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Mike and Pattie Feder are drawn to Tucson like a magnet, leaving the city twice to pursue other sports business ventures, only to come back to what they call home although Mike is from Chicago and Pattie from Wisconsin.
Their relationship began appropriately in sports within a front-office setting in 1975 when Mike was in his first year as the general manager of the Class A Wausau (Wis.) Mets and Pattie was a secretary.
“We started our relationship in Wausau, Wis., many, many, many, many years ago. It’s amazing we worked together all those years and we’re still married,” Pattie said with a laugh.
Mike, whose general manager career started when he was only 22 in 1974 at Class A Burlington (Iowa), moved to Tucson with Pattie for the first time in 1975 before they were married.
Minor-league sports team owner Merle Miller, a central figure in Mike’s front-office development, swayed Mike to come to Tucson in the winter of 1975 to work for his Tucson Mavericks hockey team. Mike and Pattie lasted in Tucson only half of that season — the Mavericks’ only season — before returning to Wausau to prepare for the 1976 season. Their wedding was in the fall of 1976 after that season.
Four stops later, including a nine-year run with the Class AA Jackson (Miss.), Mike and Pattie returned to Tucson in 1989 in a working capacity with the Class AAA Tucson Toros.
“We knew Tucson; it wasn’t like we were going to a place we didn’t know anything about,” Mike said of the return. “We were part of a hockey team that symbolized futility. I don’t know if they won a game before I went back to Wausau. They were brutal.
“Merle made me do it. Merle owned the Wausau team, so we had a chance to be in Tucson.”
Pattie’s mother and Mike’s parents also moved to Tucson before their return in 1989. By that time, their son Nate was 8 years old. Pattie mentioned they visited Tucson often so Nate could be around his grandparents.
“We came here every Christmas,” Pattie said. “We enjoyed Tucson. Like tourists we went to all the different places and it was wonderful.”
Their work with the Tucson Toros was magical, highlighted by the 1991 PCL championship. That’s when Mike became one of the most identifiable sports figures in Tucson history. The work of Mike and Pattie and the front-office personnel helped the Toros draw a franchise-record 317,347 fans at Hi Corbett Field in 1991.
Mike and Pattie remained in Tucson through 2001, after the minor-league operations were sold twice and the games were moved to the Tucson Electric Park, which did not have the historic and homely feel of Hi Corbett Field. “We lost our charm,” Mike said of the lure of minor-league baseball in Tucson.
They moved to New Orleans in 2001 when Mike took a job with the New Orleans Saints as the coordinator of sales and marketing. Pattie worked apart from Mike for the first time in the front office of the Class AAA New Orleans Zephyrs.
“When we went to New Orleans, I always knew that we were going to come back here,” Mike said. “We spent 4 1/2 years (away), went through (Hurricane) Katrina, went to Austin, Texas, for a year (as GM of the indoor football team there) and then ultimately came back to Tucson (in 2006) with no job.
“We were just going to figure out a way of making it work. This is where we wanted to be. Obviously, things worked out. The Tucson Padres came along (in 2011). I was with the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority. I was also the Executive Director of the Tucson Police Foundation at the time. It was just a matter of making it work. “
The time between leaving Austin and Mike becoming the general manager of the Tucson Padres in 2011 was about four years. This was a time when Mike and Pattie became more intimately involved with the Tucson community without having a daily occupation with a sports team.
“Both of us were always very involved in the Tucson community prior to leaving to New Orleans,” Mike said. “It just got us back to where we were. For both of us, it’s just so important to be a part of the community, to give back. It just was renewed. It’s really that simple.”
Aside from his work with the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority and the Tucson Police Foundation, Mike also served as part of the Board of Directors for Visit Tucson, the Father’s Day Council which raises money for the Steele Children’s Research Center, and the Caballeros Del Sol. He also started working in 2012 as the coordinator of Arizona’s exclusive Sands Club in the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility during football games.
Pattie, all the while, was busy involved with Angel Charity for Children, Inc., which has the mission to improve the quality of life for children locally. She has been part of Angel Charity for the last 19 years. They raised a $1 million last year. She also serves on the board of Interfaith Community Services, which provides food for individuals who are out of work.
After the Padres moved their operations to El Paso in 2013, Mike has served various positions including Tucson Special Projects Manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks (2014-15), Executive Director and Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Arizona Bowl (2016-17), marking liaison for El Tour de Tucson (2016-17), and Executive Director of the Tucson Sugar Skulls (2018-19). He presently is a Co-owner and Coordinator of the Lute Olson Fantasy Basketball Camp in addition to being President of the Vamos a Tucson Mexican Baseball Fiesta since 2011.
One of the most important developments in their lives occurred last year when they became grandparents for the first time.
Coming back to Tucson twice, the first when they worked their magic with the Toros, has evolved into the Feders being one of the most influential couples this city has seen in terms of community involvement. Their second return 13 years ago after living in New Orleans and Austin has made their bond with Tucson stronger.
“When we came back here (from Austin), I thought my sports career was done. I was perfectly content with being in Tucson and being a member of the community,” Mike said.
Pattie added, “I remember when we were at Austin, he came home one day and said, ‘Pack up, we’re going to Tucson.’ I was like, ‘With no jobs and no nothing?’ He said, ‘It’s time to come home.'”
Timeline of the activities involving Mike and Pattie Feder:
- 2017-present — Owner and coordinator of Lute Olson Fantasy Basketball Camp
- 2011-present — President of the Vamos a Tucson Mexican Baseball Fiesta
- 2018-2019 — Executive Director of Tucson Sugar Skulls
- 2016-2017 — Executive Director and Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Arizona Bowl
- 2016-2017 — Marketing liaison for El Tour de Tucson
- 2014-2015 — Tucson Special Projects for the Arizona Diamondbacks
- 2011-2013 — General Manager of the Triple-A Tucson Padres.
- 2005-2006 — Executive Director of AFL’s Austin Wranglers
- 2004-2005 — General Manager of the Arena Football League’s New Orleans VooDoo
- 2001-2005 — Coordinator of Sales and Marketing for the New Orleans Saints
- 1989-2001 — General Manager of the Triple-A Tucson Toros/Sidewinders
- 1998 — Inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame
- 1997 — Honored by Tucson Conquistadores for long and meritorious service to the Tucson sports community
- 1990-1996 — Media Director and Board Member of the Copper Bowl and Insight.com Bowl
- 1988 — General Manager of Class A Davenport (Iowa)
- 1979-1987 — General Manager of Class AA Jackson (Miss.)
- 1978 — General Manager of Class A Daytona Beach (Fla.)
- 1977 — General Manager of Class A Cocoa (Fla.)
- 1975-76 — General Manager of Class A Wausau (Wis.)
- 1975 — Administrative Assistant of Tucson Mavericks
- 1974 — General Manager of Class A Burlington (Iowa).
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.