After firing team president Kevin Mather, a 25-year club executive, basically for conduct unbecoming, principal Mariners owner John Stanton made sure that Mather’s successor was not from baseball’s old-boy network.
He hired a woman whose premier pro-sports achievement was helping make an expansion MLS team an instant success in Atlanta.
Catie Griggs, who for the past four years was the chief business officer of Atlanta United, a club that has led MLS in attendance each year since its 2017 inception, was named Tuesday as the baseball club’s president of business operations.
From that fact alone, the choice makes sense — Atlanta broke all of the previous MLS crowd records set by the highly successful Seattle Sounders, who always seem to out-draw the Mariners on head-to-head home dates.
“We had a really impressive group of finalists for this role,” Stanton said in a club statement. “Out of that very strong group, Catie set herself apart with her passion, her experience, and the perspective she will bring to the Mariners.”
Griggs also was part of Atlanta’s MLS championship in 2018, which gives her a 1-0 lead over all her Mariners predecessors combined.
“The Mariners are a team on the rise, and as that success builds on the field, we have an opportunity to forge even stronger bonds with the community,” Griggs said in a statement. “I will bring a championship mentality to everything the franchise does by focusing on the fans and giving back in meaningful ways. My values align very well with the Mariners mission, and I am honored to have the opportunity to join this organization at this extraordinary time.”
The release mentioned nothing about job responsibilities, but the expectation is that Stanton will retain final say on baseball personnel matters, particularly two pending decisions of importance to Mariners fans.
Both general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais are in the final years of their contracts. The unexpectedly competitive and entertaining season — it doesn’t get much better than Monday’s rally from seven runs down for an 11-8 win over Houston — probably made the decisions easier. Contract extensions may be announced some days after the MLB trade deadline Friday.
Griggs likely will be in charge of everything besides baseball personnel, which will belong to Dipoto. If that had happened with Mather, he might still have his job.
But in his infamous talk with the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary in February, Mather demonstrated shockingly little knowledge of the roster, as well as tone-deafness when it comes to public discussion of players and club finances. The gaffes were a local and national embarrassment, and Mather was gone not long after his Zoom chat went viral.
Griggs ran the show for Atlanta in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, including match-day production, broadcasting and alliance with supporters groups. She was also part of the executive leadership team under Arthur Blank, who owns the MLS club and the NFL Falcons. She left her post in June, apparently knowing she had a new job in Seattle.
In the annual Sports Business Awards, Atlanta United in 2019 was named team of the year, and the stadium facility of the year. MLS gave Atlanta its annual team of the year awards in marketing, PR and social media.
Griggs joined Atlanta after working for Futures Sport & Entertainment, a cross-platform global media and sponsorships analytics consultancy, and before that had roles with Turner Broadcasting.
A North Carolina native, Griggs received her B.A. (in Government) from Dartmouth College and her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Catie and her husband, Justin, have two children.
Minority owner Jeff Raikes led a 12-person search committee that selected Griggs.
“Under Jeff’s leadership, the committee did a terrific job of defining the key personal and professional attributes we wanted,” Stanton said. “With their diverse perspectives, the committee created an inclusive process that resulted in a pool of talented potential candidates.”