On August 15th I traveled up to Seattle to attend the Mariners’ Women in Baseball Night at Safeco Field. This trip meant more than crossing off another MLB stadium on my list (although that was an added bonus), it was about the women behind the scenes working in baseball for teams and media outlets.
For years teams across the majors and minors have been putting on Girls Night type events, some less tasteful than others, which sometimes involve an open bar, a tour of the press box, and a pink or bedazzled giveaway item. This event was different than all of those. There was a free t-shirt and a drink coupon included in the ticket package, but what the Mariners did was not pandering to the socially accepted belief of what women sports fans “want” from their teams. We got to have real conversations with people who were passionate about baseball and their careers in the sport.
The panel of women consisted of moderator Meg Rowley of Baseball Prospectus, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN in Seattle, Baltimore Orioles Director of Analytics and Major League Contracts Sarah Gelles, Seattle Mariners Scout Amanda Hopkins, and Seattle Mariners Senior Manager of Baseball Information Kelly Munro. Every one of these women had stories, advice, and words of encouragement to give but their enthusiasm, passion, and pride were what made this event as special as it was.
Each one of these women had different paths to get to where they are now. We have been told by many, if not all, guest speakers in the program that the career paths in sports are not linear, these women echoed that. Hopkins, the scout for the Mariners, grew up around the game as her dad is also a scout for the Mariners, but studied psychology in college before being hired on to scout the Four Corners area. Munro stumbled into her roll by accident after taking a ticket sales job with the Mariners for a summer and never looking back.
The women talked about the challenges that face women today who want to break into the industry. Gelles talked about the structural aspects of the game that hinder women who want to take video internships with minor league teams. There are not specified video rooms in most minor league parks, so the interns often work out of the clubhouse, so teams often don’t look at women for positions with these teams. Drayer discussed the gender gap in play-by-play positions, there are currently no female play-by-play personalities and many cite that because women haven’t played the game they can’t understand or commentate the same way as men have. She pointed out, with much applause from the crowd, that there are plenty of men who do play-by-play and who run teams who never played baseball past high school and sometimes not even to that level.
The sold-out crowd was filled with men and women of all ages, including a 12-year-old girl and her who mother stood in front of me. I couldn’t help but notice the mother steal glances at her daughter’s face during the panel discussion and beam with pride that her daughter was 10 feet away from her new role models who are telling her that this career is possible. Also in the crowd were two of the owners of the Mariners as well as many other employees in the organization showing their support for their colleagues.
As many panel discussions do, the women gave advice to the women and girls in the crowd. Kelly Munro said it best, “If there are doors that are open for you, go through them. And if the door is closed, knock. Keep knocking. And if it doesn’t open, find a key.”
Information and quotes from:
Celebrating Women in Baseball Night at Safeco Field http://www.hardballtimes.com/celebrating-women-in-baseball-night-at-safeco-field/?sf61506815=1
Meg Rowley https://twitter.com/megrowler