His Boston Red Sox business card says he is “Consultant-Director, Fantasy Camp/Cruise.” But don’t let the card fool you. When it comes to Major League Baseball, Ken Nigro ’60 is plugged in.
“He completely hides how connected and influential he is,” said Charles Steinberg, former Red Sox executive vice president for public affairs, now with the Dodgers. “He’s like the wealthy woman who dresses in rags because she doesn’t want you to know she’s rich.”
Nigro’s riches have come over a long baseball career, half of it spent covering the sport as a writer for the Baltimore Sun and the second half spent working for the Baltimore Orioles and Red Sox.
“He’s been a jack of all trades in the baseball world for many years including spring training, fantasy camp, media relations, public relations,” said Larry Lucchino, Red Sox president and chief executive officer. “He’s a seasoned veteran.”
Like the old-timer in the bullpen, Nigro is the wise sage in a front office known for its youth. In fact he’s been around baseball as long as many of his Red Sox colleagues (including Galen Carr ’97 and Brian O’Halloran ’93) have been alive.
Nigro may have grown older with the game, but the game, he says, never gets old. “Every game is a little different,” he said. “I've been fortunate to be around some of the greats, like Earl Weaver, and to see players like Koufax, Mantle, and Mays.”
He’s grateful for his baseball-related career—and he’s well aware that it almost didn’t happen.
Nigro came to Colby from New Jersey as a 100-pound asthmatic freshman, hoping to benefit from Maine’s clean air. He put on 40 pounds, he recalls, and was in the minority for the time as a guy who didn’t join a fraternity (“I couldn’t have gotten a date no matter what I did,” he said, during an interview in the press box at Fenway Park. “They called us GDIs. Goddamn Independents. We were like outcasts.”).
He majored in Spanish, which still comes in handy when he works at Red Sox camps in the Dominican Republic, but back then he was unsure what to do after graduation. Ironically, a failed job interview set him on the right course.
Nigro was interviewing at an insurance company in New Jersey when the interviewer stopped him. “He said, ‘You don’t want to work here. Let me ask you something. If you could do one thing that you wanted, what would you do?’”
Nigro remembers his reply, “I have some interest in maybe becoming a sportswriter,” he said. The interviewer countered with, “Then why don’t you do it?”
He did, first at the Long Branch (N.J.) Daily Record and the Hagerstown Morning Herald before landing a job at the Baltimore Sun. He stayed for 17 years. “I was doing what I wanted to do,” Nigro said. “I would wake up every morning and couldn’t wait to get to work.”
And Nigro was a great reporter, said Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who started his career at the Sun in the 1970s. In fact, to this day, Shaughnessy credits Nigro with teaching him the core values of their craft.
“He was fearless and not afraid of the consequences of what people would think,” Shaughnessy said. “He would protect sources.” And the veteran offered his protégé valuable advice: “Never touch the players’ food, respect their space, don’t become buddies with them.”
“He taught me how to act like an adult,” Shaughnessy said. “It was helpful to me to have that sort of role model right out of the gate.”
In 1982, after a dozen years covering the Orioles, Nigro literally joined the club, in public relations. After a year with the Orioles, he went to work for George Steinbrenner as the New York Yankees’ director of public relations. In 1984, like a journeyman ballplayer, Nigro returned to the Orioles, and when Larry Lucchino and Charles Steinberg left the San Diego Padres for Boston, Nigro joined them.
“There were certain roles that he played that we thought would be useful to us,” Lucchino said. “He has a certain track record of reliability, and he’s a source of a lot of general ideas with regard to on-field and off-the-field activities because he’s been around the game for thirty-five years.”
Nigro is a baseball fixture, and the game has treated him well. “He was an old-looking young guy (then) instead of young-looking old guy (now),” Shaughnessy said. “He hasn’t aged in thirty years.”
The secret to longevity, as in life, may be finding your calling and sticking with it. “It’s what I've always done,” Nigro said, as the game got underway on the Fenway green below. “I still do enough writing for the cruise and the fantasy camp to still think I’m a newspaper guy. Next to being a newspaper guy, this is pretty good.”