MLB event gives college softball players a peek at a future in baseball

February 2nd, 2023
Photo by Mary DeCicco

Sadly, most young athletes won't ever list "professional ballplayer" on their W-2 -- and those odds don't improve if you're a softball player. So, on Wednesday, as part of the celebration for National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Major League Baseball invited 75 college softball players to the office for a day showcasing the variety of on- and off-the-field options available for anyone who wants to remain in the game.

Organized in part by MLB Develops, a department within the league office that is focused on youth outreach, development and growth within the sport for boys and girls, the event brought women from various roles in the game all under one roof.

"Today was phenomenal," Sarah Padove, manager of baseball and softball development at MLB, said. "We wanted to build this day. It's a nationwide celebration: National Girls and Women in Sports Day. We've had incredible women on panels today, at the networking hour right now, and we just wanted to highlight and celebrate all of the great things that women are doing in sports and in baseball specifically."

Among the attendees who offered their time, insight and advice to the eager audience were Ronnie Gajownik, the new Hillsboro Hops manager, Courtney Knichel, the GM for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Raquel Wagner, senior manager of umpire operations, and a variety of members of the MLB office -- whose work ranges from ticketing to media production to even MLB's legal counsel.

The message was simple: There's a job in baseball for you, no matter what field you're in.

"I'm kind of torn because I'm at a point in my life where I'm like, I don't know if I want to do this or I want to do this -- I'm still trying to figure it all out," Alexia Jorge, a catcher for the U.S. Women's National Team and at St. Elizabeth University, said. "But I do think there are paths to do whatever I would want to do. Like, whichever route I want to take there's women there that have done it or are there for me to see, 'Oh, I'm capable. I can do it.' Even if I want to come up with my own thing and be the first woman umpire in MLB."

But there are challenges -- especially in a sport and business that has long been dominated by men.

"It's definitely tough [to work in a male dominated field]," Rachel Hubertus, a coordinator in the baseball and softball development department -- and a softball player herself at Fordham University this time last year -- said. "I think the biggest thing that everyone here knows because they play college sports is perseverance. You need to probably put 500 applications in to get, like, five interviews."

"I think it's exactly events like today, the programs that our department is handling, the wonderful programs that our clubs are involved in on the youth side," Padove said about ensuring women know about the opportunities available. "It's continuing to get that out there and show that no, there are women in this game in every capacity, every role you can think of."

As for what's next, the future looks bright -- even if there's still plenty of work to do.

"I hope it's just a normal thing that your boss is a female, you have seven co-workers that are female, and you might have more female co-workers than you have male co-workers," Megan Klose, a sophomore infielder at Arcadia University, said. "I think we're getting there and I think it's a great step in the right direction. But especially coming from [my work in] the Minor Leagues -- I'm one of three girls in an office of 37 people. There are still some some strides we have to make."

As softball continues to explode in popularity, setting viewing records every year, Hubertus thinks the next five years will look a little different, too. 

"I think the next thing is on the girl's baseball side," Hubertus said. "You just saw Ronnie [Gajownik] become a manager. A couple years ago, Rachel [Balkovec] was a manager. And I think now you look at our girls baseball pipeline and you're gonna start seeing girls commit to colleges on men's teams playing baseball. That's what's next -- I really think so."