Celebrating Women in Baseball Night at Safeco Field

The Mariners hosted an inaugural Women in Baseball night at Safeco Field. (Photo courtesy of Ben VanHouten, Seattle Mariners)

More than 200 people gathered on Tuesday night at “The ‘Pen” beyond the center field fence of Safeco Field. It wasn’t for a game, though the Mariners did fans a courtesy and snapped their five-game losing streak that night; instead, they were there for the first-ever Celebrating Women in Baseball Night.

Teams have been hosting “Girls Nights Out” for years, ever since a marketing executive realized that they were missing out on an opportunity to extort money from half of the population. These events typically consisted of a set price, which included a ticket, a drink voucher of some sort, and often a garishly colored accessory. There are hundreds of ways to be a fan, each as valid as the last, but for many women those “Girls Night Out” events felt patronizing and pedantic; as though their fandom was more flippant, and less serious.

The Mariners’ Women in Baseball Night was meant to build off these other events which, “are aimed at attracting fans to the ballpark who might not otherwise buy a ticket … we wanted to do something geared toward female fans who would be interested in hearing from women working in baseball on their perspectives on the game,” said Meg Rowley, who helped organize and moderate the event.

The idea for the event has been percolating for a few years, ever since FanGraphs writer Jeff Sullivan emailed Mariners’ Vice President of Marketing Kevin Martinez about organizing an event to highlight women working in baseball. Sullivan got Rowley involved and the three of them, along with the Mariners’ Digital Marketing Coordinator Colin O’Keefe, worked to create the event. When news of the event first broke, there was overwhelming enthusiasm for it.

“The response to the event—before, during, and after—has been overwhelming,” O’Keefe said.

Ultimately, the team sold 220 tickets for the event, which put them at capacity for the designated space. For many, it was a can’t-miss event.

Sierra Brown, a recent graduate of Washington State University and aspiring sports broadcaster, drove from Portland because, “nothing speaks more about an industry than the people within it, so it was a wonderful opportunity to hear and meet face-to-face with professionals that are living out their career.”

For baseball writer and Hardball Times Audio co-host Jen Mac Ramos, it was “a no-brainer to drive up from California. Being able to see a friend of mine moderate a panel made up of women I admire means a lot to me. Going to this panel made me realize even more that my goal of working in baseball one day is achievable.”

Avid Mariners’ fan Tiffany Ruzicki was originally scheduled to fly back that evening at 7, but upon hearing about the event realized that this wasn’t something she could miss.

“I’m not an aware of an event like this — an event where women who love sports are not only acknowledged but truly seen, and given the opportunity to tell their unique stories and highlight their skills — happening anywhere else in baseball, and it was something I felt compelled to support in every possible way,” Ruzicki said.

Tickets included a seat for the game, a drink voucher, and a T-shirt, but the highlight was the panel discussion with women working in baseball. We’re fortunate, up in this corner of the Pacific Northwest, to have a number of phenomenal women writing about and working with our baseball team, and the panelists represented an impressive array of skills and specializations.

The discussion was moderated by Rowley, an award-winning baseball writer for Baseball Prospectus, and panelists included Shannon Drayer, a reporter and pregame show host for 710 ESPN in Seattle; Kelly Munro, the Mariners’ senior manager of baseball Information; Amanda Hopkins, the Mariners’ amateur scout for the four corners region; and Sarah Gelles, the Baltimore Orioles director of baseball analytics and Major League contracts. In addition to a wide range of specializations, there was also an impressive range of experience: Drayer has been working for 710 ESPN since the 1998 season, while Hopkins graduated from scout school and was hired by the Mariners in 2016.

Rowley began by having the panelists introduce themselves, then launched into a series of questions about how they each became involved in baseball, in a personal and professional capacity, as well as the responsibilities each undertake in their respective positions.

A common theme among the panelists was that they each were passionate about the game from an early age, but most didn’t know they wanted to work in the industry. Hopkins, whose father was a scout, majored in psychology before turning toward the family business; Munro was planning to be a teacher, until a summer job as a sales associate for the team changed her mind; Drayer spent four years working in Starbucks, “talking sports with everyone who came in,” before winning a contest to host her own radio show and kickstarting a new career. Gelles was the only one recognized early on that she wanted to work in baseball, and she has an impressive résumé that demonstrates that early drive, with internships with MLB and the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to graduating college.

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The panel concluded with a Q&A opportunity for the audience, with questions about how to encourage more women and girls to play the game of baseball and how to quantify leadership in scouting. One of the highlights was when an audience member asked about advice the panelists would give to women wanting to get involved in the baseball industry. Their answers were inspiring and valuable for any young girl or woman with a desire to work in baseball. The quotes themselves are perfect on their own, and so I’ve left them unembellished below.

Munro: “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. Whatever you have to do, if that’s your dream and you love it, keep at it. Don’t ever give up on your dreams.”

Hopkins: “For younger girls that want to get into baseball scouting, go to as many games as you possibly can. You can’t replace being at the park and watching players play. Start writing little summaries, that’s what I started doing, just strengths and weaknesses, stuff like that. Start putting your thoughts into words on paper and it’s a good starting point.”

Gelles: “Keep an open mind as opportunities present themselves…when I got to the Orioles I felt like there was a gap in the analytics, and that wasn’t something I had majored in in college, I took a few classes, but I felt that it was something I could teach myself enough to build out our internal database and start to build out the infrastructure that we needed. That wasn’t necessarily the way I initially saw myself getting in the door, but it was something where I was able to fill a need for the club, and turn it into a job, and grow from there.”

Drayer: “All three of you have covered it beautifully: have a diversity in what you study, be dogged about it, learn how to write- that’s very important. The only other thing that I would throw in there is know that those doors are open, and I don’t think that a lot of girls know that they can…this [panel obviously proves that it’s not just a matter of standing on the sidelines. There are a lot of different things that you can do with this game, and the doors are open.”

As I stood at the back of the crowd, overlooking men and women of all ages, I was overcome with an immense sense of pride and gratitude. So often women are in the minority at ballparks, but on this evening the Mariners organization not only acknowledged their female fans, they celebrated them and the women making valuable contributions to the baseball industry. One of the particularly special things about this event, and how the Mariners chose to market it, was that it was not tailored stereotypically towards women. The shirts were white, the drink vouchers included beer, cider, or wine, and there was no language in the announcement that targeted a specific gender. Regardless of how you identified yourself, you were welcome to come and “recognize women’s contributions to the game.”

A number of Mariners’ front office personnel were also in the crowd, including members of the baseball analytics, information, and sales departments, as well as Kevin Mather, the president and minority owner of the team. Their presence seemed to indicate hope for Gelles’ much-cheered hope to someday see “front offices more representative of fan bases, and of society in general.”

I was also not alone in my pride.

“The stories I continue to hear from those who were there give me, and the Mariners, a lot of pride in making something like this happen,” O’Keefe said. “This wasn’t just a normal panel, people were hooting and hollering at the stories and inspiration from our panelists. It’s something we certainly plan to do again, and it’s an event that will continue to evolve.”

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Isabelle Minasian recently completed her thesis on Roberto Clemente and the American media, and is a staff writer for Lookout Landing. She loves the Seattle Mariners, despite all the pain that they bring. Follow her on Twitter @95coffeespoons.

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9 Comments on "Celebrating Women in Baseball Night at Safeco Field"

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Dennis Bedard
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Dennis Bedard

“. . . ever since a marketing executive realized that they were missing out on an opportunity to extort money from half of the population.” Gotta love that line. Says directly and brutally in one sentence what most writers would have struggled for two paragraphs to say.

tz
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The unsung heroes of diversity and inclusion lol.

Agree about that line. The type of writing skill you see from a popular Looking Landing alum on THT’s sister site.

Carl
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Carl

Isabelle,

Very well written article highlighting a very nice event. Would love to see more teams hold events like this.

Plus, never knew there was such a thing as Scout School.

Mike Easler
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Mike Easler

Let’s not forget to encourage girls and women to participate in softball as well. The sport has been a tremendous success, and has a natural linkage with baseball. Outside the playing aspect of softball, there are coaching and administrative positions available.

I don’t think it’s smart to neglect softball in this conversation.

Alexis C.
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Alexis C.

I would be interested to know the numbers for who watched via Facebook live! Living on the east coast with no way to attend this event in person, I greatly appreciated that this was live streamed and I hope other organizations across Major League Baseball take note of the interest in events like this. Job well done to the Mariners’ organization for putting this event together.

Joe S
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Joe S

Majority owner John Stanton was in attendance, too.

John Autin
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John Autin

Yay for that event and this write-up!

Rich Moser
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Rich Moser

Does anyone know what the actual gender % is for all MLB ticket sales? I’m not so sure it’s mostly male fans who come to games.

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I am happy to use the trick which makes me get words with friends cheats game and win without any problem.

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