Rob Antony was a junior at the University of Minnesota in August 1987 when the Twins hired him as a public relations intern.
“I’m not sure I aspired to a lot, right then and there,” he said. “I was just hoping to graduate, and hoping there would be a full-time job.”
More than 25 years later, the Twins promoted Antony, their assistant general manager, to vice president. After years in the closet-like confines of the Twins’ old PR department in the Metrodome anterooms, the former Minneapolis Henry High School player and lifelong Twins fan works out of a spacious office at Target Field.
“I still can’t say I aspire to anything, or that I aspired to this,” Antony said. “I really didn’t envision being in this role 25 years ago. I just hope Terry stays in his role a long time, and I get to stay in this role for a long time and we get better as a team, so they want to keep us around.”
In December, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan called Antony in for his job review. In Ryan’s informal way, he told Antony about his new title, saying something like, “I’d like you to handle this.”
Antony had moved from PR intern to PR assistant to media relations director, a destination job for many in the industry. He left that role to work in baseball operations for Ryan, meaning he entered a realm where people get fired when the team loses. He began working with minor league affiliates while learning how to scout from Ryan and other veteran talent evaluators.
“It was like starting all over again, at the bottom of the totem pole,” Antony said. “Everybody was my boss. That was fine by me, because that meant I had room to grow if I did well. I did that for about 12 years. I loved it, because I was involved in the minor league and scouting and with the major league staff. I learned so much.”
He scouted amateur players. He traveled to Australia, the Dominican Republic and The Netherlands in the Twins’ search for undiscovered talent. Soon, he was handling contract negotiations.
When Ryan stunned everyone in the organization by stepping down from the GM job in 2007, longtime assistant GM Bill Smith replaced him, and hired Antony as his assistant. The kid who grew up living and dying with the Twins, whose first job had been running quotes to the press box during the 1987 postseason, suddenly was one of the brains in the brain trust.
Antony is positioned to try to prevent the kind of burnout that caused Ryan to resign in the first place. If Ryan departs again, Antony could be in position to succeed his mentor someday.
“I was absolutely shocked when Terry stepped down, and Bill took over and they asked me to be the assistant GM,” Antony said. “That was great, but it wasn’t something I was shooting for. Before, Terry took on so much and traveled so much. When he came back I told him, look, I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”
As a kid who idolized the Twins, Antony feels added responsibility while helping run them.
“I do feel there is added pressure, because as someone who grew up a Twins fan, I know how these people feel,” Antony said. “I feel a strong, strong commitment to trying to build a winner not only for the organization and the Pohlad family, but for our fans.
“I do take it personally when things aren’t going well. It can get embarrassing. Maybe if I worked for another club and I wasn’t from there, it would feel more like a business and just a job. Here, it feels somewhat like an obligation. You’re handed this responsibility and you don’t want to let friends and fans down.
“There are so many people who live and die with us. They might not even come to the ballpark. They might be elderly people who tune in every night. I know my Mom lives and dies with us. That’s why sometimes I think about my job and think, ‘What the heck. How did this happen?’ ’’
Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • email@example.com