When Kevin Mather first heard that Chuck Armstrong was retiring as president and chief operating officer of the Mariners, he simply couldn’t believe it. Not Chuck Armstrong.
“I thought he had a least four or five more years in him. He’s got so much energy,” Mather said.
But Armstrong confirmed to Mather that he was indeed retiring at the end of January. It was only then that Mather allowed himself to start thinking about the possibility of replacing Armstrong as team president.
On Friday, that possibility became permanent.
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The Mariners announced that Mather will replace Armstrong as president and chief operating officer. It’s a position Armstrong held for 28 years. Mather had been serving as the Mariners’ executive vice president of finance and ballpark operations. Armstrong’s tenure with the Mariners officially ends Jan. 31. He served two stints as president from 1983 to 1989 and 1992 to this year.
Lincoln had said shortly after Armstrong’s retirement announcement that there were strong internal candidates to fill the void. He reiterated that sentiment a few weeks ago just before interviewing Mather and Bob Aylward, executive vice president of business operations, for the job. He settled on the 51-year-old Mather, who has been with the Mariners since 1996.
“His experience in the game of baseball has prepared him well for this position,” said Mariners chief executive officer Howard Lincoln. “He is highly thought of around Major League Baseball and in this community. He will work closely with me to make sure Jack Zduriencik has the resources he needs to build winning teams. Jack remains the leader of the baseball side of our organization.”
Mather was excited about the future and blunt about the past few years.
“Obviously we need to win more games,” he said. “You take care of your fans, take care of the community, be a good community asset. But win more games and everything else happens a lot sooner.”
He’s confident that winning can happen soon.
“I’m kind of stepping into an opportunity,” Mather said. “We think we’re really close. It’s taken a year or two longer than we thought, but if they’re above-average players like we think they are, we’re going to have a long run of very good baseball teams. And we need to win more baseball games.”
Most fans don’t know what the team president does on a day-to-day basis. Mather believes his job is simple by definition.
“I think the president’s role is to provide resources,” he said. “Coordinate the business side and the baseball side and provide resources.”
Those resources include building and improving facilities and helping add players and talent. But he isn’t deciding on those resources, just helping acquire them. There is no part of his job description that includes “meddling” in the baseball side. The baseball belongs to the general manager, Zduriencik.
“I’m going to ask questions,” Mather said. “But Jack is the baseball side.”
Mather came to the Mariners from the Minnesota Twins, where he worked for 4½ years. He was hired as vice president of finance and administration. The Mariners reorganized their front office after the 1999 season for the move to Safeco Field. Mather was promoted to his current position where he oversaw finances, ticket services, retail operations, technology, concessions and other aspects of the day-to-day workings of Safeco Field.
Meanwhile, Aylward will assume Armstrong’s duties as chairman of the board of NW Sports Net LLC, or ROOT Sports Northwest as it is known to the public. Armstrong served as chairman of the board after the Mariners acquired the regional sports network last April
Aylward was hired as the Mariners’ vice president of business and sales in 1997. He helped oversee the transition from the Kingdome to Safeco Field and was promoted to his current position in 1999, where he works with corporate sponsorships, advertising, marketing, ticket sales and broadcasting/communications aspects.
“The Mariners own a majority stake in ROOT Sports Northwest, an extremely important part of our franchise’s future,” Lincoln said. “Bob was instrumental in the Mariners acquisition of the regional sports network and will lead the network into the future. He will continue in his position as the Mariners EVP of Business Operations, and he is one of the very best in baseball.”
• The Mariners signed two minor-league free agents, left-handed pitcher Joe Beimel and right-handed pitcher Mark Rogers, and invited them to spring training. Beimel, 36, spent last season with Class AAA Gwinnett, where he was 1-2 with a 4.36 earned-run average. He missed the 2012 season after having Tommy John surgery. He has pitched for six major-league teams.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @RyanDivish