“The reason I wanted to work in sports was to get back around baseball. And the reason I wanted to get back around baseball was to be back around the players. This was the perfect opportunity for those things to align."
Vice President, Strategy, Operations & Legal Affairs
Q & A with Robert Sanzillo
Vice President, Strategy, Operations and Legal Affairs
On his early education and college background
I grew up in Westchester, New York, and went down to Johns Hopkins University with every intention of becoming a doctor. Parents’ wishes more than mine, but after being selected by the St. Louis Cardinals organization in the 2007 draft, I got a pass on taking the MCAT. Once my playing days were over, I came back to New York City and worked in finance for a year before finding my way to Fordham Law School.
On beginning his law career
I was excited about my associateship at Herrick Feinstein LLP.
I had the opportunity to do some really interesting work at Herrick, which has a robust sports practice, before I jumped into the start-up world and joined the Premier Lacrosse League. I was one of the first few people in the room trying to figure out the processes and procedures that would go on and build a league.
On working on the Players’ behalf
The reason I wanted to work in sports was to get back around baseball. And the reason I wanted to get back around baseball was to be back around the players. This was the perfect opportunity for those things to align.
On his professional career with the St. Louis Cardinals organization
One of the best parts about posting my new job has been hearing from so many of the guys from the Cardinals that have reached out to me, congratulating me, saying hello.
For me, the best part about playing the game was always about being around the players. The thing that I remember most fondly about the minor leagues was the time we spent in the locker room. My time with those guys when we were all really just trying to figure it all out and make our playing careers work.
On his playing days as a catcher and his two stolen bases in Johnson City in 2007
I was actually pretty fast – especially for a catcher. I also learned early on that you do not have to steal bases off your speed alone, you can steal bases off the pitcher. I was very much a student of the game. It served me well as a catcher because I was directing traffic on defense -- not only calling a game but making sure the defense was in position -- and that is something I took great pride in.
On leaving his playing career behind him
Walking away from playing baseball was very difficult. It had become part of my identity. You made it to the minor leagues, but you’ve still got to make it to that top one percent of minor leaguers to make it to the big leagues. I always equated making it to the big leagues to being a CEO of a Fortune 30 company. There are only 30 starting spots to be had the big leagues and there is a new crop of premier athletes every year coming for that spot.
I have tried to stay in touch with people that are trying to improve the quality of life for minor league players, and it is definitely something I hope I get to lean in on more here with the Players Trust.
On playing with Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols
One of the coolest parts of Spring Training was that Pujols and Molina came to the minor league locker room to talk to the players. I was in Yadi’s early work group, and that was just an unreal experience getting to do catching drills with one of the greatest of all time. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
On his recent marriage
I accepted this job, gave notice at my old job and my now-wife and I picked a wedding date all in the same day. That was a big day in early January for me.
We just got married on January 23, hosting an immediate family-only, COVID-friendly ceremony. We were able to pull it off with only two weeks of planning. We got everybody there safely and had an intiate ceremony. I went from being a single man at the Premier Lacrosse League to being a married man at the Players Association all within a month. It’s been a wonderfully overwhelming few weeks.
My wife [Dr. Alexandra Bourlas] went to Hopkins as well, and she followed through on her parents’ wishes where I didn’t. She’s an emergency room doctor, and she’s been in the thick of it here for the last year, dealing with hundreds of COVID patients and your typical emergency room traumas. She’s a rockstar and our wedding was a great way to start off 2021.