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. The three women discussed the ongoing internal changes in the baseball world, along with their roles with their teams, how they got their “foot in the door,” and what they believe is the next step for women in baseball. To listen to this discussion, watch the video on our YouTube channel. You can also read a recap of the discussion here.

Shane:

Romy [Jimenez,] since I see you, I’m gonna go to you first.

Romy:

How are you guys doing?

Shane:

Hey Romy, welcome. Romy lives in Fort Lauderdale now but she grew up in Jersey, a die-hard Yankees fan. She has pursued a career in baseball since the beginning, she studied Sports Management at Barry University and then a law degree from Nova University. She started out in the nonprofit side of things, running her own company that put on events for baseball stars like Andres Galarraga, Dennis Martinez, guys like that, and she would do charity softball games, golf tournaments, dinners, baseball camps, things like that. During that time, she was also the executive director for the Gio Gonzalez Foundation; the former pitcher for the Nationals, of course, and other teams, and he always made a big impact in the community at all the stops of his MLB career, and Romy was a big part of that. A number of years ago, Romy made the transition to the player representation side, where now she’s a real player in the global game. Her stable of clients includes mostly guys from Latin America, and she’s really excels at finding them contracts around the world, whether it be in the United States, signing their first amateur contracts out of Latin America, or veterans looking for opportunities in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Mexico via in the winter leagues or full season leagues. Basically, she’s just constantly opening doors for players to play all over the world, and embodies how baseball is a global game, and is really showing how baseball can bring people together for the greater good, socially and professionally, locally or across oceans. That’s why I wanted to have you on today, thanks for joining us Romy.

Romy:

Hey, thank you. You’re welcome. Good to be here.

Shane:

All right. I’m gonna go to Jen next. Jennifer Wolf grew up in Massachusetts, a proud member of Red Sox nation at one time.

Jen:

In the past!

Shane:

She also pursued a career in baseball from the beginning, I believe you even landed an internship with the Red Sox before even going off to college, which is pretty impressive. Also a proud alum of Georgetown, where she studied business and Spanish, and worked to build a career in sports. She got positions with ESPN and the Nationals while in college, and then after graduating, landed a coveted Baseball Operations internship with the New York Mets, and then parlayed that into a job at MLB’s Office of the Commissioner, working in Latin American operations in New York, and also in the DR (Dominican Republic), where we overlapped for about a year or so. And Jen and I sat next to each other in “the bullpen,” as we called it, and had a good time down there. After that, she left the DR to join the Mets again, did Minor League Ops for the Mets, played a big role in their whole player development system. Now she is with the Cleveland Indians, as you can see by the “C” on her chest. With the Indians, she’s the Life Skills Coordinator. And she puts all of her past experience together to help players, coaches and staff achieve and exceed their personal and professional goals. As you all can tell, she’s already had more experience than many of us will have in their whole career, and still got a lot ahead of her. So Jen, thanks for joining us.

Jen: 

Thank you so much for inviting me, and thank you for that introduction!

Shane:  

You’re welcome! I’m gonna introduce [Saya] anyway, while she hopefully gets the audio situation figured out. So for those of you who are not so familiar with Japanese baseball, few last names in the game can compare with “Nomura.” It’s similar to maybe baseball names like Boone or Griffey, or maybe Bavasi. Her dad, Kenny, played in the minor leagues in Japan, her Uncle Don also played professional baseball, [but] is much more well known for being the agent for Hideo Nomo, [and] brought him from Japan to the US. Saya’s grandfather, the late Katsuya Nomura, is one of the all-time Japanese baseball legends, and is in the pantheon of greatest baseball figures for his play on the field, and as a manager. Saya grew up in the LA area, she’s always spent a lot of time in Japan, too. She attended Grand Canyon University, where she majored in Sports Psychology. Her first job was in Japan working in athlete management, first with an agency and then as a freelancer. She parlayed that into an opportunity with the LA Angels, where she currently is still employed, working in guest relations. She made a big impact right away with the Angels, [and] was the Organizational Employee of the Year in 2018. I know that Saya can also appreciate the global aspect of baseball with her strong global connections, and as proof of that, she even hosts a weekly Twitter event that focuses on the international aspect of the game, along with Jose Mota of the famous Dominican baseball family, who broadcasts the Angels’ games in English and Spanish. So in the short time Saya’s made a big impact in the baseball world, and I imagine with her credentials, she’ll continue to make an even greater impact in the years to come. So Saya, welcome. 

Just to kick things off, I’m curious for all three of you: [what’s] your story of getting your foot in the door? They say [about] working in baseball, the hardest thing is getting your foot in the door. So we’ll start with you, Jen. Can you explain a little bit about how you were able to do that, and what your story was in the beginning?

Jen: 

Sure! So kind of like Shane noted, I started before I was even in college. And in high school, I worked at a local bagel shop on the weekends. 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. And once I did that internship with Boston, which was in the summer of ‘05, so right after they had won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, I was sold and never wanted to do anything else ever again but work at a baseball field. So I’m very fortunate that I haven’t had to really work at anything else since then.

Shane: 

Nice. And how did you know about Lou Gorman, or who he was?

Jen:

It’s hard to grow up in Boston and not be a baseball fan, especially in that timeframe. I can’t remember exactly how I knew who he was, but he always came in in a Red Sox jacket. I think it was actually my dad who had mentioned to me like, “Hey, you should really talk to him, this is something you want to do. You should make sure you say something to him.”

Shane: 

Good for you, that’s a bold move and it worked out. Romy, we’re gonna go to you next.

Romy:

Wow, I’ve worn many hats, I know that for a fact, Aside from being a sports fan and a baseball fan all my life growing up, I went to college for photography, and my love of sports led me into wanting to focus on shooting baseball photography. At the time, the Florida Marlins had begun their spring training. I went in to start doing some photography for a publication called Baseball Weekly, and I got my credentials. I just started doing photography, and in baseball, from my experiences, it’s obviously who you know, but when you start building a rapport with the players, the only female being on the field taking pictures, and wanting to build that rapport in that respect in the baseball world, they would see me constantly. Being Hispanic, a lot of players were drawn to me as far as my work as a photographer, but also talking about heritages and so forth. So I did that for a couple years, and once that evolved, I had a friend of mine that was doing collectible shows and things like that. He knew [that] I knew some players that wanted to do signings and things as Marlin players as the Marlins began here in South Florida, back in 93’/’94. I had never honestly considered being involved in player representation until further down the road, so I was doing a lot of PR and marketing for a few clients; Quilvio Veras, Edgar Renteria here in South Florida. I’d always had my own company, my own business; I’ve never worked for an agency or any type of organization, but I was able to connect with the right people, and build that rapport and respect the work that I do: marketing, PR, it was obviously feasible for my client. Also, I built a rapport of working hard. I met a player who was playing on a coed softball team that Jose Conseco had here in South Florida, and at that point I wanted to get more involved into the nonprofit side, especially events and coordinating. One thing led to another, I started getting this player involved in different charities in South Florida, then the Marlins won the World Series, and it’s just been a domino effect over the course of the years, and as we all know, the baseball world’s very small. So as I continue to do all my charity work, I was recommended through this player that, “You know, Romy does events, X,Y,Z.” And that’s how I ended up with Wilson Alvarez Foundation, did special events in Venezuela, he played with the Tampa [Bay] Rays for a couple years. And then Dennis Martinez came to the event and wanted to know who organized this, and one thing led to another. My career getting into the process of baseball was based off of recommendations from the work that I actually was able to successfully coordinate for these players and their personal foundations and different causes. So as the time went moving forward, I began to meet a lot of people locally in South Florida, just because I love baseball, and always enjoyed it at all levels, from tee-ball all the way up to college and minor leagues. I honestly can say that I was not purposely networking to grow, or to make myself known, or be in the limelight. I like to work behind the scenes. That’s my forte. So once things went moving forward, I had met Gio Gonzalez and his family through other mutual friends, and the friendship started deals through my son, so he’s very special to me and my family. His mom had wanted to set up a nonprofit, so she was like “Romy, I want to wait for Gio, hopefully he gets drafted, and as time progresses, I want you to be the Executive Director.” So I was all antsy and excited. I was like, “Cool, this is my perfect opportunity to be an Executive Director.” Well, he finally got a shot with the Nats (Washington Nationals), and I worked there for three years with him. But throughout this whole course of my baseball career, I’d always been pulled to the point where I wanted to represent players. I’m a true believer that timing is everything and of the essence, and your level of maturity as you progress in your baseball career has to be right, you have to feel that confidence, and [feel] secure enough for yourself to be able to present yourself as an agent, or some type of representative. I got involved with two free agent, amateur signings out of Venezuela, with a business partner of mine who [it] just so happens that I got him a job when he was 16 years ago, and we had kept the relationship. He called me up one day and said to me, “Romy look, I’m looking for an investor to open up shop in Venezuela, let’s give it a shot.” And I was like, “Hey, I’m ready.” At that point, I was ready, let’s just go forward. One thing led to another, and I was super excited, because it was a huge investment. And finally, I had one of my guys sign with the Texas Rangers, and that was like the big hurrah. My close ties with Venezuela. You could say maybe it’s because of the Wilson Alvarez foundation, but that’s just the way things have worked out. That summer that I signed the player, I got a call from another friend, a longtime associate that I met here in Miami years ago. He kept asking me, “Hey, listen, I’ve got guys that are sitting here in Venezuela, looking for jobs, even if it’s an independent league.” So I was like, “Well, let’s give it a shot.” So I just started cold calling and emails. I felt at the time, and continue to [feel] that it has to be a level of confidence, because you’re battling and you’re dealing with a lot of organizations and scouts and even family members, they want results; they want the contract. They just want to get back either into the game or continue their career. I could sit here and talk… 

Shane:

There’s plenty to follow up on there and play discuss, but we’re gonna move on, but thank you for that. We got your story now, so now we all have the foundation. Saya I’m going to you. Jen and Romy told us how they got their foot in the door with their first job working in baseball. How did that work out for you?

Saya:

I grew up in the industry, ever since I was very young; surrounded by players, coaches, managers, I just grew up on the field. I didn’t learn to appreciate the game until I moved to Japan, which was in 2013, and that’s when I started to pursue a career in baseball, or in sports. I interned for a sports management company in Japan, and it was very challenging because I am Japanese, but I was born and raised in the States, so to adjust to the Japanese culture or to learn the business etiquette was very challenging for me, but it really helped me with my work ethics when I came back to the States. I helped with my college baseball team, I assisted distant players, former players. And in 2017, I started working with the Los Angeles Angels; actually, Marty Kuehnert was the one that encouraged me to write a letter to Tim Mead, who was at the time the Vice President of the media department. He called me back, and we had a nice chat. I went in for an interview, and everything just kind of fell into place after that.

Shane:

Well, I’m glad that you said how you didn’t appreciate baseball right away, because I wasn’t sure if that’s fair game. But so what was it? You grew up around the game, what was it that really made you appreciate it kind of later in your life, and then want you to work in the game?

Saya:

I read a book called “The Mental Game of Baseball.” If you love baseball, or sports, I really encourage everyone, or just anyone, to read it. It’s a very fascinating book, and it’s not something that you can just apply to baseball, but just your everyday life or business. And I think that’s when I actually started respecting the game more, and understanding more that it’s more than just a sport.

Shane:

Yeah. I’m sure some people here have read it. Thanks Saya. I have one more question for all three of you; baseball is a sport that lends itself to mentorship. I’m curious if any of you had mentors in the beginning or currently that helped you, and who they are, and in what way they’ve had an influence on you.

Romy:

I would definitely say [my] mentor, as far as player representation, would be Scott Shapiro with Magnus Sports. I met him years ago, when he got his first client, but at the time, I wasn’t really focused on that; I [just] always had that in the back of my mind. I saw him, he was very personable [with] open communication, he treated and still treats his players as family. So I found that very important, putting that on my top priority list when I decided to pursue this part of the industry. So he definitely is a good guy though.

Shane: 

Yeah, he’s well respected in the agent game.

Jen:

I’ve had a few people, I think, that have kind of helped guide me along the way. One of them’s actually on this call, Tyrone Brooks at MLB. So that was a nice coincidence. Trying to get in the game, he was one of the first people that accepted my cold call or cold email, and we met for coffee out in San Francisco. He was with the Cleveland Indians at the time, and was just very helpful, let[ting] me know what opportunities were available, and what kinds of things I should be doing to pursue different opportunities. I’ve also had some really good mentors, such as Omar Minaya, who I was with at the Mets when I was an intern, and then he left and I left, but he was able to kind of always help me with different opportunities throughout my time in baseball up until now. But I think what has kind of been really cool for me…  I haven’t had a ton of female mentors, or really any female mentors within the game, but I started to kind of form my own little group of women in the game that are more like peers than mentors; I think sometimes you need that as well. So, obviously, it’s always important to have a sponsor, people that are willing to guide you, but as a woman, they’re few and far between. I see the question in the chat, yes, I am helping to mentor other females as well. Because my network is mostly my peers, it’s been nice to have people that are going through exactly what you’re going through and to bounce ideas off of and stuff. While most of my mentors have been male, and have been awesome, sometimes they don’t understand some of the differences of being a female in the game as well.

Shane:

That’s a good answer, and I definitely have some follow ups on that. Saya, do you have any mentors that you want to acknowledge?

Saya: 

Well, like Jen, I really haven’t had any female mentors. You don’t really come across females in the industry. But I always go to Don Nomura, who’s my uncle. He’s brought over numbers of Japanese players over to the States, and he’s someone that I respect very much, and I always go to him for advice. And also, Jose Mota, our broadcaster with the Angels. I always call him up whenever I need advice.

Shane:

Two great people to have access to for sure. Since all of you touched on it here, I’m gonna go ahead and ask my question. You’re mentioning about being a woman working in baseball; it’s always been known as a man’s game and all that stuff, but for me, when I worked, my boss was a woman, Kim Ng at MLB. 

(Editor’s note: this “Chatter Up!” occurred on November 5, one week before the announcement of Ng becoming the Marlins’ General Manager, the first female and second Asian GM in MLB history.)

I’ve worked with plenty of badass women, Jen included. Of course you’re a minority in working in baseball, and there are certain challenges I know that go along with that, but are any of you willing to share any particular difficulties you’ve had being a woman in baseball, or at least just give advice? I know there’s a couple on this call [who would appreciate it.] Jen, we’re gonna start with you, because you got the [New York] Times’ article.

Jen:

I think I was very fortunate that I was given a chance early on, that I was given opportunities. I come from a family where my dad worked out of the house, and my mom was the one that commuted and worked in the office, so I always wanted to work and always wanted a career. So I approached baseball with that same kind of attitude, I just knew I was gonna be able to find a job, and I guess [I] was kind of naive about being a woman trying to do it. On the one hand, it’s been nice that baseball is focusing on a lot of analytics, and you don’t necessarily have to had played in the game in order to have a role, and I think that’s especially helped in coaching, now that you’re seeing a lot more women in coaching. But one of the downsides is that analytics is a big part of that, and there’s not a lot of women in analytics either. So on the one hand, it helps just in general bring[ing] people in the game who haven’t necessarily played at a professional level, but there’s still some barriers for women to get in the game. But I think I’ve had great people look out for me, worked with people like Shane; you really need allies and sponsors and I think, you know, those are good people to have around you. Working for Kim was a dream come true. I remember reading the press release when they announced that she was [coming,] I was already at MLB. She came on to be my boss, and I was floored, I couldn’t believe it, it was like, “am I dreaming?” I think the biggest thing is you know that you’re coming into a situation where you’re the minority, so you need to have some level of confidence and comfort, but also, you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, I think a lot of the stuff that I have faced as far as not feeling included and things like that was more just like…  there’s some structural things, I guess is kind of what I’m saying. So you know, you go to a facility and there’s no women’s bathroom in the clubhouse, or no place for you to shower or change while all your male coworkers have that. So it’s kind of one of those like things that if you’re not a woman, you’re not thinking about it, because you’re like, “I have my locker room, I can use the bathroom, I can shower in the clubhouse.” So sometimes you just kind of need to speak up and make people aware, like, “Hey, what am I going to do?” Because I don’t think it’s necessarily malicious, I think just something that people don’t even think about, and a lot of these facilities were built years and years ago, before you even thought that women would be around. I don’t want to call it a struggle, but know that it’s going to be a little different, and be ready for that. But also, if you see something and you’re like, “Hey, this is an easy fix, can we order some women’s smalls, not men’s clothes?”  Little things like that are huge, and sometimes you’ve just got to be like, “Hey, I don’t want to wear that same thing,” or “Can we figure out where I can use the bathroom please?”

Shane:

Romy, anything on that topic to add?

Romy: 

Well, I’ve had a lot of, I would say, interesting experiences similar to Jen’s, but mine has been individually with other agents, and the Latin American environment of professional baseball. I want to just give you scenarios that I’ve encountered. It’s not that they’ve been receptive, I say hello to everyone, I pretty much have a pretty cool personality. Some people think I don’t, but it’s all within grasp. 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. We have a family environment. And right now, it’s funny, because I have a guy who I met on a flight to the Winter Meetings. He does a lot of July 2 signings out of Dominican Republic, and another gentleman, and they’re just so intrigued to know, “Who are your guys?” and you know, I’m not here to share, they’re my competition years. I just take it with a grain of salt. I don’t take any of it personally.

Shane

Yeah, it’s interesting, the added layer of opposition when you’re in Latin America.

Romy:

Oh, yes. And being female. It’s interesting.

Jen: 

That just reminded me of a quick anecdote, back from my days working with Shane. I helped out a lot of events, like showcases and stuff for the amateur players. A friend of mine came down to visit for like a week, and I put him to work and I was like, “You’re going to be my intern for the week and help us out at the event.” So I think we put an MLB hat on him or something, and all of a sudden, all the agents went up to talk to him. I’m like, “I’ve been here for nine months, you guys have seen my face!”

Romy:

It’s trying times, but you know, it’s something where you have to keep steadfast. And when somebody says, “No,” you just kind of keep going and pushing and pushing until you’re able to get your foot in the door, especially with Asia and Mexico. It takes a while to build that rapport, and the culture, they’re not used to having females, it’s either marketing or XYZ. I’m not knocking anybody’s job, but it’s just a fact, as far as a female being perceived in the agent representation field. So it’s just got to be self assured and make sure they respect. And I know it’s a man’s environment, I expect the eyes and the looking, but it’s just got to keep moving forward. That’s just the bottom line.

Shane: 

Saya, I want to give you a chance too before we go to our questions.

Saya:

It’s definitely all about confidence with it, regardless if you’re male or female. But you do get treated differently if you’re female, and I’ve witnessed it numerous times. You have to respect yourself and you have to value yourself. You have to be vocal, if you don’t feel comfortable with something you have to speak up, and you have to surround yourself with good people in the industry, and have a good mentor as well.

Bob:

I was just gonna ask a couple questions. I’ve been retired for 10 years and don’t have any interest in working, but that’s because I don’t need to work anymore. The one question a lot of people would want to ask is internships, because I’ve been involved in internships in work. What are the advantages and disadvantages in- let’s say Major League Baseball- about internships? That may be something that Jennifer can answer. And then the second question is where it was an asset, or you felt you brought something beneficial to the table that maybe had been overlooked, by being female? So any of the three, could you get into that? 

Jen:

Since he directed that internship question at me… I think one of the great things that [Tyrone has] done as part of the diversity and inclusion initiative is to publicize a lot of the internships that normally weren’t out in the open. They were kind of like if you knew somebody, or if you knew to reach out to teams, you could get an internship. A lot of those are now listed online, which is huge, and I think that can help bring a lot of people in the game. The opportunities I’ve seen now are so different than the stuff I was looking at 15 years ago, when I first got in the game, and so I think that that’s a great way to get started, and it’s a great way to really learn the ins and outs of everything. My internships were always more comprehensive than my full-time roles because you get a taste of everything. So in my baseball ops internship, I got to experience amateur scouting in the draft, international baseball ops, Major League ops, player development. It kind of gave me a taste of what each field was, and allowed me to focus on kind of where I wanted to be. And then as to your second question, I think anytime you bring diverse people together, it’s beneficial. So anytime you bring people with different backgrounds, experiences, cultures, ages, ethnicities, you’re bringing in different perspectives, bringing in different ideas, and I think adding in women as part of that; you can talk about like empathy and things, and I don’t want to say that that’s specifically female, but I think some of the stuff that’s helped me particularly is empathy and communication skills, which are kind of more of a soft skills, but I wouldn’t be in the position that I am right now without those. Being bilingual, being able to communicate in two different languages, being able to connect with16-year-old players that we’ve just signed and 85-year-old coaches. I don’t want to say that’s unique to being a female, but I think it’s sometimes something that’s overlooked by different teams at different points in my career. And I think that’s something that has really been able to help and really got me where I am today.

Shane:

I agree with that, more voices in the room, more diverse voices are better. 

Eric:

Question for everybody about allyship, in the industry and business in general, how can men be better allies?

Romy:

Well, in my experiences, I’m a people person, so I have to get a feel for the person’s personality, regardless whether it’s male or female. Just make sure you’re a good listener to what they have to say, make sure that you understand each other, and be able to build an alliance based off of respect on your knowledge of the game, because, for instance, when I’m speaking to Giovanni [Hernandez, of the Angels], he’s a great guy, and I’ve been able to build a rapport with him. So you have definitely be open to any suggestions, whether you like them or not. So the interaction and the bond with men and women in the baseball environment, it can only be a plus, but I’d be the first one to tell you that a lot of people- whether it’s MLB, or just international- are intimidated at times when they hear a female speaking the same terminology and baseball lingo that they do in their jobs day to day. I mean, that’s something, that barrier has to be broken. But once again, you got to get a feel for the person or the type of man you are speaking to directly, coming from a woman’s perspective.

Shane:   

Yeah, good point. And I’ve seen that before, talking baseball with a woman, and she’ll use baseball lingo and some guy will comment “Oh, that’s cool that you know [that!]” and like, give her props for it.

Romy:  

Especially when you’re speaking to an executive that you’re trying to get a contract for, or you’re wanting them to send like an international cross check to see your guy for a July 2 signing. You got to know how to speak that terminology, that lingo, you want to be taken seriously. 

Shane:

Thanks for that, Saya or Jen, do you have anything about to add as far as how men that you work with can be better allies in the workplace?

Jen:

I’m laughing because I see Gabe’s comment: “Oh, you’re a baseball fan? Name every Cy Young winner.” So like, rule number one: Do not test women on their knowledge of sports. We do not need to be quizzed every time you find out we work in sports. For me personally, I don’t know if Romy and I have had similar experiences, I have found that men that have daughters or men that are really close to their sisters, they tend to understand. Obviously every single man knows a woman in their life, but especially a lot of older coaches that have daughters, I felt like they could kind of see some of their daughters in me, and that really helped, and they were able to become better allies. But kind of what Romy said, once you prove that you can do whatever it is your task is, you’ll be taken seriously. Not that you need to prove yourself, but I think that’s true in any job, you need to prove that you’re capable of it, maybe it [just] takes a few extra steps for women. I think that what has been really inspiring for me and really kind of heartwarming is that players and coaches seem to do that really quickly. As soon as you show you can do your job, they’ve been very supportive. And I just had to experience that when I went from one team to another, and I’m in a whole new environment where none of the players knew me ahead of time, they may have known some players that I’d worked with before, but I was new to them, and you have to earn their trust, just like when you join any new team, or job, or anything like that. Once you do that, once you show them the value you can provide, they’re great. I think sometimes where it’s a little harder, and where having allies is more important, is in that office environment, where sometimes, it is about what you can do, but there’s other dynamics at play. I think just taking an extra second when you’re making decisions, you know, “Am I making this decision because she’s a woman? Do I think this because she’s a woman?” And sometimes you don’t always want to play the female card, but if you don’t take that extra step and think about it, then you might actually be doing something because someone’s a woman. The book “Lean In,” which was almost like the Bible on women in the job world, they talk about different stereotypes that people have about women, and women have them about other women too; [for example,] if you’re aggressive for a male, that’s a good thing, and if you’re a female, it’s a bad thing. Or if you’re outspoken for male, it’s a good thing, and if you’re female, it’s a bad thing. And just kind of remembering some of those stereotypes and some of those biases that you have, I think that’s important to being a good ally, just taking a step back: “If she was a man, what I think the same thing about what she said or did?” I think sometimes that’s a really good way to check yourself.

Shane: 

Good call. Saya, I see you nodding along. I’m going to Gabe now.

Gabe:

I know we were talking earlier about opportunities for women in baseball, and how there’s new ground being broken, such as with Alyssa Nakken becoming the first female on field coach in MLB this season. I’m curious, what do you think the next barrier to be broken by women in baseball will be? Will it be someone moving into the front office? Will it be someone taking on a managerial position? Or maybe someone becoming a more prominent broadcaster and lead play by play announcer?

Romy: 

I would say definitely, GM. That one is like half a yard from the goal. It’s gonna happen. Hopefully, sooner than later.

(Editor’s note: again, this call occurred one week before Kim Ng’s hiring. Jimenez was exactly right!)

But there’s so many women that are just, even in the scouting departments, their capabilities are amazing. They study the game in detail, the knowledge, the curiosity, I think that’s what drives us to succeed in the baseball environment. And as far as for myself, you have to be a competitor, and you want to be like, “Hey, you know, I got that one over on him,” but it’s not personal. 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.

Shane:

I think GM, just because it’s the closest right now. We mentioned Kim Ng earlier. If Kim was a man she would be a General Manager already. She was Assistant GM for the Yankees throughout their glory years, and has all the credentials and as many interviews as anyone could have for that position. I just can’t explain any other way other than the fact that she’s a woman which is unfortunate. Jean Afterman at the Yankees also is very well respected, and there’s tons of other women in baseball operations working their way up front offices; Romy, maybe you’ll be the first woman to negotiate a 100-million-dollar contract for one of your clients.

Romy:

That’s the mission! That’s the goal. As of right now, there’s a couple secrets around. They’re coming soon.

Toshiki:

Hi, everybody. You guys already talked about perspectives from the female side. I would love to know what it’s like to be a minority in baseball. My other question is, I’m a college student, I am a senior at the University of Maryland, and if you could offer me some kind of advice for me to make it to the baseball industry someday. That would be amazing. 

Jen:

My first advice would be to start looking for internships and opportunities. Teamwork Online is a great resource, that’s where a lot of them are posted. Don’t be afraid to be a little creative with the internships and the experiences that you have, I think you’d be surprised about how you can make any kind of experience what you want it to be, and you can always pick up skills that can be translated into whatever future job that you want. So an example would be, right out of college, I interned with the Washington Nationals, and I really wanted a Baseball Ops internship and didn’t get it; I was in the marketing department. I was doing a lot of writing for the Nationals’ magazine and things like that. And I was able to, through writing, show my knowledge of baseball ops. So similar to how writers from FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus and stuff get plucked for front offices, I kind of tried to do the same thing. Whatever opportunity and experience you get, even if it’s not your first choice, it’s a foot in the door, it’ll get you face time with the right people, and you can use that experience. As far as being a minority, it’s interesting, because I work mostly with our minor league players, and half our minority population is Latin American. So I would say, over half our players are minorities. Everyone’s experience is different, and the experience of a Latin American player is going to be different than my experience, and honestly, my experience as a white woman is going to be different than Saya’s experience as a Japanese woman, the women’s experience is also very different, depending on different groups. But I think as the game grows, there’s more diversity around you, I think that it becomes easier and easier. But as I said before, you have to also advocate for yourself, and I do a lot of advocating for our minor league players, especially the Latin players. But I also need to make sure that I’m advocating for myself and if I see something that’s like, “Hey, you know, what are the women gonna do?” Something that kind of came to mind is there was one day that I was locked out of the building, because our main gate was closed, and the men all enter through their clubhouse, but the women’s locker room doesn’t have an outside door. So it was like, “Do I sit here and wait until somebody shows up to unlock the main gate? Or do I just go through the men’s locker room?” And it’s not something anyone had ever thought of before, so sometimes you just need to be like, “Hey, guys, we need another solution to this, can I have a key?” Like I said before, it’s never anything malicious, but you just need to know when to speak up and how to do it in a way that is also productive, that’s not like, “Oh, my God, guys, what the eff? I couldn’t get into the building.” It’s more like, “If this happens again, what should we do? This is my suggestion.”

Romy:

I’d like to add to that. Speaking as a minority, obviously I’m dark complexion, female and Latina. So for me as far as my personality, they’re all pluses. But it’s perceived that they’re minuses. So in order to help you deal with those challenges, what’s helped me a lot is I research, and I research all day long, just to know the new trends, what new talents [are] out there, what countries are possibly looking into broadening their baseball involvement internationally. The more knowledge you have, the more you’ll feel comfortable, being able to portray who you are.  Knowledge is power, obviously, but the more you feel comfortable with the research you’ve had and have done, the better and more comfortable you’ll feel speaking. And you won’t even think that you’re in a minority, it’s just you as a human being.

Shane:  

Saya, I’m gonna put you on the spot here, because you mentioned how being in Japan was a little bit interesting, being American, and then in the United States, you’re doing a lot with Japanese clients, and are kind of viewed as the Japanese one. So can you speak a little bit to your experience fitting in being a minority? Or just somewhat of an outsider in a professional setting?

Saya:

Well, starting off in Japan, it really helped me, because it was so challenging working out there and adjusting to the culture. So when I came back to the States, I just used that as a strength of mine. You just have to network as much as you can, especially right now since you’re a student, and try to gain as much experience as you can. So if you want to get into baseball, reach out to your college coach, write letters to organizations, you never know who’s gonna write back. And knowledge is power, so study the game, study the history of the game, and it’s always good to have a skill, because that’s gonna that’s gonna set you aside from everyone else. So if you speak Japanese as well, that’s a huge plus. So try to have different skills, and you’re going to stand out from others. So have a skill, study the game, and network.

Toshiki: 

Well, thanks so much. Yeah, I did have my internship with the Nationals over summer, but it got cancelled because of COVID. So COVID is definitely making it harder. So definitely looking to connect with you if that’s okay after this and because I’m definitely looking for a job. So definitely nice to have some kind of direction.

Shane:  

Thanks Toshiki and Saya, and Tyrone’s putting in the chat here: for anyone on the call that’s interested in working in the game, join the “Baseball Industry Network” on LinkedIn. Highly recommend that, it’s got tons and tons of people in it and Tyrone does a really good job keeping everyone up to date on what’s going on.

Jen:

That’s how I met Tyrone, from that group. And then I emailed him, so highly recommend joining that group.

Ted: 

I have two questions. One: in your experience in baseball, what is the most rewarding part of your job, or made you happy in your job? And what is the most frustrating part of the job?

Saya:

Being at the stadium is my favorite. Even if I’m having a bad day, just being at the stadium and the atmosphere at Angel Stadium is amazing. The fans are amazing. So being at the stadium for sure. Frustrating, I would say if things aren’t communicated correctly, so communication is so important in any kind of field.

Romy:

I would agree as far as being around the stadium. That gives me time to detox, just watching BP or even going to watch my nephew play in college, or even in T-Ball. For me, I live the game and breathe the game. I don’t know if it’s because of my Dominican descendance, but baseball has been life for me. One main [good thing], considering the field I’m working in, is when a GM says, “Okay, I’m going to send a scout to go see your guy.” For me that’s like, the biggest lotto ever because of being female, and the challenge that there is, because my competition is obviously all the already established agencies, and with all the top rated talent that all these academies already have. So for me, that’s definitely like 200% gold. One thing that’s a pet peeve of mine is judging my capability of doing my job because I am a female, but it tends to have a thick skin about it, and you can always work around it. You have to have a mindset that it’s not just one organization or one player, there’s thousands of people out there that you can work with. So that’s what I would definitely say.

Jen: 

For me, the best is when a player that I’ve worked with makes it to the majors, I feel like a proud Mama Bear. It’s the best feeling in the world. A great example is Amed Rosario; Shane and I knew him when he was an amateur player, so I worked with him at MLB before he signed, and then basically got to see his whole career with the Mets until he made it to the majors. There’s just no better feeling knowing that whatever small part I played helped. And now with a new team, I feel like I have doubled the players that can make it, because I still have players from the Mets that made their debuts this year, like Andres Jimenez and David Peterson, but then I get to see Tristan McKenzie, who I worked with at Cleveland last year, make his debut this year. To me, that is the best. I think as far as a pet peeve, I wish that baseball as an industry was a little more progressive. I mean that on many fronts, I think baseball has been slow on social justice issues, I think baseball has been slow on diversity and inclusion, just overall. I look at the NBA and the NFL, and what they do with technology and fan engagement and things like voting; I think MLB is improving, I just wish that we were there a little more. I think you see it in all aspects. On the medical side, sports in Europe and overseas and Australia are way ahead of us. Just little things like that, sometimes I’m like “It’s 2020 baseball, let’s get with it!” So yeah, that would be my pet peeve, but it’s improving, which is good.

Gio:

One question I have for you guys was what’s something about this industry that you initially thought, that was disproven once you started working? Or another way of putting it: What’s something that surprised you about the industry once you guys were in it?

Jen:

I’ll start. I kind of already said it, but how quickly players and coaches accepted me was really surprising. I thought that they were going to be harder to win over, and it really wasn’t the case. I’ve had experiences where it’s like pulling teeth to get somebody, like one of my peers in the office, to try to show me something or if I need help with something, but I can sit with a coach and talk for hours and trade baseball stories. I don’t know why that dynamic happens, it may have been who I was interacting with, but that, to me, was a really pleasant surprise. You think that it’ll be more awkward in clubhouses or in situations with players, and to me, that was always way easier than kind of working in a regular office or in the front office.

Romy:

First and foremost, I do agree with Jen, my experiences with the players and the coaches have always been the introduction to the environment of whatever team I might be associated with, going to a ballgame or knowing [what] my past experiences have been, with nonprofit and doing events and things like that. And I researched the game a lot, so for surprises, I would love to add one, but I don’t recall one right now. Once again, being a female in the business, there’s never a dull moment. It’s just the looks I get from certain backgrounds of men that work in the industry, it gets to the point where I’m very sarcastic. I don’t know if it’s just my personality from Jersey; I’m respectful, but don’t come and “BS” me, we’re adults here first. It’s not about a man or woman thing. We’re adults first, you just expect to be respected. I know the game, I know how to move around, how to speak. I guess it’s just part of it, especially dealing with the Latin men in the industry. There’s always a perception of “What is she doing?” or “She’s so quiet, she doesn’t share what she’s doing or who she represents?” Just keep it neutral. So that’s something that I found that there’s always this intrigue about what I’m doing or who [I’m] with; just come out and ask, it’s just as simple as that. I’m not very intimidating, I’m pretty laid back. But that’s something I have found that I’m hoping changes as we progress in this industry, because it’s just there.

Shane:

Saya, what were you going to say?

Saya:

Just how welcoming people are, especially the Angels’ organization. I think it’s one of the best organizations to work for, and the people from the front office or players or ex-players, [are] just so friendly and welcoming.

Shane:

Cool. I’ve got another question for all of you. At JapanBall, we view baseball as an international game. What do the three of you see [for] the continued globalization of the game? You all work in the international version in your own way. So Romy, why don’t we start with you? Because I’m curious, you are getting guys contracts to play in Asia and all around the world. What do you see as far as the continued blurring of borders around the world and baseball?

Romy:

I think it’s amazingly growing. I like how MLB International has done a lot of camps, even in the smallest countries that you’ve never heard of, they’ve been. The global part, countries like Portugal, and all these big serious organizations that want to expand baseball [like] India, the game’s receptive. I know a lot of people just in the US find it boring, but there’s just this excitement of just waiting for a pitch, to see if somebody’s going to hit a home run. A lot of people, I think, internationally enjoy that because it’s so popular here in the States. When I see tournaments in Korea and in Taiwan and Japan, especially now with the pandemic, it’s awesome that everybody in the world had a chance to interact and see the level of play that’s increased in those leagues. I’m currently working with a baseball academy in Cameroon out in Africa; these kids have raw talent. My company does a lot of sponsorship for them, to help them create more awareness about baseball in Africa, it’s just exciting. It’s exciting. And it’s fulfilling because the game of baseball has longevity. Obviously it’s American pastime, but it’s more of a global pastime. And that’s, that’s what I enjoy seeing, it’s progressed like that in so many different parts of the world.

Susan:

My question is for Romy: is Japan an easy sell for your clients or potential clients? Or is MLB the only goal, the main goal that your clients have?

Romy:

Wow, Japan, Asia, its markets are…  I don’t want to say difficult; they’re complex, because they expect Major League caliber players, either retired or that want to continue pursuing their baseball careers into another country and into other cultures. It boils down to the type of client you have, and what the organizations need at the time. And MLB, obviously, is the goal. But there’s so many players right now that have left MLB, or they’ve been released from organizations where they want to venture out and see what else is out there for them. And seeing how competitive the level of play has broadened and grown so much in the KBO, in Taiwan, and in Japan, it’s challenging for me, because [the leagues] don’t know me. I have to go out there and I gotta hustle it, I gotta sell my client, I gotta pitch that they’re the next best thing since sliced bread. But it’s fulfilling for me, because I just love what I do. I am a small boutique agency, but I can say that the people that do want to work with our agency, the players, they’re happy, and they know. I always make sure and let them know that it’s not overnight, they don’t know you. “Yeah, you’ve had a successful career in MLB, or you’ve played Double A ball, but it’s just a different type.” They want results. Now, you know, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, it’s not “Let’s develop the player.” They want to win championships because their fanbase out there is incredibly huge.

Shane: 

Romy, do the Asian teams that you’ve dealt with, like with Latin American players, do they view them favorably? Disfavorably? Or just the same, and all they care about is their ability to produce?

Romy:

Oh, no, they love Latino players. There’s just a different level of hungry to play the game. And when you say Latin America, it could be from any country, Dominican, Puerto Rico, even Cuba, they love Cuban players out there. So this is just a different hungry of playing the game, they play with more spirit. That’s why I think they like that type of caliber, that type of player from Latin America.

Shane: 

Interesting, I think anyone who follows Japanese baseball notices that there’s been just a continual shift of more and more Latin players filling up the import player quota, which is interesting. So it makes sense that you’re saying that. 

Saya, I have a question for you. With JapanBall, we’re bringing people to Japan and other countries to watch baseball, and you’re oftentimes dealing with fans going the other way. I know you deal with a lot of Japanese clients at Angel Stadium. What type of groups are you seeing? Is it individual fans or groups coming? And what is their expectation when they’re coming to see a major league baseball game, and how do you help them have a good experience?

Saya:

Well, I’ve noticed that the majority of them are from Japan, they don’t speak English. So I think the fact that I’m there and I speak English, I can make the experience more comfortable for them. I think they’d be surprised at how big the stadium actually is compared to the NPB stadiums, it’s smaller. I think the stadiums in the States fit more people. I feel like there’s more activities. I mean, it’s completely different, we don’t have beer girls at the stadiums, but each stadium has a different atmosphere. 

Shane:

So do you have to tell them, “Just a warning, you’re gonna have to get up and get your own beer?” 

Saya

Not yet. But we don’t have organized cheers like Japan. So yeah, I think they have a great time at Angel Stadium.

Shane:

I’m sure. I think Angel Stadium is one of the most underrated ballparks for sure. It’s a nice spot, and it’s aged well too. 

Johnny asked, “How do you handle presenting information to a traditionalist? Or those who are resistant to information from a female? Are you hesitant to present the information to them, because you kind of know that this guy’s a traditionalist?”

Jen:

Sometimes talking [to] a baseball traditionalist, it’s hard no matter who you are, and I think the best approach is to meet them where they’re at, and try to find the best way to communicate. Everyone learns differently, everyone absorbs information differently. So it might take a few tries to get something through to somebody. I’m gonna preface this, I’m not a super strong analytics person, but what I’ve noticed a lot about what we’re tracking now is, it’s all things that that scouts used to see and identify. They would say, “I love this guy, how the ball sounds coming off his bat.” And now you can be like, “Well, we have launch angle and exit velocity, and we can measure that.” And so I think that’s helped a lot. Obviously, there are some challenges of being a woman and trying to explain it to somebody else, but I think that it’s really all about empathy, and all about finding where that person is starting from, what understanding they have, and then building off of that. And I think that’s true with anything that you’re doing, any topic you’re talking about, right? If you’re trying to convince somebody to try a new food or whatever, I think the key is just to figure out where they’re at, figure out where they’re coming from, and start with that and build off of that, instead of just trying to like shove new information down their throats and just hoping that they understand it.

Shane:

Yeah, good answer. We’re right at the 90 minute mark, and I promised I would keep it to that. I would like to thank our three panelists for joining. That was awesome, tons of interesting conversation and insights. I appreciate you sharing your insights, and being candid and honest with them. So thank you for that. Really appreciate it.

Romy:

Thanks for having us! Appreciate it.

Saya:

Thank you!

Jen:

Thanks for having us! And thanks for all the wonderful questions.

Romy: 

I’ll be in touch when I get the 100-million-dollar contract!

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