Jimmie Lee Solomon’s work with Minor League Baseball is consistent with his fondness for under-exposed talent. During his tenure in the Minor League, Solomon worked to improve virtually every aspect of the league. His dedication and faith transformed a league that was largely under appreciated into a profitable, impressive force which made great strides for the game.
Solomon served as Executive Director of Minor League Operations for MLB from 1991-2000. While there, he sought to elevate the Minor League clubs into first class business operations. This entailed, in part, ongoing review, inspection and assessment of facilities. Solomon established a Minor League facility improvement program, which has given rise to overwhelming increases in franchise values and attendance. Of 160 Minor League facilities, 85% have been substantially upgraded or newly built since 1991. As a result, Minor League franchise values have increased, on average, by more than 100% since that time. Because of the continuation of this program after Solomon’s departure from the Minor League, attendance increased from $29 million in 1991 to over $43 million in 2008.
Solomon’s responsibilities also included the approval of operating territories, expansion, and transfers of ownership. He was instrumental in the development of an unprecedented Minor League group licensing program, resulting in over $20M in royalties. Solomon also established the mechanism for MLB Advanced Media to obtain all Minor League Internet rights.
Attention to detail always lent itself to Solomon’s success in the Minor Leagues. His implementation of a new umpire development system in 1997 provided more than $5 million in annual savings to the Major League Clubs. He also discouraged a prevalent unhealthy habit of players by enforcing a smokeless tobacco ban throughout the Minor Leagues. He testified before the House Judiciary Committee in 1993 on Major League Baseball’s anti-trust exemption.
One of the most important and lucrative of Solomon’s initiatives was the establishment of policies and procedures designed to enhance the overall harmonious and interactive relationship between Major League Baseball and its Minor League affiliates. During his time working in the Minor Leagues, he made moves that also benefited the Major Leagues, and vice versa. In 1997, Solomon negotiated a 10-year agreement between MLB and the Minor Leagues, generating an economic benefit of $170 million to the Major Leagues. Even after he left the Minor Leagues, he maintained his dedication to this relationship, negotiating a 10-year agreement between Major League Baseball and the Minor Leagues in 2005, creating an economic benefit of more than $200 million for the Major Leagues. Solomon’s continuous efforts to improve the Minor Leagues are yet another testament to his persevering spirit and respect for the underdog.