MLB.com Columnist

Megan Zahneis

Reflecting on Selig the man on his final day as Commissioner

Reflecting on Selig the man on his final day as Commissioner

It was a night to remember.

Just a week ago, I was knee-deep in college scholarship applications and pre-calculus homework -- you know, the usual -- when I got an email from my editor at MLB.com.

Would I like to fly to New York that weekend and attend the annual Baseball Writers' Association of America awards dinner?

The dinner would be on Saturday: Bud Selig's last day as Commissioner. Since Selig had been the one to offer me a position with MLB.com four years ago, my editor reasoned, it'd be a nice touch to have me in attendance.

What was I going to say, no?

That's how I found myself spending my Saturday in a Hilton in midtown Manhattan, seated at one of 70 tables in the biggest ballroom I've ever been in.

I may have been a bit out of my element, but for good reason. Making my way through a sea of men in virtually the same color blazer (or so it seemed to me), I was relieved to find a familiar face: that of the man of the hour, Selig. I'd been granted a quick on-camera interview with him prior to the start of the night's program.

A swell of emotion I hadn't been expecting overtook me as the camera lights beamed into my face. My mind flashed back to the first time I'd interviewed Selig -- in March 2012 at the Phoenix-area home of his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, and granddaughter Natalie, who has become one of my best friends.

I couldn't help but think about how far I'd come since that day in Spring Training. With college on the horizon (I'll graduate high school in May), the well-deserved retirement of my boss and benefactor, I realized, was a perfect opportunity for reflection.

Allan H. Selig will go down in history as the greatest Commissioner baseball has ever known. People will discuss the Wild Cards, the Mitchell Report and his handling of performance-enhancing drugs, instant replay, revenue sharing and economic success, labor peace, new ballparks and attendance records.

But I'll remember him for more than that.

I'll remember the first time Selig and I met, spending an inning of Game 3 of the 2011 World Series in his suite in Arlington. I'll remember the Halloween day of my freshman year, when Selig called with the job offer that would change my life. I'll remember his Q&A sessions at All-Star Game FanFests, and I'll remember this Saturday night, when he accepted the BBWAA's William J. Slocumb-Jack Lang Award for Long and Meritorious Service.

New Commissioner Rob Manfred, his successor, toasted Selig in his introduction. "He was," Manfred said, "a moral compass for our game."

As Selig took the podium, everyone in attendance rose in applause.

It was plain to see that he was embarrassed by this, his polite nods of acknowledgment wishing the standing ovation away.

I didn't care. I clapped until my hands hurt.

And as I did, I remembered the words Selig said to me during that first interview:

"Whenever I have a tough spot, I always say to myself, 'Before you answer that … when you were a kid, did you ever believe in your wildest dreams that that you were going to be the Commissioner of Baseball?'"

On Saturday night, Selig concluded his final duty as Commissioner with these words:

"It has been the highest privilege to lead our national pastime to a sport that links generations, buffers the passage of time and continues to reflect the spirit of our great country. A little boy's dreams did come true."

It was a night I'll never forget.

Megan Zahneis is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.