Thursday, March 4, 2021

Leadership Stems from a Father-Son Baseball Bond

By Renee Mulligan
IMC Student

Motivation and determination can come from a lot of things. For Ryan and Bob Mulligan, the sport of baseball drove them both from a young age to achieve greatness.

Ryan and Bob Mulligan. Photo submitted
Bob Mulligan grew up in Toms River, N.J., and played every sport to get out of the house and be an active kid. He fell in love with baseball at the very beginning and knew he wanted to compete on the collegiate and even professional stage.

Bob successfully achieved one of those dreams by playing baseball at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill from 1983-1986.

The UNC baseball team of 1984 was a tough one to beat, and they proved that by being crowned Atlantic Coast Conference champs.

“There’s not a lot that can compare to the excitement of getting out on the field and playing in front of hundreds of fans doing what you love. And it doesn’t hurt being good at it either,” Bob said, laughing while reminiscing.

Bob was a pitcher and a letterman for the 1984 season. Hopes to go pro came to a halt when he got injured and tore his rotator cuff, abruptly ending his baseball career.

Bob moved on, got married and went into the business world, eventually landing the position as Senior Vice-President for Wells Fargo.

Although his competitive baseball career ended after college, he never stopped loving the game and being involved whenever he could. Once his son Ryan was born in 1993, he was hopeful his son would love the game as much as he did.

Ryan grew up in Raleigh, N.C., and, like father like son, he shared the same childhood as his father, playing every sport and coming home to dinner straight from the field. But he knew he wanted to pursue the game of baseball. Ryan and his dad became close during his years growing up, with Bob being his coach for little league or throwing batting practice for his high school games and practices.

“My dad always gave me the choice to do whatever I wanted (sports-wise) and never pushed me to play baseball. He didn’t have to. It was the game I never wanted to stop playing,” Ryan said.

Ryan played baseball for a D3 school in Granville, Ohio, called Denison University. His talent was recognized from the very beginning. He started in more than half the games as a freshman. His senior year he was a star player and led the team in doubles, total bases, slugging percentage, walks, RBIs, and home runs. His leadership on and off the field granted him the title of captain his senior year.

For both Ryan and Bob, their baseball careers ended after college, but their leadership and love for the game did not.

Ryan moved on to New York City to pursue a career in commercial real estate for two years, then ended up moving back to North Carolina to get his MBA at UNC. Around the time he moved back, his former high school, Leesville Road, was looking for an assistant baseball coach for the varsity team. Ryan wanted to help and be back on the field, so he took the job.

He is still the assistant baseball coach at Leesville Road and graduated from graduate school in May.

Once Ryan went to college, Bob became the commissioner for a local not-for-profit baseball organization, North Wake County Baseball Association. Bob was familiar with the organization because Ryan had played with them since he was five.

Bob eventually retired from the business world and took the opportunity to become a part-time professor at UNC and teach a “Leadership in Business” course.

“I wanted to pay it forward to kids, and my time as a collegiate athlete at UNC taught me that leadership can be shown through anything: sports, business, education. I found ways to relate all of them through teaching that class,” Bob said.

As well as teaching the class, Bob also became an advisor for athletes at UNC. Today, Bob is semi-retired apart from his roles at UNC, and he enjoys playing golf, riding his bike, watching the Yankees and smoking meat on his Big Green Egg.