Long before he became GM of the Houston Astros — before he even worked in Major League Baseball — 45-year-old Jeff Luhnow performed several jobs that others would be satisfied to call careers. Engineer, management consultant, technology entrepreneur. Man of many hats, all of them fancy.
On Tuesday, after a little more than five months as the second-most powerful man in the organization behind new owner Jim Crane, Luhnow changed jobs again — to ticket-taking usher at Minute Maid Park for a game against the Chicago Cubs.
Sure, the Astros are outperforming most preseason expectations, but didn't Crane expect to have Luhnow running the show for at least a year or two? Actually, the job change isn't permanent, as Alyson Footer reports in her blog, it's part of a program the team is running called "Share the Experience." It's like "Undercover Boss" without the disguises and sneaking around. Luhnow even wore a name tag that said, "Jeff." (Along with a button that says, in English, "I speak Spanish." And he does. He was raised in Mexico City.)
You might be wondering: Was his entire experience like the 30-second video snippet? Did every fan passing through the south Home Plate Entrance on their way to their seat fail to recognize Luhnow during his two-hour shift?
Almost nobody did.
Fans barely batted an eye as Luhnow scanned tickets and greeted fans with a friendly "enjoy the game." He fielded not a single question about who he's selecting in the upcoming draft. No one asked him who's starting the second game of the doubleheader in Denver on Monday. In fact, Luhnow was recognized exactly once, by a regular at Minute Maid Park who puts up the "K" signs in the outfield at just about every game.
Luhnow and other Astros executives doing this sounds like a sound exercise for the company. Even if it's a bit of a publicity gimmick (you're welcome!), it makes Luhnow come off very well. How can you not like this guy when he says empathetic things about ushers such as:
"It's exhausting. And I only did it for two hours. They're here all night."
While in college at Penn and Northwestern business school, Luhnow also nurtured other passions by playing fantasy baseball — another sign that he's a regular guy. In 2003 at age 37, Luhnow transitioned into a data analysis job with the St. Louis Cardinals. By 2005, he was overseeing their drafts. Two World Series rings and several minor-league championships later, the Astros named him GM. And then demoted him to usher. Just for a game, though.
Big BLS H/N: Zachary Levine of Ultimate Astros