The big league boss

Robert DuPuy, president of Major League Baseball, talks about making the most out of time on the road.

By Matthew Boyle, Fortune writer

(Fortune Magazine) -- Commissioner Bud Selig may be the public face of Major League Baseball, but Bob DuPuy is the man behind the scenes getting things done. As president and COO, DuPuy, 60, who joined the league in 1998 as chief legal officer, now oversees everything on behalf of the commissioner, from labor relations (which includes the steroid problem) to the league's blossoming Internet unit.

Since he took the COO position in 2002, MLB's revenue has grown 50%, to $5.3 billion, and in the past year the league managed to strike a new labor agreement with the players' union, secure multiple stadium deals, and hammer out a distribution pact with DirecTV and cable companies.

The affable DuPuy (pronounced Doo-Pay) chatted with Fortune's Matthew Boyle about his addiction to Diet Pepsi (12 cans a day), his in-flight thinking strategy, and his book-of-the-month club.

Make a long-distance (working) relationship work. My job is to get the objectives of the commissioner out to the 30 clubs and to get the clubs' concerns back to him. One of the most difficult parts of my work is the fact that our CEO [commissioner Selig] is 1,000 miles away in Milwaukee. That's unusual in terms of how businesses operate. He comes to New York one or two times a month, and I visit him as often. We speak two to three times some days, and up to 12 on others. We're working on videoconferencing capability, which may add a face-to-face dimension to important calls.

Split flights into thirds. I travel a lot - in fact, this is only my ninth day in the office so far this year, and I saw more baseball games in Japan's Tokyo Dome last year than at any other ballpark. I try to split each plane trip into thirds: One-third of the time I read the newspaper, one-third of the time I work on what I am traveling for, and the other third I spend thinking. I openly discourage conversation from seatmates. It is extraordinarily difficult in this day of instant communications to find time to think.

Have a note-taking system. I have these note cards, which are separated into four sections: people to call, things to do, expenses, and notes. I use them to jot down ideas, and I go through four or five of these a day. A lawyer I worked with for 15 years had a similar system, and it seemed to be a clever idea. I have been doing it ever since, and people here have now imitated me.

Befriend a hotel manager. I'm not superstitious like baseball players, but certain things go with me no matter where I go - my cellphone and BlackBerry. And I'm horrific at keeping track of them. I go through three or four a year. I leave them in hotels, airplanes, and cabs. The Pfister hotel in Milwaukee and the Mayflower in Washington are both very good about rescuing my stuff.

Take time to read. Four years ago I set a goal of reading 13 books a year. I have done that each year since. Last year I read "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" [by Marisha Pessl] and Paul Auster's "The Brooklyn Follies." The new Babe Ruth biography [by Leigh Montville] may be next.

Mix business with pleasure. I've been lucky enough to use baseball as common ground to balance work and family. We use the All-Star break as a family reunion. Occasionally we do the same for the playoffs. I end up working during that, but at least we are all together. It's important in terms of recharging your batteries.  Top of page