Four years went by faster than Dee could ever have foreseen, but as he prepares to take on his new role of President and CEO of Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres he certainly has mixed emotions.
“I’m excited about where I’m going,” Dee told Dolphins.com. “I’m going back home for an opportunity with the franchise where I started my sports career and back in baseball, but it’s bittersweet to be leaving a place that I’ve grown to love in a short period of time. It’s a team I always rooted for, a franchise I absolutely love and an owner (Stephen Ross) who is just outstanding. I’m just so grateful to Steve for giving me this opportunity and thankful that he’s allowed me to also follow my dream to San Diego.”
When Dee was hired by Ross on May 3, 2009, he was fresh off of a successful run as the COO of the Boston Red Sox and brought with him a fresh perspective and a track record of enhancing and expanding the business side of professional sports franchises. It didn’t take him long to his mark with the Dolphins in South Florida, negotiating a multi-year naming rights deal with Sun Life Financial to rename the team’s stadium in Miami Gardens as Sun Life Stadium.
That new stadium name was unveiled just in time for the sports world to descend upon South Florida for the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV, maximizing its exposure. From there, Dee immersed himself in plans to further the team’s already dominant presence in the community by establishing the Special Teams volunteer program and created the Dolphins Cycling Challenge, now the largest athletic fundraiser in the state, to raise money for the fight against cancer.
“They’re all my favorite and they all wouldn’t be possible without having the great organization and the people who contributed,” Dee said. “There are a lot of people that can come up with ideas, but it’s the execution and people rallying behind that idea that makes it work.”
Having been a part of one iconic franchise in the Red Sox, Dee came into his job with the Dolphins holding onto a high level of respect for history. He made it a priority to connect with the strong traditions of Florida’s oldest sports team, spearheading the commissioning of that “A Perfect Moment In Time” statue celebrating the undefeated 1972 season and the renaming of the address for the stadium offices to 347 Don Shula Drive. Both were unveiled moments before the Pro Bowl.
Dee also honored the memory of the Dolphins’ founder and first owner by having his statue placed in front of the Gate C entrance as the centerpiece of the new Walk Of Fame and had the statue of Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Marino put back on the Gate G Grand Plaza. Last year, on the 40th anniversary of The Perfect Season, he was the driving force behind the movie, “More Than Perfect: One Team, One Town,” which brought the untold story of that team and it’s impact on what was then a fledgling city of Miami.
“What I’m most proud of is I think we have been able to raise the bar with respect to the attention and recognition the great history of this franchise deserves and the people who made that history,” Dee said. “A lot of these guys I grew up watch play and also as an adult and I love this team and I watching them play. I found out that not only were they great players but they’re better people and they welcomed me into that kind of exclusive fraternity and based on the feedback I’ve gotten I know they appreciated what we did to celebrate that history.”
Even though his time with the Miami Dolphins was relatively short, Dee left an indelible mark that will sustain through the DCC and its contributions to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Special Teams and the other community and business initiatives he helped put in place.
As for how he would like his legacy to be though of, it’s rather simple.
“That I made a difference when I was here,” Dee said. “We didn’t obviously achieve the success on the field that we all hoped for and that made some of the challenges we faced more acute. But seasons come and go and ticket sales and numbers come and go. I’d like to think that some of the things we did in the last four years in the community – the aforementioned Dolphins Cycling Challenge, Special Teams – that those things will last for a long time and be a part of the legacy of not just me but of the Dolphins. I’m proud of that.
“Working for Mr. Ross was great. Steve’s going to go down when his tenure is done here, which I hope isn’t for a long time, as just a great owner and a great steward of the franchise. He wants to win desperately, knows that we’ve got to bring that back to the fan base here and all just positive things. It was a great ride and it’s hard to meet somebody who comes up with more ideas, but I may have met my match in him.”