulled into satisfaction by what is happening. He is busy getting himself updated on the entire operation, evaluating not only baseball but also business personnel, and also making the players aware of what he feels they owe the franchise and fan base. On Friday afternoon, for example, the Dodger players came in from batting practice to find two autographed Magic Johnson Lakers jerseys in their lockers. One was personalized. The other was for donation to charity. And in an ensuing meeting with the players, Kasten "The good news is this is May, so I have a whole season to observe and learn," said Kasten. "They have done and are doing a lot of good things here, and my challenge is to observe and see where I can pitch in and help the organization." There's one thing that goes without saying. The Dodgers are going to return to their baseball roots. From his days in Atlanta, Kasten learned the value of having impactful scouting and farm departments, creating a home-grown foundation. "With Atlanta, we didn't sign our first big-time free agent (pitcher Greg Maddux) until after we were in two World Series," said Kasten. "Really, free agency is significant for the last piece of the puzzle. It doesn't help you build the foundation." It is the same basic plan that Kasten implemented in Washington, where this year the Nationals are beginning to reap the benefits of the harvest from the farm. "There is nothing more exciting for fans than to have home-grown talent that is successful," he said. It is happening in Washington right now. It has happened in Atlanta. "But we didn't invent that plan in Atlanta," Kasten said. "Know who invented it? The Dodgers. Branch Rickey, back in Brooklyn. We had in Atlanta and I feel we have here a secret ingredient and that's an ownership that understands it. It's willing to give the time and resources to build the foundation. "And we have an ownership with deep enough pockets to improve things at the major-league level and on a long-term basis at the same time. It's not an eitheror thing." Being part of the Dodgers was not an eitheror thing for Kasten, either. When he resigned in Washington nearly two years ago, he had a flurry of employment opportunities given his legal background and the fact he had been involved not only in running sports franchises in the multiple sports, but also his work with TBS Sports. "Once I saw the possibility of the situation with the Dodgers, I decided I was not going to get involved in anything else until I saw the (purchase effort) through," he said. "People would ask me, 'Why?' Simple. It was my dream gig. It's the Dodgers. I mean, the Dodgers. To me that explained it all." For Kasten, the dream came true.
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