Selig tells dairy community to stay strong, persevere

Dairy Business Association
Bud Selig speaks at the fourth annual Dairy Strong conference, hosted by the Dairy Business Association, at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center.

MADISON — When faced with challenges, farmers and others in the dairy community can borrow from Major League Baseball Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig’s leadership playbook: fight back and don’t quit.

“To get a baseball team in Milwaukee, we tried four times before we succeeded,” Selig told hundreds of attendees at the fourth annual Dairy Strong conference, hosted by the Dairy Business Association, at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center. “To be a good leader, you must not be afraid to act, you must not be afraid of failure and you must not be afraid of success.” 

Selig, who served as baseball commissioner from 1992 to 2015, brought baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970 after purchasing the Seattle Pilots. A Milwaukee native and a lifelong baseball fan, Selig said he was devastated when the Braves moved from the city to Atlanta in 1965.

“From then, it was my goal to bring baseball back to Milwaukee. Wishing does not make dreams come true. Dreams can come true if you dedicate yourself to making them true,” Selig said. “Giving up your dream may make you more friends, but you won’t succeed. Good leadership requires vision and courage and those are the values I applied to my life in baseball.”

Jessica Pralle, a sales representative with STgenetics, a sponsor of Selig’s presentation, found his words to be inspiring. “His message was all about being resilient and that it takes hope, faith, vision and courage to be a successful leader.”

While commissioner, Selig led Major League Baseball through multiple upheavals, including the 1994 player strike and a steroid scandal.

“When I took over baseball, it had many problems and something needed to be done. As commissioner, I knew what needed to be done,” he said. “We got knocked down, but we got up and kept going. Trying new things takes courage.”

That included his actions during the labor stoppage. Selig said the amount of money baseball clubs could spend on players was unfair, with teams from larger markets being able to dominate the playoffs since they had more dollars to put toward salaries. 

“Calling off the 1994 World Series due to the players strike was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” he said. 

It took until April 1995 to get an agreement that brought players back to the ballparks. 

“The revenue sharing agreement helped create a level playing field. Everyone could start out the season with the hope their team could make the playoffs,” Selig said.

Regarding steroid abuse in baseball, Selig was inspired by the words on a plaque that sat on President Truman’s desk: The Buck Stops Here.

“It was a challenging issue to deal with and many people complained when I gave former Senator (George) Mitchell the authority to investigate the issue, but we came out of it stronger. We took his recommendations and implemented them,” Selig said.

“All of the difficult decisions we made, made the sport stronger. Attendance is up at ballparks, there hasn’t been a work stoppage in 27 years and all teams can be competitive. Leading is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work, but I am fortunate I was able to live my dreams.”