Connection, inspiration found at Winter Meetings
SAN DIEGO – Before anyone answered a question or took the podium, the empowerment was palpable at the Women in Baseball event on Tuesday. Women were the majority in the room, something that is yet to be common at the Winter Meetings or in front offices. Ninety-six women from across
SAN DIEGO – Before anyone answered a question or took the podium, the empowerment was palpable at the Women in Baseball event on Tuesday.
Women were the majority in the room, something that is yet to be common at the Winter Meetings or in front offices. Ninety-six women from across Minor League Baseball gathered to share advice and experience, and just catch up as the event returned for the first time since 2019.
“It has been a long time, probably too long,” said Melissa Harkavy, a co-chair of the MLB Women group. “But to see so many amazing individuals -- so talented, so dedicated -- who are striving not only to grow our game, but to create a more inclusive environment for everyone, I’m thankful.”
Billy Bean -- MLB’s senior vice president of diversity, equity & inclusion -- got things started by sharing his own experience as a gay man in the Majors before coming out. The former big leaguer also reflected on when MLB first asked him to speak at the Winter Meetings. One talk with general managers turned into 15 talks to players at Spring Training.
“Baseball is important, and it allows us to bring community together and draw attention,” Bean said. “The success of the game allows us to draw attention to off-the-field things that are meaningful and important and your representation there. Young women coming up behind you, if they see you, they can be you.”
Triple-A Oklahoma City senior vice president Jenna Byrnes moderated a talk with Angela Olivas (Senior Director, Triple-A El Paso), Erin McCormick (VP & GM, Triple-A Gwinnett) and Kristin Call (GM, Single-A Myrtle Beach).
Topics included managing style, overcoming barriers and work/life balance. McCormick noted that while the latter is something that comes up at every panel she’s on, her male peers never get asked about it. Byrnes added that “balance” insinuates when one part is succeeding, the other is the inverse on the scale. Instead, she opts to say “How are you juggling everything?”
Olivas realized that even something as simple as turning off her email notifications when she’s off the clock, helped her anxiety immensely.
Perhaps the most relatable part was when Byrnes asked if anyone ever tells themselves, “Things will be better in the offseason.” To which most of the crowd laughed and sighed.
“It's like, ‘Oh, well, I will get healthy at this time,’ and you're always waiting for that next thing to give yourself permission to make a significant change, or something that's going to positively impact you,” Byrnes said. “I will [advise] everyone, do not wait. You are too important to wait until that next time.”
Call said she finds inspiration through friends and colleagues while Olivas added she’s inspired by watching those she used to manage grow in their respective careers.
McCormick looks back on history, taking note of how Dwight Eisenhower had to “manage up” to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. The Stripers exec draws inspiration from Abraham Lincoln, who commanded an army during the Civil War without having any military experience.
“He had to trust his generals, and he found out that his generals, a lot of them while good on paper, they weren't good in action or they locked up,” McCormick said. “And I can relate that so much to managing people. You hire someone based off of their resume, but you fire them based off of character and culture. And he ran into that a million times.”
The panel concluded with each woman providing advice to their younger self.
“Don’t get lost in the job,” said Call.
“Speak up,” added McCormick.
“Chase your fears,” said Olivas.
“Where you start is not where you finish,” Byrnes said. “But you have to start.”
The attendees then broke into groups to discuss several topics, including how to grow at work and how to help male colleagues become allies. The baseball execs talked about how to build a strong support system around you and the importance of not being your own roadblock.
Harkavy and her team are already thinking about getting back together next year with Call providing one thought: Why not include men too?
“It takes all of us to make change,” Call said. “So that means that everybody should be in the room talking about it.”
Kelsie Heneghan is a writer for MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.