If you can’t count on yourself, then who can you count on? Sometimes it’s simply believing in you, and maybe a few others doing the same, to make a difference.
It takes a little bit of faith as well. If you’re going to take a chance, risk it all and change other people’s lives you might reach back, (or look up), and say a little prayer now and then because it’s never easy, but it’s worth it.
Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (94): PR – Personal Relations
You only need to meet John Maroon for a minute to recognize here’s a guy who really cares. But in the back of your mind you might also think, he’s got it easy. Here’s a man who lived the dream. In 1995 he helped orchestrate the public relations campaign for one of the greatest sports stories of the last 50 years – Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak in Major League Baseball. John Maroon helped navigate the path to what became one of the most magical moments in sports history: 2131.
Where do you go from there? Well here’s the rub. It might have been a dream-come-true for Cal…he’s the man who made it happen, with the iron will to play baseball at the highest level every day. But it wasn’t John who put on the uniform every game for 20 years, it wasn’t the ultimate dream of his life. He lived it, he loved it…but a life is made up of much more than the sum of its parts and John has much more to give. It’s in his genes.
“It’s funny I think about it all the time,” says John. “It was never a great plan of mine to do what I’m doing now. I worked at a lot of different organizations over the years, and as I was thinking about getting another job I had a conversation with my brother and he said you should really start your own business. My first question to him was, how do I get paid? He said, “look you can do this, we are entrepreneurs at heart, dad gave us the genes, he said just go out and do it.”
“My brother was right,” John continues. “My dad was a really cool guy and an entrepreneur, he only finished the 6th grade and I truly believe it is genetic in certain ways, the willingness to take a chance. My brother and sister both have their own businesses. If it wasn’t for him I would still be working somewhere for someone else.
My dad grew up in North Jersey, his dad passed away when he was only in the 6th grade and he had to go to work, take over the gas station and try to make a living and help out. He later opened up a restaurant, The Hot Grill, it’s very successful and popular in Clifton, New Jersey. He sold it after a few years to these two brothers who actually came to my dad’s funeral in 2001. They approached me and explained to me how they owed everything to my dad, they said he helped them with everything. I felt an amazing sense of pride. My dad always wanted to help other people, he was very generous. He was just naturally smart, very savvy, well-read, funny, he had a great sense of humor. He never had a formal education, never got to go to college, but not having that education was not a big deal for him. Though he pushed for us, his children, to have that education. My wife always pays me a big compliment when she says I’m a lot like my dad.”
John credits his father and his mother for pushing him to go for higher-ed, because it was college that led to an internship which launched his entire career. And once again, it was a mentor, just like his father Gabe, who helped alter the course of John’s life. “My first job I did an internship with Major League Baseball in New York and it led to my first job. I got a job in the American League office with Phyllis Merhige, she said I’m going to hire you, but there is nowhere for you to go here, no one is leaving, but I’m going to teach you about PR and help you get a job with a team. And she was true to her word.”
When a job opened up with the Cleveland Indians Phyllis made a call, told the team John was perfect for the job and they hired him. Just like his father, another person helping pave the way down the path of his success. So many times it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This time it was Phyllis, and John says they remain close to this day.
But opportunity is just that, an opportunity, and it doesn’t come without struggle, it’s never void of challenges. “The struggle was that baseball didn’t pay very well,” says John. “I got married in 1991 and Carolyn and I moved to Cleveland for this job.
“Here we are in a foreign city, making very little money and I traveled a lot. It was a rough patch early on for our marriage, we were not doing it for the cash, but it was really hard for us. I didn’t mind the long hours and travel, it wasn’t the work, it was more being a young married couple and we didn’t see each other a whole lot and money was a real issue. But then something very gratuitous happened. In 1994 because of the work stoppage, Major League Baseball canceled the World Series. I got contacted by the NBA in New York they offered me a job and a big raise and so we moved back to Clifton.
I was absolutely miserable. I hated the job, the commute, I didn’t like being back in my hometown after all these years, but I could tell this was God’s way – because of Carolyn. Her mom wasn’t doing well and for three months Carolyn got to spend every single day with her mom before she passed away.”
It was right before the NBA All-Star game in 1994 that John got a call from Charles Steinberg, head of PR for the Baltimore Orioles. Charles was looking to see if John could secure tickets for the daughter of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson to attend the game. Charles also asked John how he was doing. “I can’t stand it,” was what John told Charles. “I like baseball.” John says the Orioles PR man then gave him a tip he was leaving for the Padres. “I overnight my resume,” says John. “It is hand-delivered to Orioles owner Peter Angelos and I got the PR job. We packed up and moved to Baltimore and my first year Cal broke the record. He and I hit it off really well and it shaped my life moving forward. When I finally left the Orioles I went to the Redskins for one year but I stayed in touch with Cal and when he started the Cal Ripken Sr Foundation in 2000, I went to work with him for the next six years.
And since 2006, at the advice of his brother, its been running Maroon PR. Every step of the way to where he stands today, John has had the fortune of a helping hand, guidance and the faith to keep going. From his dad’s entrepreneur attitude, to the guidance from Phyllis at MLB, to his wife’s devotion and dedication to his career and their marriage – and then to his relationship with the Ironman, the journey of life has led him to this point.
“I don’t know what happened the past few years,” says John. “But you look back on the twists and turns in your life, I think for a lot of people who are less spiritual they believe that everything in your life is just a series of coincidences. I think God has a plan and you have to listen to it and have faith. Everyone has some tough times. We all have our challenges, but if you keep the faith and keep understanding and recognizing when good things happen because of your intentions and beliefs, then you must acknowledge that this is why it is all happening. I was so young back then, now I am way more conscious of these things and know there is something bigger at play here and to be grateful for what I have.”
“I give a lot of credit to Carolyn. We don’t have kids so it made it more viable to think if things don’t work out we’ll just sell the house and start over. But she said let’s do it and it was like hey if it doesn’t work out we will figure it out then. I give her a lot of credit, because if she said no I would not have done it. I get a lot of support from her and that is really cool. She has been so supportive of everything. I dragged her all across the country. She has always had more faith in me then I had in myself.”
Faith is important. Especially when you are running your own deal like John has been doing since that conversation with his brother in 2006. John has learned the greatest challenge of business – is to find more business. “Clients come and go,” he says. “There are people who have been with you for a long time, like Ripken, (he’s worked with Cal in some capacity for more than 20 years now), but you have to never stop looking for new business. I have to make sure I have enough. I have a lot of people I am responsible for. They are counting on me to provide them a solid workplace, stable, fun and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that. I have a friend who owns a very successful window company and he has more than 100 employees and he says it’s fear, he functions on fear to make sure he has enough business to support all of those employees. I thought that was very interesting.”
But John says for him now it’s more about being thankful, setting his intentions and focusing on gratitude – it’s more about the drive and less about fear and that works for him and it’s good for his mental and physical health and good for his business.
“Be there for others,” he says. “It will always make your life better. I love when the work we do has a direct correlation on someone else’s success, non-profit, business, or individual. It’s not always easy to make that correlation between public relations effort and growth – so it’s cool when you know it’s because of you. It’s important to me to be there for others and to work honorably. Do what you say you are going to do and everything else takes care of itself. It’s funny, the older you get the smaller the world gets. I do it cause it’s the right thing to do, treat people with honor and respect. You meet people over and over again in your life. You want to be remembered and you have to think about how you want to be remembered.
For John Maroon, it might be the business of public relations, but just like his dad and so many who helped him along his way – it’s the personal relations that really matter.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Speech Writer, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors
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