Paving a Path, Women in Baseball: Kate Townley
Image courtesy of Kate TownleyWhile women are vastly underrepresented throughout the game, it’s also worth noting that talented individuals are present in virtually every organization. The Minnesota Twins aren’t an exception here. Kate Townley was immediately offered up as someone to highlight and having been a part of Twins Territory now for nearly 15 years there’s no stopping her impact with the club.
- Paving a Path Part 1: Britt Ghiroli
- Paving a Path Part 2: Melanie Newman
- Paving a Path Part 3: Rachel Luba
- Paving a Path Part 4: Emily Waldon
Twins Daily: You've been with the Twins for nearly two decades and while you were an athlete your sport was basketball. What drew you to baseball and how did you know Minnesota was the right fit?
Kate Townley: In full transparency I wasn’t specifically drawn to baseball at first. Right out of college I would have loved a job in basketball, mainly because I was most familiar with that sport. But I was looking for any job in sports, to be a part of a team again, and at the time the Twins were one of the few organizations that paid for internships, so I applied. Once I got into the organization though, I quickly realized how much I was I was going to like working in baseball and specifically working for the hometown team. It felt like a family right away.
TD: In your roles since joining the Twins organization you've dealt with the minors, scouting, and major leagues. What does your title actually mean you do, and how has your role evolved in the time you've spent with the organization?
KT: Titles can always be a little confusing since the responsibilities vary from team to team, so here’s my best explanation. I compose all Major and Minor League contracts / agreements for players and staff. I administrate all Major League contracts, tenders, player transactions, waivers, and maintain our Club’s 40-man roster. I prepare, submit, and maintain all Major League budgets. I oversee the Baseball department purchasing for both front office and the Major League team with the assistance of our Home Clubhouse Manager. I’m part of the team that works on our Arbitration process, and I handle some of the negotiations with players.
Most recently, I have been tasked with leading our Diversity and Inclusion initiatives specifically in the Baseball department but also expanding into our Front Office practices. My role throughout the years has changed quite a bit but it still just revolves around making sure things get done and that the ship runs smoothly. I’ve been on the administrative side of things my whole career; I guess now I’m just leading a lot of those areas.
TD: Women in baseball, and sports in general, has become more of a front and center topic in recent years. You've been doing this for a while, how has the minority representation changed over the years and how do you feel accountable for what opportunities come to the next generation?
KT: I think we’ve seen a very small change as it relates to women working specifically on the baseball ops side of our industry. I think the biggest and most visible changes have been the few females we have seen get field staff positions, because those have been real firsts for baseball. We at the Twins are proud to say that we hired the first ever full-time female strength coach, Andrea Hayden, at the Major League level, and you’ve seen others like Alyssa Nakken with the Giants at the ML level, but we’re still so far from where I think we need to be for female representation under the Baseball umbrella.
We need to see more women in front office, scouting, performance, and coaching roles. We specifically need to see more women get opportunities at leadership positions. As with many industries, women for a long time assumed only roles that would be associated with secretarial or administrative type work and although those roles are hugely important to keep everything running smoothly, we have yet to see a real change at the top where decisions are being made. This is where my accountability comes into play. I believe it’s part of my responsibility to continue to strive for more in my career and to lift and encourage other women do to the same.
To that point, I’m excited to say on August 13th we will be hosting our second round of a Twins Diversity Roundtable that will feature women with roles within Baseball Ops in order to highlight their contributions and give them a platform.
TD: Having been with Minnesota for so long you've seen a lot of change. How has the front office and positions you've held been influenced by new voices and how have your positions been impacted over the years.
KT: I have seen a lot of change in my career and I would be lying if I said I didn’t benefit from the change at the top of our group. I have a deep respect for our previous baseball leadership, but I will say when Derek Falvey and Thad Levine came on board was when real change happened specifically for me and my career. I had been working on the administrative side of the Minor Leagues for about 10 years and had not had much movement from a responsibility or title perspective until they joined. About a year into their time with the Twins I found myself transitioning from the Minor League side of operations to the Major League side and being given more ownership of certain areas. They challenged me to learn the arbitration process, tasked me with mastering the ML rules, encouraged me to lead our Diversity and Inclusion efforts, gave me a seat within some of our decision-making processes and changed my title to Director. I’ve been invigorated by these new challenges and look forward to seeing how my role will evolve even further.
TD: We've seen hurdles come to light much more publicly in recent times when it comes to women in sports. Was that something you ever considered when venturing down this career path, and how did you convince yourself that this was the right choice and there was no stopping you?
KT: It never occurred to me to not get into sports because of the possible difficulties I would face being a woman in this industry. I’ve always been passionate about sports, and my parents taught me at a very young age that you have to do what you love no matter how hard it may be. I’m a competitive, stubborn person so even if I knew all the obstacles I might face I still wouldn’t have backed down. It fueled me knowing that there weren’t many women working on the baseball side of things when I first started and knowing that I can be a part of changing that landscape continues to fuel me.
TD: What about the Minnesota Twins have made them the perfect employer and an organization that you've chosen to stick with all of these years?
KT: I tend to pride myself on being passionate and caring for others, and the Minnesota Twins embody those same characteristics. The organization has always felt like a family and everyone, starting from Ownership down truly care about people and doing good within our community. Lots of people say when they get into the work force that they want to do something they are passionate about and that makes them excited to go to work each morning, I’m lucky enough to say both of those statements came true for me. I legitimately wake up most mornings excited to get into work, because I get to be surrounded by great people from the front office all the way through our coaching staff and players. We may be known as a baseball team, but we’re much more than just what you see on the field on TV. We’re a family.
TD: When looking at what you've accomplished and sending a message for who may come after you, what would be some of the best advice you could give to a female looking to get into this arena?
KT: I would tell her she’s fully capable of doing anything she puts her mind to, to lead with confidence, and get out of her own way. Just because our industry doesn’t have a large representation of women right now doesn’t mean it’s not possible and it absolutely doesn’t mean there’s not a need for it. I think women bring a unique perspective to professional men’s sports and I would tell a young woman to embrace that and drive from that perspective.
TD: Let's wrap with this, 2020 has been weird in so many different ways. What are you most cautious about as it relates to a great Twins team repeating as AL Central champs, and what are you most looking forward to?
KT: Currently I would say I am most cautious about the season being cancelled again. I think our team is poised for another great season, no matter how truncated it is, but we can’t control the virus and I worry for our players’ health and safety. On the flip side, if we can keep everyone healthy, I’m really looking forward to showing people that last year wasn’t a fluke. It was incredible to watch how our team came together last year. We did have a lot of talent but more importantly, we had comradery. We had a group of individuals who came together as one team because of great leadership and a shared goal to succeed. They had each other’s backs, and I think it will be fun to watch that play out again this year.
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