I’d heard about a Mariners event that focused on women in baseball called Beyond the Baselines: Celebrating Women in Baseball. The Mariners put together a panel of women from their MLB and MiLB staff. Isabelle Minasian wrote up the inaugural event in 2017. After reading about the Mariners’ event, I was a little disappointed in the 2018 Twins panel. Fortunately, I gave the team a second chance in 2019.
We didn’t learn who would be on the 2019 panel until the week before the event and, HUZZAH!, the final panel was all women who worked for the team including two who work directly with players:
- Twins Major League Strength and Conditioning, Andrea Hayden
- Twins Baseball Research Analyst, Heather Hunt
- Twins Amateur Scouting Coordinator, Brit Minder
- Twins Massage Therapist, Kelli Bergheim
Katie Emmer introduced the panel. Their credentials were impressive. Heather has a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS/PhD in Material Science. Andrea has a BS in Exercise Science and a masters in Human Performance. Brit has a BA in International Relations, played softball for Stanford, and has completed MLB’s scout school. Kelli is a Certified Neuromuscular Therapist, Certified Kinesio Taping, Level II Fascial Therapist, Certified Personal Trainer, and CES (corrective exercise specialist).
Heather and Andrea were in their first seasons with the Twins. Kelli has worked with the team since 2005, but was finally made a full time traveling employee of the team in 2017 after a push by the players. Brit interned with the Mets and MLB in 2013 and 2014 and has been with the Twins since 2015.
The panel introduced themselves and talked about their paths to working in baseball. Each discussed what their role is with the team. Andrea works on the strength and conditioning staff directly with players to prepare them for playing. If you’ve watched the players stretch on the field before games, you’ve likely seen her working.
Kelli also works directly with players. She explained that some players have specific areas they want worked on pre and/or post-game. Players like Nelson Cruz have been around long enough they know what works for them to be ready and ward off the wear and tear of the season.
Brit is the Amateur Scouting Coordinator which handles coordinating and preparing the department of scouts and baseball operations for the amateur draft.
Heather, who has since left the team, worked in the Baseball Research group. She was part of the team who did the data analysis and modeling for the infield positioning we saw in 2019, “you know, the shifts that are ruining baseball.” She was joking, but it was obvious she’s heard feedback from those not in favor of the shift. The research team worked through infield positioning in the off-season last year. This year the project focus will be outfield positioning.
So what are the challenges with being a woman in what Andrea called a “male majority” industry (intentionally avoiding the term male dominated)? Each panel member had their own take, some surprising, some not. On the not surprising side is women have had to push to move into positions outside of administrative roles. Brit went through scout school and moved from an administrative scouting assistant to the coordinator. She said her scouting group has grown with the change in the front office. As it's grown, it's been important for them to find innovative thinkers, not people who all think the same.
Also unsurprising is the casual misogyny that some of them have faced. Heather described having an agreement with her male counterparts to point out when they were approaching the line. It’s absurd it was necessary in 2019, but things have always been slow to change in male majority workplaces. Of course she’s no longer working with the team, but I suspect that’s because someone with her education was never going to be long-term as a baseball data cruncher unless you’re a baseball devotee and she admitted said she wasn’t. The two research analysts listed now are also from STEM backgrounds so the “nerds are ruining baseball” narrative isn’t likely to lift anytime soon, but if you want to work in baseball, STEM is a route that didn’t exist not that long ago.
Andrea described the interview process before the season started. It was encouraging to hear the person interviewing her on the phone didn’t even mention her gender, to the point she wasn’t even sure he knew she was a women. They eventually discussed it and he told her it came down to not crossing the line with a player. The same applied to him. Keep the relationship professional and gender is irrelevant. Assuming of course those doing the hiring understand that too and are willing to hire a women for a traditionally male role.
Andrea and Kelli both said the current team they’re working with really doesn’t bat an eye at having a woman in the clubhouse and training rooms now. The only raised eyebrows they see are usually when former players/coaches/staff, who may not have been around the team in a while, come back to visit. Many of the younger players have worked with woman through college and the minor leagues as trainers, coaches, or umpires, so it’s just not as out of the ordinary as it used to be.
What’s one of the most challenging things for Kelli as a traveling member of the staff? Bathrooms. The newer stadiums have been built for more diverse staffs and have better facilities for women and for her to set up for player therapy. The older stadiums? Not so much. She may have to go to the concourse to use the bathroom or set up for treatments in a hallway because there’s no other space.
What stood out to me about the panel? None of them have been with the team full time longer than five years. I know there are some long-term female team employees. Laura Day has been with the team on the business side for 20 years with a break to work for the Minnesota Wild and the ill-fated Victory Sports. The ticket sales group has a few women, including my own season ticket holder representative who’s been with the team since 2008. The seven-person Community Relations staff has FIVE women!
But what about on the baseball operations, communications, or broadcast side? The team’s front office page lists 35 people in “Baseball Operations” department. Four of them are women. Communications? Seven listed, ONE woman who joined the team in 2015. The broadcast team? 14 team employees listed, ZERO women. But what about Marney and Audra? They’re not team employees. They work for Fox Sports North. Marney has done play-by-play for a few spring training games, but in my Twins fandom, there’s never been a woman’s voice as a primary role in the radio or TV booth. I may hate the Yankees with the heat of a thousand suns, but female fans in the New York market have had a woman on their radio broadcasts since 2005. For 15 seasons, girls and women have been able to turn on a Yankees radio broadcast and hear Suzyn Waldman. And in the 90’s she’d done TV broadcasts for the Yankees.
No one on the panel said it, but I will – The Twins need more women in more roles in the organization.
TOMORROW Part 3: Why Aren’t There More Women in Baseball? (A.K.A the One Where We Need More Marney)
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