Braves’ changes suit Schuerholz just fine

John Schuerholz wore a stylish gray suit for Thursday’s announcement that he no longer is president of the Braves.

“My vice chairman’s suit,” Schuerholz said, borrowing a colleague’s description of it.

Schuerholz smiled, as he did often while discussing his move from the day-to-day duties of team president to an advisory role as the Braves’ vice chairman.

“I’m delighted,” Schuerholz, 75, said. “This is a remarkably well-timed and perfectly suited role for me to be in. I’m very happy with it.”

Confirming changes first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves announced at a Turner Field news conference Schuerholz’s new role and the related promotion of two other team executives to president-level positions: Derek Schiller to president of business and Mike Plant to president of development.

Schuerholz made it clear that he still intends to be actively engaged with the Braves, particularly on the baseball operations/player personnel side of the business.

“I’m excited to be able to focus back on what I love the most about the game, and that is the playing of the game, the forming of teams,” said Schuerholz, who added that he’ll work with John Hart, the Braves’ president of baseball operations, and John Coppolella, their general manager, “on an advisory and consulting kind of basis.”

But Schuerholz also stressed that he’ll take advantage of one perk of not being team president: more time to spend with his family.

“I’ll have a better balance in my life. And at 75, going on 76, I think that’s fair,” Schuerholz said.

“I want to spend time with my family, quality time, and this gives me a chance to do that. So if you see me smiling more than you’ve ever seen me smile before, that’s why.”

Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said the executive changes had been in the works for a long time and reflected his and Schuerholz’s mutual desire for Schuerholz “to be a Brave forever.”

“Life is full of transitions and opportunities,” Schuerholz said, “and that’s how I look at this — as another transition in my life which will allow me to do things that I love in a more balanced manner.

“It’s a good move for me, and personally I think it’s a great move for the organization.”

Plant and Schiller praised and thanked Schuerholz.

“He has really helped shape my understanding of what it means to be a leader and an executive for this organization,” Schiller said.

“Not often can you …. be part of an organization that has a legend,” Plant said.

But Schiller and Plant resisted any suggestion that their new positions have them succeeding that legend in some way.

“I don’t see it as we’re stepping into John’s footsteps,” Schiller said. “We have a title that has the word ‘president’ in it, but in a lot of ways there is very little else that is similar. John comes at it from a baseball background, first and foremost. Both Mike and I have been business people, first and foremost.”

McGuirk said the Braves’ new executive structure with three presidents over specific areas of the business — Hart, Plant and Schiller — reflects the increased complexity of the team’s operations, which include the construction of a new stadium and adjacent mixed-use development in Cobb County.

Last season was Schuerholz’s 50th in a major league front office, his 25th with the Braves. He became the Braves’ president in October 2007 after 17 years as their general manager. As GM, he was the architect of teams that won 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and the 1995 World Series championship

Tellingly, a word not uttered by or about Schuerholz at Thursday’s news conference: retirement.

“I’m not stepping down. I’m not stepping out. I’m not stepping back,” he insisted. “I’m stepping forward — maybe with little bitty steps this time and not quite the larger steps I’ve taken over my career.”

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