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But with Greenberg, it's more guile and guts than genius.
Over drinks with Lemieux's agent, Greenberg offered to help smooth out some wrinkles the hockey star was having with contractors building his new home. Greenberg saw to it that the house was finished without flaw, and he soon became Lemieux's personal attorney. From there he grew into roles as the Penguins' outside counsel, negotiating TV deals and overseeing a project to renovate their Pittsburgh Civic Center.
In Pittsburgh, Greenberg not only helped save the Penguins but also oversaw the building of the new Consol Energy Center arena scheduled to open in September with every luxury suite already sold. In Arlington his mission is much less complex: Leave alone baseball's most talented young players while convincing fans to return to Rangers Ballpark.
"He knows business," Ryan says. "But what I like about him is he knows baseball."
Greenberg fell in love with the game through his father, through his aunt Florence and, mostly, through Clemente, the five-tool star who led the Pirates to the 1971 World Series before dying in a plane crash in 1972 on a trip to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
"He was the man. Could do it all," says Greenberg, whose boyhood Clemente poster has hung in his St. Clair bedroom the last 30 years. "When he died, my childhood sort of ended with him. But it comes back at the ballpark."
In 2002, Greenberg's youthful obsessions with baseball and the Pirates morphed into a business enterprise. He led an ownership group that bought Pittsburgh's Double A affiliate, the Altoona Curve, and for six years served as managing general partner and president. He did everything from negotiating corporate contracts to once helping the grounds crew pull the tarp over the field on a rainy night.
Buoyed by Greenberg's innovative promotions and fan-friendly amenities such as state-of-the-art scoreboards and video screens, the Curve set minor-league attendance records and, in 2006, received the Johnson Award as minor-league baseball's best overall organization.
"We didn't have winning teams, but we still set attendance records," Greenberg says. "That's something I'm proud of."
Greenberg sold the Curve in 2008, but still owns the State College Spikes in Pennsylvania and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in South Carolina. The Spikes' home—Medlar Field at Lubrano Park near Penn State University—became in 2006 the country's first ballpark that was LEED-certified, an independent assessment that verifies that a building meets the highest standards in environmental and energy design. At Myrtle Beach he spent $2.5 million in upgrades to BB&T Coastal Field, including a section of sandy, waterfront seats dubbed "Pelican's Beach."
As a minor-league owner of three franchises over eight years, Greenberg has proven he can have success at the small levels. Rather than a billionaire spontaneously dabbling in a high-profile hobby, he's a passionate apprentice who's paid his dues. But can he play amongst Major League Baseball's big boys? The man with that answer resides right under our noses, after growing up just down the street.
Greenberg and Mark Cuban lived about three miles apart in Pittsburgh, attended the same synagogue —Temple Emanuel—and developed similar styles. No, Greenberg won't watch games from the dugout or take pre-game infield with players, but he is, like Cuban, a perceptive salesman who's skilled in the art of listening.
"Mark's certainly someone I look up to," Greenberg says. "If I have a question or an idea, I'm not afraid to shoot him an e-mail. I value his advice."
Cuban's heavy, hands-on style has led the Mavericks to 10 consecutive playoff seasons of 50-plus victories and an NBA-high sellout streak of 359 games at AAC. And, yes, he sees a little of himself in Greenberg.
"Yeah, in a lot of ways he does remind me of me," Cuban says. "He puts the fan first, and he likes to make sure they have fun. I think he is going to be great for the Rangers, and I have told him I am happy to help in any way I can. And he has come to a ton of Mavs games as well, so I think he is making a commitment to support all sports in the town."
There is, however, one chasm between the two.
"He is a lawyer," Cuban jokes. "As my daughter would say, 'Ewwww.'"
It is December 15, 2009, and after an eight-month search, Hicks selects Greenberg's ownership bid over groups led by Houston businessman Jim Crane and former high-profile sports agent Dennis Gilbert. Greenberg's bid, at $530 million, isn't the highest, but is by far the healthiest in that it allows Ryan to remain in place as the face of the franchise and the organization's most powerful baseball decision-maker.
Greenberg, who immediately begins making plans for a permanent move to the metroplex, is scatty over the purchase of a baseball team that has exactly one playoff game victory in 38 years, hasn't been to the post-season this millennium and in recent years has absorbed staggering declines in attendance and relevance. His plan to include Ryan in his ownership group has proven a stroke of smarts, as any credibility and goodwill the Rangers have accrued the past two seasons could've instantly dissolved if Ryan left.
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