As millions of Americans head out to the ballpark to enjoy Major League Baseball’s Opening Day 2011 weekend, Coast Guard Compass brings you the story of a former Coast Guardsman who followed his dream to be a part of the game he loved and became one of professional baseball’s most successful front office men.
“I had read in The Sporting News that they were starting a course at Florida Southern College,” recalled Hemond during an interview with Coast Guard Compass. “It was a six-week course on baseball administration and I thought, maybe I’d explore that and go see some spring training games.”
On that fateful trip Hemond would meet Leo C. McMahon, a former professional ballplayer who lost his sight during a mustard gas attack while serving during World War I and the two men got to talking about their shared passion for the sport.
“We talked baseball for the three days I was there and he said, ‘You really like this game.’ And, I said, ‘Yeah. I love it. I would love to get into it.’”
Through McMahon, Hemond was introduced to Charlie Blossfield, general manager for the Hartford Chiefs, the farm club of the Boston Braves. Blossfield was impressed by Hemond but there was one problem. Hemond was still on active duty in the Coast Guard.
Hemond’s Coast Guard service
Hemond joined the Coast Guard on August 3, 1947, in hopes of saving money to go to college after he was discharged.
“At the time, they had compulsory military training; two years in the Army or you could join the Navy or the Coast Guard for four years. I had a brother-in-law who had served in the Coast Guard during World War II and he said ‘Roland, you’d like the Coast Guard.’ He praised it highly and I figured, well, if I could save $2,000, maybe at the end I could go to journalism school at Providence College and become a sportswriter.”
After boot camp, Hemond served aboard Coast Guard Cutter Androscoggin on ice-breaking patrols in the North Atlantic. From there, Hemond was sent to storekeeper school at Training Station Groton and on to Floyd Bennett Field to work in the finance office supporting the airfield’s search and rescue unit. It was there he learned the importance of teamwork – a lesson he credits with helping him succeed in baseball.
“I found in the Coast Guard, its teamwork; people working in various departments of the operation but for good purposes. I saw the dedication that the Coast Guardsmen had in their duties upon getting calls at all hours for search and rescue when a plane crashed maybe in the ocean or off LaGuardia or any problems whatsoever. I was impressed by those who were making it a career.”
“When you join a baseball organization, its pretty much the same way. You’re only as good as the people working together. You need good scouts to find the players. You need good player development people to develop them to make them winning-type players for your major league organization. So its somewhat synonymous in its own way and its very professional on both sides, whether you’re in the Coast Guard or a sports organization like baseball.”
Success in baseball and in life
When Blossfield offered Hemond a job with the Hartford Chiefs, he used his last 30 days of leave to join the ball club before discharging from the Coast Guard. After the season was over, Hemond was recommended for a front office job with the big league club.
“I was to see John Mullen, the farm and scouting director of the Boston Braves. During the interview, he said, ‘Can you type?’ And, I said, ‘Yeah. I learned to type while in the Coast Guard.’ So, he said, ‘Well, okay, that’s good. I’ll give you a two-week tryout.’ So, at the end of two weeks, he retained me and now I’m starting my 61st season in baseball. Had I not learned to type in the Coast Guard, he would not have hired me.”
Hemond is one of the most successful executives the game has ever seen. This summer, he will become only the second recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
“You watch the games. You learn the game as best you can and if you’re able to get a job in the game or some other sport of your choosing, then pretty much use the same Semper Paratus – Always Ready and do whatever’s necessary to make the organization you join better – whether its in sports or out of sports, to work well with your colleagues, respect your superiors and teach those that are joining the forces.”