In the belly of the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, Peter “Pedro” Bragan Jr., soon-to-be-ex-owner of the Jacksonville Suns, still has an office.
His desk is littered with paperwork, newspaper clippings, stat columns and the beginnings of an untitled autobiography. On the wall behind him hang framed photos of family, friends and past players. One stands out among them, though — it’s of him, age six or so, in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform, attempting to portray his favorite left-handed first baseman, Stan Musial.
This season makes 31 years that Bragan has been a part Jacksonville’s oldest sport’s mainstay, Minor League Baseball. This week marks Pedro’s last as the Suns owner, with the final game on Sept. 7.
Prior to Bragan’s bottom of the ninth, so to speak, Folio Weekly sat down with him to talk business, success and, most important, baseball.
Folio Weekly: I have to know — where did the name “Pedro” come from?
Peter Bragan: It all started with my dad’s brother, Bobby Bragan Jr., who everybody in the family called “Juno.” I had a cousin named Jimmy Bragan Jr. and they called him “Jimbo,” which is more common. So, everybody just started calling me “Pee-dro,” but the first year [The Suns] did the program, they put Pedro instead of Pee-dro and so, that first summer, people kept saying, “Pedro? You don’t sound like a Pedro. Where are you from?” I’d say, “I’m from Alabama. I’m not a Pedro, it’s really Pee-dro.” I did that for about 500 people and, by the end of the first summer, I’d just say, “Yes, it’s Pedro, what can I do for you?”
Out of the 31 seasons you’ve spent with this team, which one stands out the most for you?
The ’87 team was the best team, I think, on the field; it was the first year we were able to get it in the black. I think we made $10,000 at the end of that year … The team was great and we got some more publicity because of it.
The organization has seen a lot of talent come through the doors over the years: Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton. In your mind, who’s most memorable player?
Going back to that ’87 team, Larry Walker, who won a lot of batting titles with the Rockies and Montreal. I was 33 years old at the time, see, and he was probably 24, so we weren’t that far apart. He played golf left-handed but he didn’t bring any clubs with him. So he’d play out of my bag; we played golf a good bit that summer and got to be good friends.
What makes Minor League Baseball so special?
I think it’s the fact that it’s so affordable. You can bring little kids, you can bring bigger kids and grandparents. It just kind of crosses the generations. Most people who go to a minor league game probably can’t tell you if the Suns won or not, but they can say, “We had a good time.”
Why is now the right time to sell the team?
My dad died in 2012 and I had some people come up to me right after wanting to buy the team, but my accountants and advisors said I needed to wait at least two years. I really wasn’t even looking to sell when Mr. [Ken] Babby showed up, but it’d been long enough. My dad had to die owning the Jacksonville Suns. When he got into his 80s, money didn’t make a difference to him. He just loved coming to the park. But I don’t have any kids to pass it on to, like he did me, so I don’t have to die [owning the team] and I’m not going to.
This season has been billed as “Pedro’s last dance.” That’s kind of a sad thought — is this finale bittersweet or are you happy to be retiring?
I’m happy. It’s a little bittersweet, sure, because I’ve been doing this for so long. I’m not going to know what to do with myself once it’s over but, like I said, my foot hurts all the time, I’m too old and fat and I’ll never lose this belly if I don’t get away from the ballpark. It’s just my time to move on. I’m thrilled and excited with the opening of the rest of my life.