Gerardo Meija surveys the Trenton Lions spring training complex in Port St. Lucie Florida and he likes what he sees. The Lions have one of the newest and most impressive spring training complexes in Florida, but that is not what has him excited this morning. Instead, Mr. Meija is watching the Lions newest star, Rico Estrada, lead the Lions onto the field for one of the last infield practices of the spring. In an unlikely sports-business story, Mr. Meija went from fan to owner almost overnight by providing the cash infusion to sign Mr. Estrada.
For a music company executive, buying part of a baseball club may seem like an unusual move. “Not at all,” says Mr. Meija, “established professional sports are a fairly safe investment and I’m a passive investor in all this.” Mr. Meija’s interest isn’t entirely passive, however. His buy-in was contingent on the Lions signing Mr. Estrada to a contract. “I’d been a fan of Rico’s for a long time, and I know he’s a fan of mine. It just made sense.”
Last fall, after the stock market crash, the Trenton Lions were hard up for cash and it seemed they may not be involved in the free agent market. Enter Geraldo Meija. “I met some of the ownership group at one of Jimmy Iovine’s parties and I told them they should sign Rico Estrada. They said to me ‘that’ll take 75 million- we don’t have 75 million’ so I told them ‘I have 75 million’. It just went from there.”
For his part, Mr. Estrada seemed excited to be involved with the Lions and Mr. Meija.“ There were several clubs offering me contracts, but when I heard that Geraldo was involved with Trenton I knew that’s where I had to be.” Mr. Estrada also seemed undaunted by the task of helping turn the Lions into consistent winners. “It’s going to be an uphill battle here, but before I signed I talked to brysoc [Trenton Lions GM] and I liked his plan for making this club a champion. I think we can do it.”
Even if Mr. Estrada’s signing doesn’t guarantee a championship for Trenton, it certainly helped the club grab some much needed attention. Mr. Estrada was arguably the most important free agent this offseason. Among his accomplishments, Mr. Estrada holds 2nd place all time in Cobb for hits and 5th place all time for runs scored. Mr. Meija's resume includes his own hit song, 'Rico Suave', and bringing rapper Bubba Sparxxx to Interscope records.