By Charlie Vascellaro • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
The first thing that came to mind upon hearing that 45-year-old Josh Rawitch was hired as the new president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame (he was 44 when it was announced) is how young he seems to be.
Like his predecessor (once removed) and interim President Jeff Idelson, who was 43 when he first ascended to the position in 2008, Rawitch is a baseball wunderkind, having worked in the industry since his teenage years, beginning his career as an intern with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994.
“I don’t feel that young, maybe, because I was so lucky to start so young in baseball,” Rawitch said in an exclusive interview. “I was 18 years old when I got my first internship. Often, when my mom sees my bio and it says 27 years in baseball, she says, ‘how is that possible?’ and now I’m 45, and the answer is, I started when I was 18.”
Rawitch continued to work for the Dodgers for 15 years before more recently spending 10 years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, ascending to his most recent job as president of content and communications.
Rawitch said he did not see his career moving to Cooperstown from the outset, but he can see how his career path has changed during his time in the game.
“I do remember the first time I met Jeff Idelson and learned that his background was in communications and thinking that was interesting,” said Rawitch.
Idelson said he has known Rawitch for three decades and is thrilled with his new successor.
“I could not be happier with the Board of Directors’ decision to select Josh to lead the Hall of Fame,” Idelson said. “They chose an executive whose passion and respect for the game is of the highest caliber. After 27 years in baseball, he’s built an impressive resumé and is revered inside and outside the sport. More importantly, he’s a bright, kind and inspirational leader who is perfectly suited to lead the Hall of Fame. I look forward to welcoming Josh and his family to Cooperstown.”
Rawitch credited several people who served as mentors and role models.
“Working for Derrick Hall (Diamondbacks president) over the years and seeing someone who started their career in PR ascending to a president’s role, I think I’ve always had aspirations that someday I might be able to follow in those footsteps,” Rawitch said, “but I wouldn’t say specifically that the Hall of Fame president’s job itself was one that I ever sought out or coveted. I think it really more kind of found me, I guess.”
Succeeding Tim Mead and Interim President Idelson, Rawitch is the eighth president in the Hall of Fame’s 82-year history.
“It certainly feels like (the greatest job in the industry) and I’ve had a number of people say that,” Rawitch said. “I share the sentiment, but it’s hard to believe at times that it’s actually happening. I’m hoping it’s as good as I expect it to be.”
Idelson (2008 to 2019) and his predecessor Dale Petroskey (1999 to 2008) occupied the president’s office for a full decade. Rawitch is starting the job at similar age to both Idelson (43) and Petroksey (44) and said he is planning on staying for a while.
“That’s certainly the hope (to be there for a long time). We’re not doing this for a short-term move. We really are fully committed to Cooperstown, raising our kids (daughter Emily, 13, and son Braden, 11) here and having them go through their high school years here,” he said. “You hear from so many people about what a great place it is to raise a family and we certainly think that’s going to be the case.”
Like many people who work in the baseball industry Rawitch did not have many opportunities to visit Cooperstown during the season.
“I had been to Cooperstown three times prior to the recent interview process, 2001 with family when my niece was born in Manhattan,” he said. “I came back in 2014 with my father, and brother and nephew. It was the ultimate trip to connect generations. It was also Joe Torre’s induction and I had grown up going to Joe Torre’s Baseball Camp and I worked with Joe so I wanted to see him get in and as it turned out we (the Diamondbacks) hired Tony LaRussa a couple of months before he was elected, so I was there for the two of them. I came back in 2015 for Randy Johnson with the whole front office.”
Rawitch will also be bringing a bit of Arizona baseball history with him from his previous 10-year home.
“One of the departments that I oversaw toward the end of my tenure was spring training, so I went by Salt River Fields to say goodbye to (facilities manager) Dave Dunne and his crew,” he said. “He told me he had an artifact for the Hall of Fame; when they were testing out MLB Instant Replay for the first time it was here at Salt River Fields. This baseball was the very first baseball used in the very first instant replay trial in MLB history.” Rawitch showed it to Joe Garagiola Jr. and he said, ‘this thing belongs in Cooperstown’ . “I thought, how am I going to get it to Cooperstown? Now I’ve got a way to get it to Cooperstown. Garagiola handed it to me and now I’m going to deliver my first artifact.”
Fluent in Spanish, Rawitch has served as venue press chief for the World Baseball Classic on three separate occasions and conducted media relations for international series in Mexico, China, Taiwan, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic.
“My first year as an intern at the Dodgers, Robert Schweppe was Fred Claire’s right-hand man at the Dodgers and he told me if I really wanted to work in baseball, I’d have to learn Spanish,” said Rawitch.
With a generation of Latin American players becoming increasingly eligible for induction to the Hall. it is a skill that has served Rawitch well.
“There is no doubt that you get more out of them when they are able to express themselves in ways that they can’t in another language,” Rawitch said.
Working in the industry for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks for as long as he has, it’s only a matter of time before one of the players on his teams will be inducted to the Hall.
“My wife (Erin) asked me, ‘do you think we’ll still be there when Clayton Kershaw gets inducted?’ I would be very excited for anyone I worked with to get inducted,” he said, “but Clayton is an interesting one because I was there the day he got drafted, I was there for his big league debut, and just to see what he’s become is pretty cool.