Though Major League teams have made significant progress over the past couple of decades to infuse women into their front office operations, there are still many roles in the industry that remain exclusively for men -- especially the jobs that are performed on or near the playing field.Major League Baseball
Though Major League teams have made significant progress over the past couple of decades to infuse women into their front office operations, there are still many roles in the industry that remain exclusively for men -- especially the jobs that are performed on or near the playing field.
Major League Baseball is taking a strong stance in altering those trends.
This goes beyond sending a strongly worded memo to teams imploring them to widen their hiring practices. MLB has been proactive not only in encouraging more inclusion, but it's also offering real, hands-on assistance to young, skilled women seeking employment in coaching, scouting, training and umpiring.
"We have to look at what platforms we are giving to give more women exposure to decision-makers in our game, and close whatever the perceived gaps are, to make sure they are competitive," said Renee Tirado, MLB's chief diversity and inclusion officer. "And we need ensure they are actually getting opportunities to work in our game, at some capacity -- at a minimum, to get them into the pipeline, to get exposure."
That's the gist of the "Take the Field" event taking place in Las Vegas this weekend, in advance of the Winter Meetings that begin on Monday. Friday marked the opening of the two-day event, designed for 50 pre-selected women who are pursuing careers in areas traditionally dominated by men.
This isn't a garden-variety convention, where participants listen to a couple of guest speakers, drop off their resumes and go on their way. The two-day event, by design, is intense, informative and, perhaps most importantly, gives the women face-to-face time with representatives from Major League organizations -- men and women -- who may consider them for future employment.
Panels and sessions are scheduled to provide insight and information on breaking into the game, the sport's culture and other professional activities, such as resume building, networking and interviewing. Participants will also review action plans developed by the MLB staff, who will conduct mock interview sessions.
"I applied because I was well aware that it would be an invaluable networking opportunity," said Alessandra Cain, who is pursuing a career in scouting and baseball operations. "The idea that I could attend the Winter Meetings and potentially meet executives that could advance my career was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. And it's an opportunity for me to potentially tell them about what value I could bring to their organization, or Major League Baseball."
Cain has a law degree from Santa Clara University, where one of her focuses was sports law. Her goal is to use that degree in some capacity in organized baseball. She was encouraged that one of the panelists on Friday was a lawyer who later became a scout -- Robin Wallace, the first full-time female scout to work for the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau.
"I met her today," Cain said. "The idea she went to law school and is now working in scouting, that's reassuring to me. It's exciting."
Jacqui Reynolds, who works at a batting cage that has its own AAU baseball teams and coaches boys ranging from 10U to 18U, has an interest in coaching and scouting. She traveled to Vegas for the Take the Field event hoping to make contacts and also apply what she learns during the symposium to her regular job when she rejoins her youth players next week.
"I'm hoping I can learn some things that I can bring to my kids back home, that I can say, 'Major Leaguers do this, let's do this,'" she said. "See what they think about it."
The group of Take the Field participants includes former baseball and softball players, including some who have played for Team USA Women's National Baseball team. Others are coaches, collegiate assistants and scouts. Some are still in college. Others have been working for more than 20 years.
The objective of the symposium is a realistic one -- no one expects all of the nearly 50 women to leave with jobs. MLB's hope is that the participants will leave having made a handful of meaningful contacts and with a general idea of the path they'll need to take in order to gain employment in professional baseball.
"It's also a practical engagement," Tirado said. "It's not just us giving them speeches and they're just listening to guest speakers. Part of it is actually doing the work that is involved. There's an opportunity to look at these candidates through a lens, where it's, 'She has something. We need to keep that on our radar.'"
That part is one of the most appealing for the women currently going through the Take the Field exercise.
"That was another objective as well -- start to get my name in people's minds," Cain said. "Quite frankly, when an opportunity is posted, especially in this industry, I feel it's too late. The idea that I can be proactive, and this platform allows me to be -- it's very welcomed."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.