Katy Feeney made her mark on baseball as an executive over her notable 40-year career. For the past five years, a leadership program named in her honor has presented a platform for more than 145 participants to pursue their goals of having an impact on the game as well.
The annual Katy Feeney Leadership Symposium was held virtually last week, with 41 women at the vice president level or higher from across baseball operations and business operations in attendance. Of this group, all 30 Major League clubs, MLB Network and MLB’s Central Office were represented.
“She was a great leader and pioneering female executive in our game,” said Billy Bean, vice president and special assistant to Commissioner Rob Manfred, in the opening remarks. “Katy was a mentor to many young professionals who began their careers in baseball and was always willing to lend a helping hand. I, myself, was lucky enough to work alongside her, and she was always willing to provide me some direction and timely advice. Her experience was amazing.”
Feeney’s brother, John, also shared during the opening remarks. He noted seeing many pictures of his late sister in a baseball setting surrounded predominantly by men, and how -- years following her career -- a photo from the symposium would tell a different story.
“She was a unique person in many people’s minds,” John said. “My eldest son described her as ‘Mary Poppins.’ She would pop in and bring fun and gifts to them for the weekend and then fly away. She was also tough and took her positions and supporting the people around her very, very seriously. ... My sister would have grumbled and groused about having anything named after her, but I'm sure she would have felt tremendous pride and be humbled by this symposium."
The multi-day symposium encourages the advancement of women in a wide range of career paths within the sport, from baseball operations, legal and marketing to communications, human resources and community relations. Its notable alumni include Marlins general manager Kim Ng, Yankees senior vice president and assistant general manager Jean Afterman, MLB executive vice president and general counsel Lara Pitaro Wisch, Marlins chief operating officer Caroline O’Connor, and Twins executive vice president and chief business officer Laura Day.
MLB partnered with Stanford University’s executive education department for the event. The program was developed and led by featured speakers Sarah Soule, professor and associate dean at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Shelley Correll, professor of sociology and director of the women’s leadership lab at Stanford.
Beyond the networking, education and idea sharing that took place this week, Stanford will lead three crowd accelerated individualized learning modules for the symposium participants in 2022.
Further exhibiting how Feeney’s impact transcends generations of women in baseball, also in attendance was the current recipient of the Katy Feeney Scholarship, offered through the University of San Francisco’s sports management program. The previous three recipients have graduated and are working with Bay Area sports teams.
“Katy paved a wide road,” Bean said. “It was a lot of years it took to do so, but we’re hopeful that this collection of outstanding individuals will be the names of the future that continue to influence our sport.”