As a self-described no-talent Little League right fielder growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Justin Hollander officially gave up any dream of playing for a Major League Baseball team in 1988.

Instead, his career plan shifted after watching an ESPN segment from veteran baseball journalist Peter Gammons on Sandy Alderson building the Oakland A’s into dynasty of that era.

“I decided that it was the job I wanted for my entire life,” Hollander said.

That dream became a reality on Sunday morning.

Less than two days after celebrating the Mariners clinching their first postseason appearance since 2001, the team announced that Hollander had been promoted to executive vice president and general manager of baseball operations.

“This week has been a dream come true for me,” Hollander said.

It’s promotion that seemed expected with Jerry Dipoto ascending to president of baseball operations and Hollander’s profile and reputation as as executive increasing around MLB.

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“Justin has been an integral part of our baseball ops leadership group and a wonderful partner to me throughout our time together,” Dipoto said in a news release. “His passion, intelligence, people skills and creativity show up every day. Moving forward, the Mariners are simply a better organization with Justin in this role.”

Sitting in the dugout of T-Mobile Park before the series finale with Oakland A’s, with his wife, Whitney, and children, Elliott and Lucy, watching, Hollander talked about getting the job he always wanted while making it clear that he didn’t achieve it alone.

“I’m really appreciative of John Stanton, Chris Larson and obviously Jerry for trusting me and believing me and insisting that I have a place here as his partner for as long as I want to be,” Hollander said. “It is really special. When you get promotions like this, it’s because there’s a lot of other people who help you make good decisions and the foundation of their work is why I’m here.”

Hollander credited the entire baseball operations staff, mentioning the front office personnel, baseball analysts, the scouting and player development groups, high performance staff and manager Scott Servais and his on-field staff.

“They are the reason that I get promoted today,” he said. “When we do good things, it’s because I listen to them. And when we screw up, it’s usually because I don’t. I’m really thankful for them.

“I would be really remiss if I didn’t mention our players, our minor league players or major league players the the culture that we’re building here is built on their backs, the trust and belief that they have in the systems and programs that we have here. It’s really gratifying to watch it play out.”

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Servais lauded the promotion and Hollander’s efforts.

“There’s no more deserving guy,” Servais said. “He’s turned into what I call the ‘glue guy’ in our baseball operations department. He’s the guy that keeps everything together. He is the the link that ties in our analysts, a lot of our scouting programs, what we’re doing with trades and all this other stuff. I know Jerry’s the one that did finally pull the trigger on that. But a lot of the ideas along the way have come from Justin.”

Similar to the movement of knuckleball, Hollander’s path to his dream anything but straight. It wobbled a little and moved in different directions.

After graduating from Ohio State in 2001 with a B.S. in business administration and marketing, Hollander earned his law degree from the University of San Diego in 2004. He worked as a lawyer for four years until the siren’s song of baseball and his childhood dream called him back.

The dream didn’t want him at first.

“When I was applying for jobs, I saved every rejection letter because it was like, ‘Awesome, they actually wrote back!'” he said. “I think I had 1,000 of them by the time I got my first job.”

In 2008, he approached then-Angels GM Tony Reagins about a job — any sort of job — in the front office.

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“I told Tony when he interviewed me for the first time, ‘I will wash your car if you give me a chance and tell me that helps us win more games,'” Hollander said.

The pitch worked and he was hired as assistant in the Angels player development and scouting staff. It had the salary and prestige of an internship.

“I took a job that was probably less than minimum wage to start with the Angels,” he said. “It was basically like I was an underpaid intern. I rented a bedroom in Orange County.”

Hollander did everything and anything asked, taking advantage of front office meetings with large meal spreads, burning through his savings and accumulating plenty of credit card debt.

He was on the Angels staff when Jerry Dipoto was hired to replace Reagins in 2011. Dipoto brought in Servais from the Texas Rangers to serve as the Angels director player development and promoted Hollander to director of baseball operations in 2012. The trio worked together until Dipoto resigned in July of 2015. Servais left the next season and followed Dipoto the Mariners.

After spending the 2016 as the Angels director of player personnel, Dipoto and Servais convinced Hollander to join the Mariners as the director of baseball operations at the end of that season.

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“They didn’t know me when they both came to the Angels and the trust that we’ve built among each other in the way we work together,” Hollander said. “We argue. We disagree. We find common ground. We work together and obviously to stay and work with those two guys is a huge part of this for me.”

Hollander was promoted to the Mariners assistant general manager since the 2020 season.

He has seen his responsibilities increase with each year with the Mariners. He’s been the primary negotiator for the Mariners in all contract situations for major league contracts, recently leading the efforts to secure contract extensions for Julio Rodriguez and Luis Castillo.

He’s also served as the Mariners primary liaison for all dealings with MLB and the office of the commissioner.

Given the Mariners’ success the past two seasons, this promotion to handle more of the day-to-day operations was expected. Hollander interviewed for the Los Angeles Angels general manager position after the 2020 season, finishing runner-up to Perry Minassian.

“I was surprised that I got that far in the search with them,” Hollander said. “I really even wasn’t sure whether I wanted to leave. But there’s 30 of these jobs in the world. So when someone wants to talk to you about one, you feel obligated to go through the process. And when it was all over, I think I felt mostly relieved. This is where I was most comfortable. It was a great experience and I think it worked out perfectly.”