Most Minnesota Twins fans will remember this winter for the dramatic re-signing of All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa to a record contract. But inside the organization, another personnel move played out much more smoothly.
Laura Day, the Twins' longtime chief business officer — and one of the few people in the front office who was around for the 1991 World Series — retired. Meka Morris took the title and responsibility after spending 2022 as the club's chief revenue officer.
Day, who had two stints with the Twins over the past 31 years, along with brief sojourns to the Vikings and Wild, was one of the longest-tenured female executives in pro sports.
Morris, who has spent nearly 20 years rising through the business ranks of NFL and NBA teams, broadcasters and a tech startup, at the Twins has become one of a just a handful of Black women serving as a senior executive on any pro team in the U.S.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Laura Day," Morris said recently at a coffee shop a few blocks from Target Field. "She was a pioneer and a trailblazer."
Any job handover requires give and take, openness and finesse by the people involved. For Day and Morris, their transition happened to coincide with a revolutionary moment in Major League Baseball: Pitch clocks, bigger bases and other rules changed this year to speed up games.
The goal is to complete games in two-and-a-half hours, down from the three hours, three minutes that was last year's league average.
"The shortening of our games makes each pitch that much more interesting," Morris said. "People are sitting in the stands and really focusing on the field in a way that I think they felt less inclined to before. They could take some time and kind of mosey and they wouldn't miss a whole lot."
It also changed one of the most important tools that baseball teams had for making money — time in front of fans. It's too early to tell, Morris said, the precise effects of the rule on team revenue and the impressions that sponsors make on fans.
"There could be a tradeoff," she said. "The games may have been longer but were we losing eyeballs as the game went on versus now, with a shorter game and more energy, are we keeping people more engaged? Right now, we're 50 games or so in on this and we don't know the answer yet."
Over the last decade there's been a revolution in the way the Twins use data to measure the effect of sponsors' messages. Analytics appear to play as much a role in the front office as with players on the field.
Digital ticketing gives teams a much better understanding of who goes to games. And when a Twins batter hits a home run that makes the highlight reel on ESPN's "SportsCenter" or another show, the organization keeps track of what advertisers' signs were visible and for how long to the TV viewer. It also measures social media posts and reposts.
"Proper data holds people like us accountable," Day said.
She told Twins President and CEO Dave St. Peter in early 2021 that she planned to retire before the start of this baseball season. The club soon identified Morris as a potential successor and Day first met her via Zoom that summer.
"The connection was immediate," Day said. "We're as different as the day is long but that is what I think is our superpower. We bring those differences together and embrace them."
While one interview doesn't reveal an entire relationship, I saw in Day and Morris two people who know their business so well and admire each other so much they repeatedly finished each other's thoughts and filled in each other's stories.
For instance, as Day talked about research that showed the Twins attract a younger fan than the league average, Morris said the team's fan base is changing more quickly than is widely understood.
Morris noted that Gen Z will inherit so much money from their parents, chiefly baby boomers and Gen Xers, that "the way we're thinking about our business is shifting." That observation led Day to note that the Twins can learn lessons from airlines and other consumer-oriented companies that constantly tweak their loyalty programs and pricing.
The Twins' move in 2010 from the Metrodome to Target Field was the turning point in the financial health of the organization — and in Day's time with the team.
It gave the Twins full control over revenue-generating opportunities. At the Metrodome, there were so many corporate sponsors, some for the stadium and some for the Twins, that it diminished the effectiveness of the messaging. The team has taken a less-is-more approach at Target Field that has better served sponsors and fans, Day said.
There's one move that Day and the team made when Target Field first opened that she second-guesses today. They limited the number of season-ticket holders to 25,000, thinking that would give single-game buyers a better chance to get to the park.
But the number of season-ticket holders fell as the stadium lost its novelty and new competitive pressures emerged in pro sports. "The question I ask myself is: If we had sold more, could we have retained a higher level of season customers?" she said.
On the Twins' organizational chart, you can find the names of former players and managers who are still working as special assistants. Though retired, Day is also there as "senior advisor."
"She is at no point going to be gone as long as I'm here, whether informally or formally, because I need her to help me see," Morris said. "I need her to push me to see what I can't see on my own."
We all need that people like that, in life as well as business, she added.
"If you don't have people in your life who see the world differently, you are shortchanging everything that is the gift of being alive," Morris said.