On Tuesday night, the Seattle Mariners will play the Baltimore Orioles. Prior to the game, the Mariners will host a "Women in Baseball" panel, designed to "offer first-hand accounts from women who work in the baseball industry as they discuss the game today and their place in it."
To find out what the event is all about, we talked to one of the organizers, Meg Rowley. Rowley is an award-winning author for Baseball Prospectus and can be found on Twitter here. You can also purchase tickets to the event through the M's website.
What's the difference between this event and the more standard ladies night promotions?
We want to acknowledge that there are a lot of ways female fans engage the game. This event gives them an opportunity they haven't necessarily had before -- to hear from women working in baseball on their experiences as professionals, the path they took to get to where they are, the challenges they've faced, and their perspective on baseball today.
How did this event come to fruition?
About a year ago, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan and Kevin Martinez, the Mariners VP of Marketing, looped me in. From there, it was a matter of finding panelists who could share diverse perspectives, and making sure the event struck the right tone. Female fans spend so much time and energy and money rooting for their favorite teams and players -- we wanted to take that commitment seriously and put on an event that would recognize and celebrate the contributions women have already made to the game, while acknowledging the work left to be done to promote diversity in baseball front offices and media.
Was the panel designed to feature a breadth of perspectives?
We were really fortunate that the Mariners have a lot of incredible women working in and around the organization. Shannon Drayer is an amazing reporter; Amanda Hopkins is one the first female full-time area scouts; Kelly Munro has spent years in PR and baseball info for the Mariners. We were also lucky that the Orioles were willing to let Sarah Gelles, their Director of Analytics & Major League Contracts, join us. I think having the array of roles is important; it should give the fans a comprehensive view of working in baseball, and have a little something for everyone.
How important is representation -- whether it's Mo'ne Davis, or even in shows like "PITCH"?
I think it makes an incredible difference for women and girls -- for all fans -- to see people like them working in the game and playing the game. It makes those paths seem possible. Eventually, I hope we'll see a woman play in the majors, but whether it's in the front office, or the press box, or scouting on a back field, women are working in baseball right now. Think of it this way: if you're a minor leaguer and you look up at the majors and don't see anyone with your swing or your repertoire of pitches playing at the highest level, it's a lot harder to envision a player like you is capable of getting there. I hope that hearing from women working in a variety of roles across the industry, from analytics to scouting to the front office and baseball media, will inspire some to think that a path they previously thought was closed is actually open to them.
What are the most important steps that baseball -- whether organizations, media, or fans themselves -- can take to promote women in baseball?
It's a thorny problem, and the solution has to come from the top and bottom simultaneously. The league has to make sure it is promoting and mentoring the women already working in the game, while making sure that entry level positions are accessible to women in a meaningful way so that you have a pipeline of talent to draw from down the line. That means paying entry-level positions competitive wages and providing junior folks with meaningful mentorship. MLB has a Diversity Pipeline Program to try to attract and support diverse candidates, and I think that is a terrific start, but it is going to take a sustained effort. I am optimistic it will improve. As for making female fans feel more welcome, I think the solution is simple, whether you're a team designing ballpark promotions or a male fan: operate from the assumption that the women you see in the ballpark love baseball as much as the men do. Start there, and you've done a lot of the work.
Are there any plans to hold similar events in different markets in the future?
I hope so! The response we've gotten to this event from fans of other teams has been very positive. There's certainly demand for it. I think the best thing about helping to organize this panel has been all of the people who have reached out to me with suggestions of other women working in the game who could tell their stories. So I hope this is the first of many Women in Baseball Nights.
Again, Rowley can be found on Twitter here. You can also purchase tickets to the event through the M's website.