Take the Field inspires women in baseball

December 11th, 2020

At 18 years old, Madison Femia already has a clear career goal in mind: She wants to be a Major League coach or manager someday.

After graduating high school, Femia was going to play softball at North Central College in Minnesota, but a recommendation from a longtime friend led her to a coaching position on the baseball team at Waubonsee Community College in Illinois, where she also attends school. She describes her job as doing a little bit of everything, from coaching the catchers to running the technology the team uses on a day-to-day basis.

“I couldn’t pass it up. I knew it was the next stepping stone of coaching,” Femia said. “I’ve always dreamed of being a bench coach or manager. Something on the field to continue being part of the game.”

The coaching opportunity and her participation as a player in MLB’s Trailblazer Series and Girls Baseball Breakthrough Series led her to the third annual Take the Field program this week during MLB’s virtual Winter Meetings.

Held over two days, Take the Field is specifically designed to provide women who are interested in careers in coaching, scouting and player development in baseball with the opportunity for education and engagement with club personnel through panels, breakout sessions and networking opportunities. Coaches, scouts and front office personnel facilitate the sessions and provide insight, while attendees also participate in professional development sessions.

Femia, who credits MLB’s baseball development and diversity coordinator Liz Benn with helping her start a career in baseball, has met a number of these women through her participation in MLB’s events. She has also met Kim Ng, who became the first woman general manager in baseball history when she was hired by the Marlins last month, through those events.

Now, Femia hopes to follow in their footsteps.

“It’s just really cool seeing people I’ve met, people I’ve talked to, being put in those positions,” Femia said. “Like, wow, I’ve met them, we connected. I could do that one day.”

After the Take the Field introductions on Thursday, Femia participated in a breakout session called Bridging the Gap: Communications between Departments, the Front Office and On-Field, led by Mariners director of player development Andy McKay. Then Femia listened to Michele Meyer-Shipp, MLB’s recently hired chief people and culture officer, and Yankees assistant general manager Jean Afterman speak about navigating unconscious bias in the workplace. Both shared their experience navigating it in baseball and shared tips on how to overcome it.

“That was really cool because you know it’s there, but no one talks about it,” Femia said. "So it was nice to hear that other people go through it and it’s not just me. Other people have those feelings of, ‘Wow, I feel out of place, but I know I deserve to be here.’ And just learning how to cope with it and handle it.”

Femia’s Friday agenda included baseball technology demonstrations and two breakout sessions: Coaching and baseball operations. She planned on wrapping up the day with a discussion and workshop on building skills essential for those who want to enter on-field and baseball operations roles.

It’s a busy two days, but Femia knows it will pay off through the advice she’s received and the relationships she’s started to build -- even through a Zoom room.

“It’s very important that MLB is trying to work and help women in baseball and create that diversity,” Femia said. “I think it’s nice they’re putting so much effort and time into it this year with it being virtual. With baseball being a man’s world, relationships are everything with the people who do have their foot in the door and those who are willing to help you.”