Paving a Path, Women in Baseball: Venika Streeter
Image courtesy of Venika StreeterVenturing out of the front office and into a more unique role, we find Venika Streeter. As the Manager of Authentics and Retail Sales, you can imagine the amount of history that she’s seen pass across her desk. The Twins Authentics shop is one of the most amazing within Target Field, and those items that ultimately go into the vault for curator Clyde Doepner are also jaw dropping.
- 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
- Paving a Path Part 5: Kate Townley
Twins Daily: You graduated from Old Dominion with a Sports Management degree. Obviously, you knew the landscape you desired to pursue, but was it always baseball and how deep do those roots run?
Venika Streeter: A job with an MLB team was always the goal. Both of my parents played softball and baseball in high school and I grew up playing softball as a kid. I lived in Northern Virginia around the time that Cal Ripken was chasing the 2131 Ironman record and I was completely captivated by it. I wore number 8 and played short stop because I wanted to be like Cal. I remember watching the on-field ceremony after he broke the record and thinking, “I wish that I could be a part of something like that.” After realizing that chances were slim that I’d be able to play professional baseball, I started looking for way to be involved behind the scenes and that’s ultimately why I ended up going after a Sport Management degree.
TD: Prior to joining the Minnesota Twins organization you spent time in both Virginia and Texas. How did Minnesota become home, and now all these years later, what continues to make everything about your job and life here a great fit?
VS: I’m a navy brat. I’ve lived all over the country and even spent 3 years in Japan. Minnesota became home simply because I got a job with the Twins not long after graduating college. I’d never had any intentions of living in Minnesota. I have zero ties to the state outside of the Minnesota Twins. I’ve been with the organization for as long as I have because I’ve been given the opportunity to try new things throughout my tenure. I’d originally intended on staying with the Twins for 5 years and then moving on to a different organization but then the All-Star Game came along and so I stayed. I couldn’t miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity like that. I was then given the opportunity to run the Authentics business and I again decided to stay. The Twins have always given me opportunities to expand my knowledge of this industry and I’m grateful for that.
TD: You've spent the past 7+ years overseeing the Twins Authentics program. What does a day in the life look like, and what about your job do you love most?
VS: It’s hard to describe what my day to day schedule looks like because there are so many factors that affect what I do on a day to day basis. Is the team in town? Do I have a bunch of meetings that day? Is the weather bad? The answers to those questions will usually determine what I get done for that day. Generally, when I get into the office, I check to see how many online orders I need fulfill and how many emails I have to respond to. Online order processing can take up to half of my day. Once I get orders done, I respond to emails. While that may sound like an easy task, it’s not. The emails that I get usually require me to perform some sort of action like taking photos of memorabilia or going through inventory to double check for an item.
Contrary to what people might think, I do not sit ANYWHERE near the memorabilia that I sell. The game-used kiosk is on the complete opposite of the building from my desk. Between photoshoots, processing orders and multiple meetings, my day is totally booked. I love what I do though. It’s stressful and extremely time consuming but I love it. The behind the scenes stuff is where the fun is. Getting to give a player his debut lineup card or first baseballs from his first game will never not be fun. I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of some great moments in Twins history. I’ll never forget being in the clubhouse when Joe Mauer put on his catchers gear for the last time. I’ll never forgot that he had the wherewithal to look for me after coming off of the field to make sure that I was able to get his final caught ball authenticated for him. I have a front row seat to history and it’s a lot of fun.
TD: There's plenty of history that the game of baseball produces on a near nightly basis. What are some of the coolest pieces that have come through Twins Authentics, and how do you go about marketing decisions for new and innovative products?
VS: Pretty much all of the really cool stuff that comes through Authentics and ends up in the Twins archives. I often have to explain to people that we’re in the business of preserving our history and not selling it. The Twins archives and players will ALWAYS get first dibs on game-used stuff before I do even though I’m the one that collects it.
When it comes to retail and Authentics, there are a lot of fans that have the impression that we can work with any company that we want and that we can make any product that we want. That’s not the case at all. All of the product that we produce comes from working with MLB Licensees. There are only a few MLB approved companies that have the rights to take game-used product and produce new products from them. We come up with ideas and push the licensees to find ways to make it happen. Some of our ideas aren’t always possible from a financial standpoint but we’re always trying to push the envelope. I’ve been working on a drawstring backpack and duffel bags made from game-used jerseys for about 2 years now and one of MLB’s licensees has finally figured out how to do it! I’m excited to bring those products on board.
TD: As a female in baseball how do you feel the landscape has changed over your nearly 13 years with the Twins, and what do you hope to see continuing to happen as far as opportunities for women within MLB.
VS: The landscape for women in baseball has changed quite a bit since I first started with the Twins but there’s still a lot of work to do. Within the Twins organization there are more women working in the Baseball Operations department filling non-administrative roles and we’ve got a female trainer and nutritionist. These staffing changes were very exciting to see, but overall, I would like to see more women in leadership positions outside of HR and Community Relationship throughout the Twins organization and MLB. In my field, I’m one of a 5 or 6 of female Authentics managers in MLB. I’d like to see that number grow, and I’d like to see the women in Authentics positions have the same access that the men in our field do. I’m lucky in that my clubhouse manager is great and has always welcomed me into the clubhouse. That isn’t the case in other organizations.
TD: We're obviously dealing with an incredible amount of social injustice throughout the country and Black Lives Matter has become much more than just a movement. The Twins recently held a diversity panel and participants talked about how special they feel the organization is. What are your experiences in regards to being both a woman and person of color with the Minnesota Twins?
VS: Throughout the past few months, I’ve been in contact with colleagues from other teams and I can honestly say that the way that the Twins have handled diversity and inclusion is leaps and bounds better than what is taking place with other clubs. I’ve been blown away by all of the diversity initiatives that our staff has had the opportunity to take part in. The Twins are truly making a concerted effort to be on the forefront of diversity and inclusion within MLB and it’s great to be a part of that legacy. We’ve got a long way to go get to where we need to be, but we’re headed in the right direction.
TD: Looking back at the four-month drought, and ahead to a 60-game season with a whole host of oddities, how will that change the collection, authentication, and marketing with regards to on field items and experiences presented to fans?
VS: The biggest difference is going to be the access to players and on field memorabilia. We have contingency plans for Authentication this year, but I can’t go into specifics about them and at the rate we’ve been going, they’ll probably change at some point this week. New scenarios come up every day. Fans will need to have patience with clubs when it comes to what items we can and cannot collect and the availability of said items. A lot of the Authentics Managers are not back in the office full time. We’re working with skeleton crews if we even have a crew at this point in the year. There’s going to be a lot more game-used memorabilia posted online than there has been before. Transactions are so much easier to process online during pandemic office hours than it is going back and forth with customers via email.
TD: Finally, you've been working in baseball a long time. What is some parting wisdom you'd provide to women or a person of color looking to break through and find their niche within the sport?
VS: In short, GO WHERE THE JOBS ARE. This is not an industry that you can sit around and wait for a job with the hometown team to open up. Once people get in, they tend to stay, and opportunities are hard to come by. If something opens up in another part of the country, apply. Make sure that the opportunity makes sense for you but apply.
I would also tell people to be open to different positions. Everyone wants to work in communications. Everyone wants to work in marketing. Everyone CAN’T work in those departments. Be open to opportunities outside of what you think you want to do. I never intended to work in Ballpark Operations coming out of college but I did what I had to do to get my foot in the door and now I’m running a business for the Twins and I’m 12 years in with the organization. If you’re unsure that you’re qualified for a position? Apply. The worst that can happen is that you get told no. A no is ok. You’re going to get a lot of them trying to get in this industry, but you will get a yes.
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