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Preparation the key to a 40 year career in major league baseball
2020-12-01

The die was cast early for Sturgeon Falls native and long-time major league baseball executive Claude Delorme.

By the time he attended Laurentian University, making a bee-line to the Sports Administration program in the late 1970s, his workmanlike approach in tackling his studies had already taken root.

Duplicating that methodology through a career that has seen his nearly 40 years in the sport split somewhat evenly between the Montreal Expos and Miami (Florida) Marlins, Delorme has climbed the ladder of success, his current title (Executive Vice-President - Special Projects) reflective of the quality of his work over time.

"Throughout my career, I always felt that I was the most prepared for a meeting or for a negotiation, whether it was contracts or deals or events," said Delorme, who celebrated his 60th birthday in August. "When I went into a meeting, I wanted to make sure that I had done my due diligence, that I had collected the documentation, so that when I addressed issues, a lot of reflection had already been done."

"It really goes back to my studies in school, in university," added the second youngest of four children in the family, with his mother still calling Sturgeon Falls home to this day. "I always wanted to go into my final exam knowing that I had already passed the course. I tried to take the stress out of the process, but it requires more preparation, more work ahead of time."

The ability to think things through in advance truthfully goes back to his early teens, with yet another link to sport. A mid level athlete in his youth, Delorme enjoyed a particular affinity for fastball/softball, notably due to his left-handedness. "I learned to pitch from one of my elementary teachers," he recalled.

"But at 13, I called one of the top pitchers in North Bay, just asking him to spend an hour with me, to share some ideas about how he approached the batters." That initiative was there for all to see as the youngster who would toss a no-hitter or two in his later high-school years, playing men's fastball in the area, also took on a leading role as a director of the new pool in his hometown.

"I was in grade 12 when I first heard of SPAD (Sports Administration)," said Delorme. "It offered a nice combination of a business degree with a specialization in sport. My true love was professional sports, at the time. It didn't matter if it was hockey or baseball or anything else, my goal was to end up with a professional sports team."

"But I knew, in looking at the numbers, that very few people ended up in pro sports at the end of their four years (at L.U.). I was prepared to go into teaching, as well - that was always my back-up plan."

That alternate route would prove itself unnecessary following an internship with the Expos during the summer of his second to last year at Laurentian. With classes commencing in September but the MLB season closing down only at the end of the month, Delorme would send a clear message to the club that would open the door to his future in baseball.

"I made arrangements with all of my professors and stayed through the end of September," he recalled. "It gave me a chance to finish my internship and show that I was committed and really wanted to be part of the team." A month later, ten months prior to graduation, Delorme was offered a full-time position, starting in the spring.

"When I arrived in Montreal, I didn't know any people, I didn't have family there, so my focus was on work," he said. "I was fortunate to work in operations, because I ended up interacting with everyone in the organization, from John McHale (president of the club) to the broadcasters to people in finance and marketing and sales."

Fully immersed in a job that wasn't work, Delorme garnered a reputation that withstood the test of time. "I think what people saw from me, a lot, was the work ethic and the quality of the work that I did," he said. "For me, it was never about money. I believed that my personal and professional growth would pay-off, over time."

"From my standpoint, it worked out well."

Even as uncertainty reigned supreme, Delorme was a man of conviction. When Major League Baseball took over ownership of the Montreal Expos and the corporate executive had the option of taking flight to Florida, Delorme stood by his team. "I felt that we had to have continuity with the franchise," he said.

"There was no one who spoke French from the new group. We all felt that it would be one, maybe two years at most (before the team would be folded), and then I would evaluate opportunities at that point. Those were three years (2002-2004) that I wouldn't trade for anything."

"It was such a special setting. We had only 45 employees, and everyone was working for one goal. I really enjoyed the challenge of staying in that situation. I felt, after investing twenty years in Montreal at the time, I felt staying was the right thing to do."

In the end, Delorme's hunch was rewarded. Betting on himself, the father of two (both daughters) accurately assessed that his services would remain in demand - in a very big way, as it turned out. "I joined the Marlins in February of 2005 and started working four days a week in Miami and one day a week in Montreal," he said.

"I remember in one week, in particular, I ended up dealing with stuff on behalf of the Marlins, and the Expos, and the (Washington) Nationals. There's not a lot of people who could say that."

Fifteen years into his time in Miami, Delorme has adjusted to the summer humidity, as well as the stark contrast to his northern Ontario roots. "You really notice the poverty, the situation with the homeless, which I had not been exposed to, certainly not in this manner in Sturgeon Falls or Sudbury," he said.

"When I first arrived, they gave me an apartment and I would go from my apartment to the ballpark. I tried to keep my drive as direct as possible."

In the ensuing years, Delorme would grow ever more comfortable with his new surroundings. His is a piece of mind that is reflected in nearly every word that he speaks.

"I can honestly say that from day one, I will have been as passionate about what I did, even as the job evolved," he said. "I have 39 years of being in baseball, working for a major league team, but I've never really considered it work."

"My wife wouldn't say that," Delorme added, with a chuckle.

But it's a pretty safe bet that he was prepared for that - as always.

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