In fact, Werner couldn’t get himself away from sports. After getting cut from the Yale baseball team in his first week of undergrad, he sought different outlets. During the school year, he would do radio play-by-play for the Yale hockey team. Over the summers, the Los Angeles native took internships with the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres.
Now the senior director of business operations for the Milwaukee Brewers, Werner hasn’t looked back since getting called up for his first full-time job in the big leagues, just two years after his Duke Law graduation.
“Baseball is something that I’ve been around my whole life,” says Werner, who lives in Milwaukee with his wife, Karin Holmberg ’03, and their three children. “For me, the goal was always to somehow get into professional baseball.”
He got his start at Duke, where he made sure to study sports law. His studies left an “indelible impression,” he says, as he was able to immerse himself in the wide range of issues that can arise in the sports world. Werner gives particular credit to two of his law school professors: John Weistart ’68, the co-author of the seminal work, The Law of Sports; and Paul Haagen, with whom Werner keeps in constant contact.
Following his graduation, Werner joined Proskauer Rose where he specialized in labor and employment law. It gave him a chance to get his feet wet in the sports world by working on a number of matters for the NBA, NHL and MLB – including salary arbitration cases for the Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies.
“Working at the firm gave me a lot of exposure to sports law,” says Werner. “But once the opportunity with the Brewers opened up, I jumped at it.”
Werner is now entering his seventh season with the Brewers. Most of his work takes place on the business side, as the team already maintains a full-time general counsel. During the course of the season, he works on a number of different tasks relating to the Brewers’ day-to-day operations, ranging from managing construction projects at the ballpark to creating sustainability initiatives to interfacing with the team’s concessionaire.
In the offseason, he manages the club’s salary arbitration cases. It’s an involved process, stipulated by MLB’s collective bargaining agreement requiring the club’s representatives to appear in front of a panel of three arbitrators to present a detailed case on what salary a certain player should be making; players are represented by their agent.
Still, Werner says his biggest challenge is helping the Brewers compete at a high level in a small market as a member of its business team.
“We are operating in the smallest media market in baseball. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into the team’s operations,” Werner notes. “We are proud of the fact that we have not only been competitive on the field, but off the field as well. In fact, over the past four years, we’ve drawn over three million fans in three separate seasons.”
Werner has another tie in the baseball world: his father, Tom, is co-owner of the Boston Red Sox. While their teams face similar issues, Werner notes they often approach them from contrasting perspectives, a fact both have found helpful.
“He sees things from a big market perspective and I am on the other side of things, so it allows us to put ourselves in each other’s shoes,” says Werner.
The Brewers might not have the nonstop spotlight of team like the Yankees or the Red Sox, but Werner is ecstatic to be part of a city as passionate for baseball as Milwaukee.
“This is a great baseball city. It was when the Braves were here in the 50’s. It was when the Brewers were great in the 80’s. And it continues to be today.”
─ Andrew Clark