SABR 50 convention in Baltimore

SABR 50: Listen to highlights from Women in Leadership panel

SABR 50 Women in Leadership Panel: Nicole Sherry, Lisa Tolson, Eve Rosenbaum

At SABR 50 on August 19, 2022, a panel discussion was held on Women in Leadership in Baseball.

Panelists included Eve Rosenbaum, Assistant General Manager, Baseball Operations, for the Baltimore Orioles; Nicole Sherry, Director of Field Operations for the Orioles; Lisa Tolson, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for the Orioles; and moderator Jennifer Grondahl, Senior Vice President of Community Development & Communications for the Orioles.

Here are more highlights:

On more job opportunities for women in baseball

  • Grondahl: “I can’t even tell you how many times when I tell people what I do, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, that sounds like fun.’ I think going to the spa is fun! But this is hard, hard work. And you can see a lot of opportunities that were presented along the way for each person (on this panel), and they took the opportunity, despite the fact that I would imagine that in your mind, you think ‘I can’t do that, I don’t know if I can do that.’ But the opportunity was there and they grabbed it.”

On Kim Ng, the first female general manager of an MLB team 

  • Rosenbaum: “Some of the things she told me, I still use today. One big one is to write down what you see in terms of leadership qualities, she said, so when you’re running your own team one day, you know what you want to do because you’ve seen people do it well in the past, and what you don’t want to do. Also, to write down my opinions on players, so I can always look back and know what I got wrong, what I got right, (and) what I can change in my evaluations. Those are some things, and then the way she carried herself, she was cool as a cucumber. I do try to do that in baseball as well. … You have to stay cool, calm, collected, and make the best decision.”

Advice for young women looking to break into the sport of baseball

  • Tolson: “Now is the time. If you’re watching what’s happening around sports, doors are opening for women. It’s been a long time coming, the glass ceiling is being shattered right now. Major League Baseball has lots of opportunities. When I started in the mid-1980s, if you were a female and you worked in the front office, your title was either administrative assistant or general staff. We had plenty of women in the organization and they were doing very important responsibilities, but you could (only) be an administrative assistant. … (when) what you would be called today would be director of baseball operations. It was in the early ’90s when it started to change a little bit, and you saw more directors and managers. At the Orioles we had one female director and we had our first female vice president, Janet Marie Smith, who came in as the director of planning and development … and that was such an inspiration to see. For all of us that were still there, knowing that if we worked hard, we could get there. … So the opportunities are endless, but you have to get in the door, you have to work hard, and take advantage of those opportunities.”

On success in a male-dominated industry 

  • Sherry: “Leading by example has really helped me. … I think that’s really been the meat and potatoes of my recipe. And never leaving (other women) alone to fail, and if they did fail … to pick them back up and encourage them to do better.”
  • Grondahl: “I do think it’s interesting … to remember that there’s always people that you’re going to surround yourself with, and you should never surround yourself with people who tell you that you can’t do something, or that you don’t belong. … It’s taking advantage of those opportunities and if somebody else believes in you and believes that you can do the job, you’ve got to take it.”
  • Rosenbaum: “As there are people like us, who continue to climb the ranks, it’s statistically more likely that you’re going to see more women hired throughout the entire organization, which includes in the on-field roles. … We have to acknowledge that change is slow, so it’s not like we’re going to wake up tomorrow and all of a sudden every single major league team is going to have a female scout and a female coach. But if you accept that change is slow and it’s very gradual, and that each person who gets in opens the door for someone behind her, more and more you will see more women get opportunities.” 

SABR 50 Women in Leadership Panel: Jennifer Grondahl

On her history with human resources and the Orioles 

  • Tolson: “In 1994, (Orioles owner Peter) Angelos brought in a director of HR. … So I was moved from the accounting department to work with the director of human resources. I can say at the time that I was a little intimidated because I didn’t know much about human resources. So I said ‘OK, this is an opportunity. … What can I do to make sure that I am ready for this challenge?” So I went back to school, and I took human resource classes. I was connected with the society for human resource managers and I received my certification, which opened an opportunity for me. When the director left, I was moved into that position.”

On maintaining the playing surface during the Orioles’ 2020 “summer camp” workouts

  • Sherry: “That was really challenging, because when you come to the ballpark, it’s gorgeous. You have the warehouse, you have this beautiful grass, but you don’t realize how much goes into taking care of that turf on a daily basis. Then you throw 60 guys that are practicing from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on a daily basis for a month leading up to the Covid season, that was something that I don’t think anybody can prepare for. It’s a living plant, and eventually it’s just going to wear out, it’s going to take a lot of abuse. But that also affects how the game is played. You have bigger divots, you have a chance of an injury happening without much notice. When you have multimillion-dollar athletes from both teams that are playing on that field, it’s a lot of pressure to keep that grass as healthy as possible, that dirt as playable as possible, because you have such an investment in those athletes. That puts a lot of pressure on a ground crew that’s just trying their best to make sure it stays healthy and alive for this unprecedented 2020 Covid season.”

Transcription assistance by Alison Cameron.

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Originally published: September 12, 2022. Last Updated: September 12, 2022.