Baseball Dreams Realized With NIU Degree

Former Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti, '76, is the 2019 NIU Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Award winner.

Ned Colletti, ’76, never would have dreamed that he would spend one season in Major League Baseball, let alone nearly 40 years.

That first step towards his career as a baseball executive began when he received his journalism degree from Northern Illinois University in 1976 and culminated in 2005, when he was named the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In recognition of his hard work and accomplishments, the Northern Illinois University Alumni Association has chosen Colletti as the recipient of the 2019
Distinguished Alumnus Award. 

Not bad for someone who wasn’t sure if he would even be able to attend college.

“Northern Illinois University gave me a chance,” Colletti said. “I was not a good high school student and I didn’t really have the financial footing to really venture out into the collegiate world. But it was a dream of my parents that their sons would attend and graduate from college. (My brother Doug graduated from NIU in 1983).

“I went to Triton Junior College first, spent a semester at Illinois State and then I was accepted at Northern,” Colletti continued. “I spent the last half of my college career at Northern and received a degree in journalism.”

That journalism degree led Colletti to four different jobs as a sportswriter, including a stop at the Philadelphia Journal. One of Colletti’s co-workers at the
Philadelphia Journal introduced him to former Philadelphia Phillies manager and then-Chicago Cubs General Manager Dallas Green.

The Cubs were hiring and the Franklin Park, Illinois, native jumped at the chance to not only pursue a career in baseball with his favorite team, but move back home primarily because his dad was dying of lung cancer.

“One thing always leads to another in life and in careers,” Colletti said. “Without having a journalism degree, I wouldn’t have been in Philadelphia nor would I have known the people who would help me find my way into baseball.”

Colletti was hired as the Cubs assistant media relations director and worked his way to the media relations director position during his tenure. His job
responsibilities, however, were not limited to media relations.

He just wanted the chance.

“I wanted the extra opportunities,” Colletti said. “Dallas Green continued to give me more opportunities.

“He gave me an opportunity and I took every opportunity with me. I wanted my standing in the organization to be stronger and stronger. I figured out that the more things that I did, the more that they’d want to keep me and promote me. Or it would make me more marketable to go someplace else if I so chose. It’s like playing golf. If all you have in your bag is a driver, it can be tough playing. I looked at every opportunity as adding another club to my bag.”

After 13 years with the Cubs, Colletti’s golf bag was full and he parlayed those extra opportunities into a job as the assistant general manager for the San
Francisco Giants. Colletti served in that role for 11 seasons.

That’s when the previously-thought-unreachable dream became a little more real.

“It was probably 10-15 years into my baseball career that I thought why not? Let’s give it a shot. Let’s stay on that path and continue to take on more
responsibility,” Colletti said.

Colletti was given that shot on Nov. 15, 2005, as he was named the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He proudly recalls that as his greatest professional moment.

“There’s 30 jobs like that in the world (as a Major League Baseball General Manager),” Colletti said. “I lived in a garage until I was five and I moved into a four-room house. Nobody went to college in my family until I did. Having gone through all those little challenges and trials, and to have it culminate in that moment was probably the greatest.”

That moment, which lasted for nearly a decade, started with a journalism degree from Northern Illinois University.

The 2019 Alumni Awards Luncheon photo album