When Randy Lewandowski played baseball for Anderson University, he developed a reputation for doing things the right way.
He has carried that same philosophy up the ladder on the executive side of the Indianapolis Indians and now finds himself in his third season carrying the titles of president and general manager for the Tribe.
During a visit earlier this week to watch the Indians play the Louisville Bats with my wife, my cousin and his wife, I had a chance to sit down with Lewandowski to discuss his career path and position with the team.
He became GM in 2014, and the president position was added after the 2016 season.
“You always aspire to get to the top in air quotes,” he said with a smile. “It’s always about the journey and the people and experiences to get you prepared for the future. We had a networking event tonight, and that was me 26 years ago coming out of Anderson University wondering what I was going to do with my business management degree.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had played baseball and got good grades, and I was lucky enough to fall into an internship with the Indians. They’ve been silly enough to keep me, and I’ve been silly enough to stay. So it's a marriage that has worked out really well.”
Victory Field has long been one of the most honored minor league ballparks in the country, and Lewandowski understands the value of the home park and the impression it leaves.
“It’s what drives what we do, the ballpark and the ballpark experience and customer service,” he said. “If we think about the fan in all our decisions, that serves us really well in what we want to do. We’re in a 23-year-old building.
“That requires daily maintenance, but you get to the point where things start to break when you reach that 20-, 25-year mark. The way we take care of the ballpark and will until the end, whenever that might be, is something we take great pride in.”
His title as GM doesn’t quite equate to the position at the major league level.
“It is probably completely different and is probably a misnomer at the minor league level,” Lewandowski said. “I do generally manage, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the team and the players you see in uniform on the field.
“I am the main liaison with the Pirates. It’s really about the business side and where my business management degree comes in. There’s about 48 to 50 people who report to me.”
His people are the backbone of the organization, and he isn’t shy about detailing their role.
“The people are so important,” Lewandowski said. “In any business, if you don’t have good people, you’re not going to go very far. It’s a lifestyle business, and that’s tough on families. We genuinely care about everyone who works here and everyone who comes through the gates.”
Lewandowski learned many things while at AU he applies on a daily basis, but one of the things he took away from the baseball program might not be that obvious.
“The biggest thing I learned from coach (Don) Brandon — and he’s a legend in Indiana and at Anderson University — is weather monitoring,” Lewandowski said. “He always said, ‘If it’s on the schedule and we can play the game, we’re going to play the game.’ That’s been my mantra since I ascended into the presidency role.
“That ends up being a big part of what I do on game days when we get poor weather — be the guy on the hot seat, so to speak. Our mantra is to play. We’ve got suites, and we’ve got parties, and we’ve got tickets sold. They expect us to play. Sometimes you have to throw up your hands, and Mother Nature wins. We play 98.6% of the time, and that’s a pretty good track record over 23 years here at Victory Field.”
Lewandowski wouldn’t exactly ignore an offer from a major league team to move into the front office, but it isn’t something he is pursuing. He is rightfully content in a job he does well with a team that appreciates what he brings to the organization.
“It’s about Indianapolis and the Indians and Victory Field,” he said. “It’s a great place to live and work. I’ve raised my family here. Both of my kids are going to be in college next year. We’ve settled into Indianapolis, and right now there’s no desire to see what’s on the other side of the fence.”
Lewandowski follows the Ravens resolutely on Twitter and makes it possible for the team to play each season at Victory Field. He also is a staunch supporter of high school baseball in the state and enjoys the team and facility hosting the IHSAA state finals.
“We are in the state capital, and we think we should host the state championship,” he said. “To see how Alexandria came down here as a community and supported that team was absolutely great.”
Victory Field is just an outstanding baseball experience for fans of all ages. Going to games there is a highlight of my summer every year, and people like Lewandowski will make sure it remains that way for many years to come.