In Wooden, Byrnes, Moorad meet legend
Former UCLA coach is inspiration to D-backs outfielder, CEO
PHOENIX -- Eric Byrnes has been in the big leagues for eight-plus years, the last four with the D-backs. He's met the President of the United States and numerous movie stars.
Before joining the D-backs ownership group in 2004, Jeff Moorad had been a fixture on the sports scene, having represented some of the biggest names in baseball and football.
Both men are not easily impressed when it comes to meeting people, yet even they were a bit star struck in the presence of coaching legend John Wooden last weekend.
Byrnes and Moorad spent more than two hours at a breakfast with the former UCLA basketball coach when the team was in Los Angeles for a series with the Dodgers.
Neither man will soon forget the experience.
"It's right up there with meeting the President of the United States," said Byrnes, who was part of a group of baseball players that dined with President George W. Bush at the White House this past offseason. "It wasn't just about meeting him, but getting to actually sit there and talk with him and pick his brain about certain things. We got a chance to see his personality come out and got to know him a little bit, at least as much as you can in a couple of hours."
For Moorad, who graduated from UCLA in 1978, it was a chance to talk with a man that he had long admired but never got to meet.
"He's amazing," the D-backs CEO said. "To me, John Wooden epitomizes the American Dream and spirit. He is an absolute living legend."
Few would argue that assessment given Wooden's long record of accomplishments, which includes seven straight National Championships and 10 in a 12-year span.
But Wooden has always been respected just as much for the principles he has lived by and the life lessons he passed on to his players.
Early in his career, Wooden developed what he called the Pyramid of Success, which is 15 personal qualities he thought it took for an individual to achieve success.
"The first thing I had up in my college dorm was the pyramid of success," said Byrnes, who attended UCLA and played baseball for Gary Adams. "It's something I try to live my life by. Am I always perfect in doing that? No. But I try very hard."
Byrnes and Moorad both took advantage of the breakfast to ask Wooden questions about his philosophy.
Byrnes, who struggled this year at the plate before going on the disabled list with torn hamstrings, asked Wooden how he helped his players deal with failure.
"Know that failure is part of the game," Byrnes said, repeating Wooden's words. "But as long as you know that you've given yourself the best chance for success every time you come to bat or take the field, you can feel good about yourself and know that you did your best to become the best ballplayer that you were capable of becoming."
That goes along with Wooden's definition of success, which he coined as a high school English teacher long before his days at UCLA: Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
Moorad explained to Wooden how he applied the coach's words throughout his career. He also said Wooden has influenced the way the D-backs organization is run.
"We believe in hiring the best people and letting them do their jobs without a lot of interference," Moorad told him. "You would be impressed with our general manager, Josh Byrnes, and his staff, as well as our manager, Bob Melvin, who is very steady in his leadership."
Moorad and Byrnes presented Wooden with a personalized D-backs jersey emblazoned with a number that Wooden wore as a standout college player at Purdue.
"It was a huge honor and inspiration to spend two precious hours with him," Moorad said.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.