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MLB.com Columnist

Meggie Zahneis

Proud Selig determined to remain busy

With no regrets, Commissioner preparing to make most of post-baseball life

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To borrow the words of Yogi Berra, it ain't over 'til it's over.

Allan H. "Bud" Selig has been Commissioner of Major League Baseball for 22 years.

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The youngest generation of baseball players and fans has never known life without Selig at the helm of our pastime. All that is about to change, with Rob Manfred slated to replace Selig as Commissioner in January 2015.

As easy as it would be to do, Selig isn't content to rest on his laurels and simply keep Manfred's seat warm.

"I'm trying to remove any of the difficult situations that Rob Manfred will have, trying to clean up as much as I can," Selig explained to reporters at a Cincinnati news conference on Friday. "What I would say to you is the sport has never been more popular; it's doing great. The idea is to stay calm, get that done. We're having a marvelous year, great competitive balance -- and that's what I'm going to do the last five months. I'm pleased the way the year has gone.

"There are certain interclub disputes and other things that I really would like to handle. He'll have enough things [to do], just keeping the industry moving forward, getting ready for labor negotiations, doing a whole series of other things."

Selig, 80, isn't slowing down any time soon.

"[When I retire,] it will be a different light," Selig said, "but I am going to start teaching almost immediately, and in fact, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin was in our home ranch on Saturday, and she already started talking about what they wanted me to do as soon as I'm there.

"And I'm going to write a book, so that'll keep me busy. It's a really fair question, because all of my adult life, I've been in baseball. And so that day will be the first officially that I'm not. But I'll keep busy. That's all I can tell you. I have a lot planned."

And while Selig may be looking forward to retirement and all that comes with it -- becoming a history professor and published author, for instance -- in some sense, he knows parting will indeed be sweet sorrow.

"When all is said and done, I regarded myself a baseball person," Selig said. "I've often said you shouldn't do this job if you don't have passion for this sport. So it's the people I'll miss. I've been fortunate. I got to do something that I love -- passionate -- and met a lot of really wonderful people, on the field and off the field, and that's what I'll miss."

More than likely, the people of baseball -- players, coaches, executives and fans alike -- will miss Selig, too.

The man has done so much for the game -- from introducing the Wild Card to overseeing the economic revitalization of the sport through revenue sharing to instituting the toughest PED testing in professional sports -- that owners repeatedly asked Selig to stay on as Commissioner.

With that kind of legacy, Selig is content with the two decades he's spent presiding over our pastime.

"I don't really have any regrets," Selig said. "When I think of 1992 and things were tense and bad, bad for the next decade, I'm really proud of where we are. What am I proudest of? A lot of things, but the economic reformation of the game.

"Things have changed. When I woke up two, three days ago, and the first thing I do is look at the standings in the paper, and you see all three National League divisions on that day were tied, or today you see Milwaukee in first place, Kansas City in first place, Oakland battling. This couldn't have happened 10, 15, 18 years ago. No matter what anybody says, it couldn't happen -- and it didn't happen. So that's the thing I'm proudest of.

"[So] do I have regrets? I really don't. The only thing I wish I could've [prevented] was losing the '94 World Series, that whole labor situation. Painful. Heart-breaking. Really broke my heart. But, as a history buff, as you look back on things in the retrospective history, we've now had 21, 22 years of labor peace, and maybe it took that to finally [understand].

"We had eight work stoppages in my baseball career, from 1970 to the present. It was every two or three years. It was painful. And the sport was getting hurt. That's why gross revenues have grown from a billion or two to this year $9 billion. I really believe labor peace is really the primary reason for that."

Another of Selig's proudest moments as Commissioner was the retirement of Jackie Robinson's jersey No. 42. Selig doesn't see any other number joining No. 42 as retired by all of Major League Baseball.

"Jackie Robinson coming to the big leagues April 15, 1947, Ebbets Field, is the most powerful and important moment, in my judgment, in baseball history," Selig said. "There's no question about it. You think about what Branch Rickey did 3 1/2 years before Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces, seven years before Brown vs. Board [of Education], 18 years before the civil rights movement.

"[Robinson] succeeded, and I've heard from people who played with him, against him. I've certainly heard from his wife, [Rachel], and daughter, [Sharon, author and MLB Breaking Barriers ambassador]. It was a painful, bitter, nasty period, but fortunately, he made it. And as a result, my friend Henry Aaron came, and Willie Mays and Bob Gibson, and on and on and on.

"We're working hard to try to increase our African-American participation," Selig noted, and there was evidence of that in this year's Little League World Series, with Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team representing the U.S. in the final.

"But no, I don't see any other number. Jackie's number deserves to be alone there, in my opinion," Selig said.

Selig was in Cincinnati for the grand opening of the Reds' new Urban Youth Academy, further cementing his legacy when it comes to youth in baseball.

"It's one of the things I'm proud of," Selig said. "I'm proud of the clubs -- the Cincinnati club, in this case. Clubs didn't do this years ago. To think that a baseball team reaches out in that community, creates a wonderful safe haven for people who don't have that opportunity, they give the opportunity to people who don't have the opportunity. You just couldn't be prouder. Today was an exceptional day, a really exceptional day.

"And the sport overall is doing well, but one of the reasons it's doing well is because we are a social institution that lives up to its social responsibilities. And if this wasn't an example of that, then there isn't an example. That's how good it was. And that's how important it was."

Selig's impact on the youth of baseball, especially, cannot be understated.

Take it from me.

Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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