Jennifer Wolf, Saya Nomura and Romy Jimenez talk baseball and barriers for women on Chatter Up!
There’s no doubt that the game of baseball is evolving, both internally and externally. With more international players than ever before, the game is stretching beyond borders and becoming what JapanBall calls a true “global pastime.” In addition, progress is also being made internally, with more women working in baseball than ever before, highlighted by the Miami Marlins’ hiring of Kim Ng to be their General Manager this past weekend.
Three of those women, Jennifer Wolf of the Cleveland Indians, Saya Nomura of the Los Angeles Angels, and player representative Romy Jimenez, joined JapanBall’s “Chatter Up!” on November 5 to discuss these changes, along with their roles with their teams and how they got their “foot in the door start.” Wolf, who was recently featured in a New York Times piece, told audience members that she got her start working at a local Boston bagel shop:
“In high school, I worked at a local bagel shop on the weekends,” Wolf said. “Lou Gorman, who used to be the GM of the Red Sox among other things, came in all the time, and one day, I finally got up the courage and just said, ‘Hey, Mr. Gorman, my name is Jen, I’m graduating high school soon, and I’m really interested in working in baseball.’ And he gave me his business card, and he wrote a name and phone number on the back, and he said, ‘Call this woman and see if she has any internships available.’ I went and I interviewed, and I got the internship, my only qualifications were working at a bagel shop, so I still pinch myself sometimes. But it kind of always makes me think of something my parents always say, which is that ‘you make your own luck.’ There is something about being in the right place at the right time, but you also have to kind of seize that opportunity when it comes.”
Jimenez also took the chance to speak on her path to player representation, telling the audience that she began in sports photography, but through her connections with different players, got more involved with the internal structure of their work, including charities, events and non-profits. Nomura also spoke on her experience, including her work in Japan and her current work in guest relations for the Los Angeles Angels.
The three participants also spoke at length on their roles as women in baseball, including the different challenges they face. Wolf said that sometimes it’s merely logistical things like a lack of a women’s restroom or clubhouse facilities, and that speaking up can have a large impact in those changes. Jimenez also spoke on her experiences, saying that having confidence in herself and her abilities goes a long way:
“It’s not that they [haven’t] been receptive,” Jimenez said. “It’s just that they see me, and they’re like, ‘Oh, here comes Romy.’ And personally, I could give a darn how they perceive me. Because my job is to do the best job I can, and to make sure I know how to communicate with GMs, pro scouting, international scouting directors, and those departments. I’ve been to a few meetings where they know who I am, but then they look at me like, ‘Oh, there’s that girl again. What’s she doing here?’ You can see it on their faces. But I’m sure of myself, and competent enough where I keep to myself, and it’s just about representing my guys and making sure that my agency is respected.”
In addition to the challenges, the participants also spoke on what they believed to be the next milestone for women to pass in baseball, with all agreeing that becoming a General Manager was within grasp. JapanBall’s Shane Barclay mentioned Kim Ng as a key candidate, and noted the only reason she hadn’t been named one yet was likely because she’s a woman. Jimenez also noted that Ng was part of a growing population of women getting involved in the game:
“There [are] so many women that are just, even in the scouting departments, their capabilities are amazing,” Jimenez said. “They study the game in detail, the knowledge, the curiosity, I think that’s what drives us to succeed in the baseball environment… It’s just that it’s self-satisfying that you’re doing the job at the same level that men are, but it’s more challenging and gratifying for us individually as women that we get the job done correctly, for what specifics that we’ve been hired to do.”
One week after the call, Ng was named the first female GM in MLB history after being hired by the Miami Marlins.
Wolf, Jimenez and Nomura also talked about other experiences they’ve had in baseball, discussed what they believe makes a good male ally in a business environment and how one gets their foot in the door when trying to get into the baseball business.
There’s no doubt the game of baseball is growing, both internally and externally. With women like Wolf, Jimenez and Nomura leading the way, it will hopefully soon become a level playing field for all.