You are here

Jim Crane: From the ball diamond to the board room and back

Houston Astros owner attributes business success to lessons learned as an NCAA student-athlete

It was the opening round of the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship in 1974 and Jim Crane was on the pitcher’s mound – the highest point on the field with the most pressure and exactly where he wanted to be.

Jim Crane, University of Central Missouri (formerly Central Missouri State)

As Central Missouri’s starting pitcher, he would go on to strike out the first 11 Ohio Northern batters that day.  For the game, he struck out 18 hitters in what was the pinnacle of his collegiate athletic experience. 

Crane was offered several lucrative signing bonuses to play professional baseball which would have meant quitting college.  At his mother’s insistence, he chose to finish what he started by staying at Central Missouri.  It was a decision many thought he would regret, especially when he injured his pitching shoulder during his senior year. 

What his doubters didn’t know was that Crane’s baseball career was merely on hold and his passion for the game, and then his business acumen, would ultimately lead him to Major League Baseball – but not as a player.

After graduating in 1976 with a degree in industrial safety, Crane made his way in the business world by evaluating commercial risks for an insurance company before entering the freight forwarding business in 1982.  At the age of 30, he started an air freight and logistics company in Houston with a staff one – himself.  Founded in 1984, the company had grown to more than 10,000 employees with 400–plus facilities in 139 countries and reached #599 on the Fortune 1000 list. 

When this multi-billion dollar business sold in 2007, Crane parlayed his success into the formation of a successful global provider of customized transportation and logistics.  Along the way, he acquired a nonutility-affiliated energy service provider and is also president and CEO of Crane Capital Group, Inc. in Houston. 

His passion for baseball never wavered nor did his determination.  He tried three times to purchase a major league baseball team before succeeding in 2011 with his purchase of the Houston Astros. 

He attributes much of his business success to the lessons he learned as an NCAA student-athlete. 

“The biggest thing I learned is if you just work a little harder and focus more, you are going to beat most guys to the punch,” he said.

Crane is a dedicated advocate and supporter of college athletics.

“We recruited a lot of athletes in the freight business,” he said. “If I saw on a resume that someone played college sports, that immediately tells me they have a certain level of discipline. That converts well to business.”

And he should know.


Jim Crane
Owner and chairman of the Houston Astros

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Current City: Houston, Texas

Education: Bachelor’s degree in industrial safety, University of Central Missouri (formerly Central Missouri State)

Sport: Baseball

Fun FactRanked no. 1 in Golf Digest's rankings of the nation's top CEO golfers in 2006 with a 0.8 handicap index

We want to hear from you

We need your help. Taken together as a whole, the former NCAA student-athlete contribution to society is staggering. Better yet, many credit their student-athlete academic and athletic experiences as being the key to their life-long success. NCAA After the Game is looking to tell these compelling former student-athlete stories. If you know a good story idea, click on the link below and send it to us.

Submit a Story >