By OCinSite At-Large | February 22, 2011 10:31 AM
By Brett Callahan | Photos by Challenge Roddie | Newport Beach Magazine, Mar.2011
Scott Boras isn’t a name that sits well with many baseball fans. The most powerful agent in all of sports is a masterful negotiator who consistently acquires top dollar for his clients, which has disgruntled fans blaming Scott for tarnishing America’s game.
His agency history is one of record-shattering and controversial deals. In 1988 he stunned league officials by negotiating the largest rookie signing bonus in baseball history for pitcher Andy Benes. In 1997 he advised draft pick J.D. Drew not to accept a $3-million offer from the Philadelphia Phillies and had Drew instead play a season of independent league baseball before re-entering the draft the following year to receive nearly three times his original offer, this time from the St. Louis Cardinals. This forced Major League Baseball to change the “amateur draft” to the “First Year Player Draft,” in order to cope with the loophole Scott found Drew. In 2006, Scott negotiated the largest pitcher’s contract ever by netting $126 million for Barry Zito, a player he compared to Sandy Koufax, with the San Francisco Giants. While the Giants recently won the World Series, Zito was left off the playoff roster after winning less than 10 games for the first time since his rookie season. He remains one of the highest-paid pitchers in the game.
“Our primary interest is what our clients think and what the people in our industry think,” Scott says. “We fully expect fans to want the best for their teams. I want them being emotional about their team, as long as they’re interested in the game. Our job is to represent athletes. I wake up every morning thinking about my fiduciary duty to my clients. I don’t represent a brick or a company, I represent a person who trusts me.”
Despite some fan’s distaste for Scott’s contracts, he takes comfort in the gratitude he receives from his own faithful fan base: his players. As the first baseball agent to eclipse the $50-million, $100-million and $200-million contract marks, Scott does right by his clients. Outfielder Jayson Werth (seven years, $126-million), first baseman Prince Fielder (one year, $15.5-million), and relief pitcher Rafael Soriano (three years, $35-million) are just some of Scott’s most recent negotiating successes.
“To understand your client is the single most important thing you can do to benefit them in a negotiation,” Scott says. “That sounds simple, but it’s the hardest part of the negotiating process. If you understand your client, you’re really going to understand the levels of importance of the various things that you’re negotiating for on their behalf.”
A dependable agent must understand the intricacies of an ever-changing value of a player’s talents, know the player’s character, and stay up-to-date on marketplace projections and team needs. Scott’s representation company, the Boras Corporation, oversees the contracts of roughly 70 major league players and a similar amount in the minor league and amateur ranks. As a credit to his former self—a child who spent every free moment on the baseball diamond—the 58-year-old Scott has decided to exclusively represent baseball players, despite pleas from other sports that want his skills at the negotiating table.
“Our goal was that we wanted to be the best at something, and I couldn’t feel that we would be the best at something if we started representing multiple sports,” Scott says.
Scott is living proof that life rarely works out the way one plans it, regardless of the negotiating strategy. Growing up on a farm in Elk Grove, right outside Sacramento, Scott—like most boys—dreamed of grazing the outfield of a major league ballpark some day. Unlike most boys though, Scott actually had the talent and drive to make that a realistic goal.
As a farmhand with a full day’s worth of chores on his family’s dairy ranch, Scott was forced to manage time efficiently.
“I had to get my [farm] work done by 5 p.m., so I could go play ball,” Scott says. “It was a great experience in the sense that I was always busy.”
The youthful craze of managing schoolwork, the farm and his passion for baseball set the course for what is now an elite career that demands around-the-clock attention in order to thrive. Before he became “Scott Boras the uber-agent,” though, he was “Scott Boras the ballplayer.”
Scott attracted enough attention as an outfielder in high school to garner a collegiate career at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., where he made a name for himself as a team captain and an All-American. The minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs would follow right after. Four minor league seasons and three knee surgeries later, Scott’s career was over before he could make it to “the bigs” and fully realize his childhood dream.
Taking the earnings he made while playing in the minors, Scott enrolled back at his alma mater for a law degree. Coupled with the doctorate in pharmacology he obtained while playing in the minors, Scott had the perfect background for a job as a medical litigator at a Chicago law firm. Even as Scott ultimately found the work of defending large drug companies against lawsuits to be dissatisfying, it still provided him with the legal wherewithal to fall into his next opportunity, counseling a couple unrepresented ex-teammates in contract negotiations.
What started as simply trying to help some friends soon snowballed into a dependable side gig to his day job. The more Scott dealt with contractual proceedings, the more he saw the need for stronger representation for players, and by 1986 he decided to dive into representing baseball players full time. All he’s done since then is become the most prominent (and notorious) agent on the sports landscape.
Locally, Scott represents Angels first baseman Kendry Morales and ace of the staff Jered Weaver, along with older brother Jeff Weaver of the Dodgers. After catching a game at Angel Stadium, Scott’s visiting and hometown clients head over to the Boras Corporation, tucked between Coast Highway and Fashion Island, to enjoy a meal and review game film with Scott on one of his 70-plus flat-screen TVs. Mark Teixeira sharing a beer, Manny Ramirez sipping chicken noodle soup or Matt Holliday laughing along with Scott at himself on Sportscenter’s worst-play “highlights.” Believe it or not, that’s Scott’s work environment.
Boras’ employees are baseball enthusiasts with an ability to juggle busy schedules, often working 18-hour days during the most hectic times of the year. Specialists in marketing, statistical researchers, analysts, accountants, trainers and sports psychologists compose Boras Corporation and its three ancillary companies—Boras Marketing, which handles off-field endorsements, PR and charitable opportunities; Boras Sports Training Institute, which conducts specific training sessions for Boras’ clients; and Personal Management Consultants who handle budget, estate planning and investment counseling.
The all-encompassing package Scott provides for his clients revolves around putting the client first. His goal to be the best at servicing baseball players and their families means they do not have to go to any outside sources for help with their physical, mental or financial needs.
“We provide things that no other agency can. It’s not good business to provide it because it’s costly and it doesn’t generate more business. It actually generates less,” Scott says. “But all these designs are implemented with the idea of serving our clients and hoping to better the game of baseball.”
With so many clients to visit, Scott has more or less lived on an airplane throughout his career. In 1982 he met his wife Jeanette—a Southern California native and the reason he now lives, works and plays in Newport Beach—by chance at John Wayne Airport. In what he refers to as the “toughest negotiation of his career,” a late-twenties Scott convinced Jeanette to go on a date with him, and three years later they were married. The couple has lived in Newport Beach for more than 25 years.
“I came out here on a business trip, and I met this lady at John Wayne Airport who I fell in love with,” Scott recalls. “The reason I live here has little to do with baseball and a lot to do with the fact that my wife was from here.”
Scott says he has had no need to argue the location. A man that is at the baseball stadium nearly every night of the season, Scott’s business is fortunate to have five teams in relatively close reach.
“I started my legal career in Chicago and learned the value of having major league ballparks so close to your office,” Scott says. “There we had Milwaukee, two Chicago teams, St. Louis and a few others. So now having the dynamics that parallel the Midwest, where we have two Los Angeles teams, San Diego, as well as the Bay Area clubs, it’s still easy to get to the ballpark to see my clients.”
When not traveling to ballparks, Scott and Jeanette frequent the University of Southern California campus, where all three of their children will soon be attending. Their daughter Natalie, 22, is a graduate student in communications; their oldest son Shane, 21, is a junior and on the baseball team; and their youngest Trent, a senior at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, will be joining both on the Trojans’ campus next fall as he recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball as well.
Scott’s free time may be as rare as a no-hitter, but when he does have free time, the agent partakes in the same activities as anyone else. Scott and Jeanette often head out for a movie or a show at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and follow that with dinner at Javier’s, Mastro’s Ocean Club or A Restaurant. Most of the time though, Scott is just as content in his own backyard.
“You know when you get a moonlit evening off the ocean, Newport Coast is just a special place to be,” Scott says. “You’re so proximal to a major city, and yet you can be so gloriously removed from everything.”
It’s easy to get the sense that the mini-vacations Scott has in his own local backyard are only sweetened by reflections on the road he’s traveled since he was a farm boy, managing a hectic day to allow time for baseball.
“To this day when I walk into a ballpark at 3 p.m.,” Scott says, “I’m going, ‘Man, I’m so lucky I don’t have to do farm work and get to be at the ballpark early.’ ”
The House That Boras Built
Breaking into the ranks of Major League Baseball is an accomplishment only an exclusive few are fortunate enough to experience. Super-agent Scott Boras wants to convey that exclusive feel when clients enter his impressive Newport Beach-based facility. The $20 million Boras Corporation headquarters is a two-story, 20,000-square-foot building designed by Irvine-based EBTA Architects. Gutted in 2006 and revamped to Scott’s specifications, the building is filled with amenities designed to supplement the work of staff and clients.
The building’s exterior has a dark, modern brush steel-finish that leads to the massive bank vault style door, which adds to the building’s mystique. The door has no handle, signifying that it is an elite club that players have to work hard to enter—paralleling the work ethic necessary to reach the majors.
Once inside, the facility speaks for itself.
“I think when you walk into our building you know we’re about baseball and baseball only,” Scott says.
This is evident from the first step inside, where large photos of Scott’s clients envelop the walls, and baseball literally falls from the heavens in the form of a helix of bats spiraling from the ceiling. Near the staircase is a large wall featuring hundreds of baseballs signed by his clients, and the many hallways are adorned with replica Gold Glove Awards and special accomplishment cases celebrating World Series Champions, MVPs, Cy Young winners and batting champions.
Staffers and visiting clients make use of the seemingly endless rows of flat-screen televisions, a secure server room that houses footage and statistical libraries, and a patio complete with barbecue, fireplace and pool table. The staff also has an elaborate on-site kitchen with breakfast, lunch and dinner all prepared for them by professional chefs. Additionally, they can work out, do laundry and shower on the premise to ensure a long and productive day of work.
If the Boras Corporation is trying to be the best at representing baseball’s top players, the impressive facility certainly does its best to mimic the mantra.