Meet Dr. Bob Froehlich, Owner of the Kane County Cougars
- Editor’s Note: This is the first of Kane County Connects’ “Someone You Should Know” series, which we hope will be a fun way to introduce you to Kane County people who contribute mightily — and quite often behind the scenes — to enhance the quality of life in our communities.
- Series Part 1: As the Kane County Cougars begin their run at the 2015 playoffs, there might be no better time to get to know one of the guys who got them there. No, we’re not talking about hard-hitting Ildemaro Vargas or Victor Reyes, but the man who has made the Kane County Cougars his family business: Dr. Bob Froehlich.
Quick confession. I thought Dr. Bob Froehlich was a friendly dentist.
Seriously. Not sure how I got that idea or from what source, but in my mind Dr. Bob was a guy who quit dentistry, made a lot of money in investments, decided to buy into the Kane County Cougars, then brought new life to the organization by virtue of his uncommon (for a dentist) business sense, generally awesome attitude and deep love for the game of baseball.
Turns out, I was only a little right.
Dr. Bob Froehlich is a force of nature. He is, as I had heard, a great guy. Fun to talk to, enthusiastic about the world in general and the Kane County Cougars in particular. He is a family man, married to Cheryl for 38 years come October (“I am close to getting my apprenticeship,” Dr. Bob says), and he does have remarkable business sense and a deep love of the game, having played semi-pro ball himself.
Under his leadership, the Cougars are enjoying a heyday these past couple years the likes of which we’ve never before seen in the Cougars’ 25 seasons.
But while Dr. Bob is friendly, he is not a dentist. To my knowledge — and this is confirmed by no greater authority than a brief Internet search — he has nothing to do with bicuspids except for those that reside in his own mouth.
So who is this guy? It’s no exaggeration to say that Dr. Bob Froehlich is a world-famous investment analyst, appearing on CNBC, Fox News, CNN and Bloomberg TV. He was one of the regular guest co-hosts for one of CNBC’s Squawk Box and The Kudlow Report, and a regular “special guest” on the Fox News weekend show, Bulls and Bears.
In addition to the whole renowned-Wall-Street-executive-and-minor-league-baseball-owner thing, he’s an independent corporate director, a mutual fund trustee and a person involved with so many charitable organizations it’s hard to keep track of them all.
How did he get to be “Dr. Bob”? Glad you asked. Back when we was a Wall Street spokesman, some marketing genius (and I mean that sincerely) decided that “Robert Froehlich” really wasn’t a name made for TV. “Dr. Bob,” however, worked great, and it has been Froehlich’s moniker ever since.
Baseball Been Berry Berry Good to Dr. Bob
Robert Froehlich was raised in Pittsburgh, and he grew up loving the game of baseball. So much so, in fact, that he went on to be a star on his high school team and play semi-pro ball. His semi-pro team in those days was the North Side Mets (formerly the Federal Street Merchants) in the storied Greater Pittsburgh Semi-Pro Federation Baseball League that was founded in 1929 and is still in operation today.
That league has produced such professional baseball players as Art Howe, Ken Macha and (fondly, for old Cubs fans like me) Glenn Beckert. Other notable league alumni are football Hall of Famers Art Rooney, Sr., and Dan Marino.
The North Side Mets were “similar to the Schaumburg Flyers or Joliet Bombers,” Dr. Bob said.
He played two years; center field was his position. He had a good arm and was an OK hitter. When you think of Dr. Bob’s semi-pro stint, it’s not hard to call up the image of Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, the Burt Lancaster character in Field of Dreams, who never got to bat in the major leagues but just once wanted to stare down a big-league pitcher. (“To stare him down, then just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn’t. That’s what I wish for. The chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingle in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases, stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag.”)
Like “Moonlight” Graham, there was “enough magic out there in the moonlight” to make Dr. Bob’s dream come true. He and Cheryl became minority owners of the Kane County Cougars two years ago, and in June last year became majority owners. The Cougars front office is made up of Cheryl, Dr. Bob, their daughters, Stephanie Froehlich and Marianne Neidhart, and Marianne’s husband, Chris. So for the Froehlichs, running a baseball team really is a family affair.
“When you have a childhood dream, you never let it go,” Dr. Bob said. “When we go to the games, we sit in the owners suite and pinch ourselves. To be a part of something that’s so much fun for so for so many people truly is a blessing.”
From Municipal Government to Municipal Bonds
What a lot of people might not know about Dr. Bob — besides his baseball roots — is that he was the first city manager in Beaver Creek, OH. We are not making this up, either.
Froehlich earned a BA in history, then a masters in public administration from the University of Dayton. From there, he found government work, first as a budget analyst for the city of Dayton, then as chief financial officer for Montgomery County, OH, Water & Sewer Utility District. His government career reached a zenith when he became one of the youngest-ever city managers in Ohio.
If you look at his resume, though, you could pretty much tell that this wasn’t your average run-of-the-mill govie. He was writing books and instruction guides (A Guide for Understanding County Government in Ohio), he was an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Sinclair Community College. He was Adjunct Professor of Psychology (don’t ask me how that happened, something he did in his spare time, probably) at Ohio Institute of Photography.
But it was in that city manager position that a new career took root. As a young man, he found himself in the somewhat awkward position of hiring older and wiser police and fire chiefs, managing a $5 million budget and, most importantly, helping the city issue bonds to build roads.
Blame the bonds, muni bonds, for igniting his passion and changing his future.
“That got me excited about Wall Street,” he said. “That dog really bit me.”
It bit so hard, in fact, that Froehlich found a job on Wall Street in the municipal bond area. From there he went to corporate bonds and stock market strategies. The next thing you know, he’s a senor manager for Ernst & Young (Ernst & Whinney), a chief investment strategist for Van Kampen American Capital, a vice chairman for Deutsche Bank – DWS Investments, a mutual funds officer for the Hartford and about 100 other titles that are too many to mention.
During his 30-year career, he’s become a recognized expert on global financial markets, global economies, currencies and global demographic trends and chaired investment strategy committees for multiple global asset management organizations. He was named to three different All American Institutional Research Teams and wrote six investment books published and translated into 10 languages.
Somewhere along the way, he managed to snag a doctorate in public policy from California Coast University — hence the “Dr. Bob” — and you’ve already read his laundry list of television and public speaking credits. If we missed any, just check out his resume on LinkedIn.
Putting the Game Face On
While Froehlich is most famous for his long career as a financial analyst, getting him to talk about anything but Cougars baseball requires an effort — he’s that much into it.
The Arizona Diamondbacks affiliated Cougars played about 140 games this season, about 70 of which were at home, and Dr. Bob and Cheryl went to almost all the home games. “Last year after we took control, we tried to go all of the games. We just decided, if we’re going to own the team, we’re going to have a presence.”
You can see that presence in several of the photos attached here. As we noted, the ownership is a sort of family affair, and the Cougars franchise itself has the feel of a close-knit group. While there are literally 500 seasonal employees, there are only about 25 full-timers on staff, so it’s “very important for us to get to know them and for them to know of our commitment,” Froehlich said.
“This is not just an investment; this is our life. We’re passionate about it, and we’re passionate about doing something right for the community.”
One of the things that’s right is called the Ozzie Outreach Foundation. The Cougars mascot, Ozzie, is out in the community almost nonstop in the schools and hospitals.
Each month during the season, the Cougars champion a local charity, and in 2015 that included Project Backpack, a community-based initiative led by Elgin Community College that benefits local students who are in need of necessary school supplies, DuPage Pads, which aims for a solution to end homelessness, Northern Illinois Food Bank, the Geneva-based food bank that works with 800 community food pantries across 13 counties to solve hunger in northern Illinois, Family Shelter Service, which offers help and hope to those affected by domestic violence and Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers, which has several treatment centers throughout Illinois, including nearby Aurora.
They also support the Wounded Warrior program.
“It’s important to give back,” Froehlich said. “We’ve been doing that and expanding as much as we possibly can.”
Helping the Local Economy
While Dr. Bob might be a big name in Wall Street circles, he and his family’s investment in the local economy might be the achievement that gives him the most satisfaction.
Froehlich and the franchise continue to innovate and simply refuse to rest on their laurels.
The Cougars have built a new music garden and pavilion this year, which is probably at or near completion as this is written. On eight occasions, there will be a free concert there. The whole point is to continue to draw people to Kane County, to make sure to give back to the community.
“We’re never going to compete with Ravinia,” he said. “But we felt strongly that there’s an opportunity here, because of the property we’re sitting on, to add to the atmosphere and enhance the experience for the fans.”
In 2015, the owners put together a five-part plan to “do something special for the league, the community and just for fun.” That included the addition of the high-definition YESCO video board (same company the Bears use for their scoreboard), adding a couple of seating areas including the 4 Topps Premium seating in Section 116 that’s got 16 tables with 360-degree swiveling seats and wait service. (“You never have to get up,” Dr. Bob says.)
A commemorative legacy brick program allows fans to purchase a brick inscribed with their name or the name of a loved one, to be displayed outside Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. A portion of proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Cougars added trees in the first- and third-base lawn-seating areas. It was Cheryl’s idea. People can sit in the shade and watch the game, and the ballpark is that much prettier. They greatly expanded the Kids Zone play area to make it more fun for children age 6 and under. And for the team, they bought state-of-the-art, indoor batting cages and a weight room.
Even the food has earned headlines, with this year’s introduction of The Heart Attack Burger, which was rated the No. 5 “Best New Food” in all of baseball — not just the minors but all of baseball. They’re the first team to have their own beer, “Raging Cougar Ale,” which comes from the Roundhouse in Aurora. They sponsored “1-Cent Wiener Wednesdays” and got Girl Scout and Boy Scout groups to sell a 50-cent roll of pennies for $1, so that the Scouts could make a little hay while the sun shines, as well.
And then there are just a bunch of little details — like the 16 flags added to the outfield that give Fifth Third Bank Ballpark an old-fashioned feel, and the simple addition of the Cougars logo on the team buses.
“You know, these kids (players) are always on a bus,” Dr. Bob said. “We wanted our team to be proud of being part of Kane County and have a sense of responsibility that they’re representing Kane County. And you know what? The kids are so proud and happy getting on that bus. It’s a great way to just spread Kane County all over the Midwest.”
‘Maybe This Is Heaven’
John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
This 25th anniversary Cougars season has been a little bit of heaven in Kane County. The Cougars start the playoffs today (Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015) in defense of their championship season just last year. They’ve set records for team batting average and recorded the most wins ever in their second half of this season. They’ve got a Major League leader in the dugout, with Mark Grudzielanek, the second baseman and shortstop who played for six teams during his 15-season career and collected a gold glove, played on an all-star team and led the league in doubles (1997) along the way.
Heck, they’ve even got the best athletic trainer in the league, Rafael Freitas, who was selected by his peers as the 2015 Midwest League Athletic Trainer of the Year.
If all of this season and last has been heavenly for Cougars fans, you can be pretty sure the same holds true for the financial analyst who serves as its owner, CEO and chief cheerleader.
“I’ve never lost my passion for baseball,” Dr. Bob said. “And this was a great way to tie the numbers together.”