Welcome to All Heels on Deck!

Welcome to All Heels on Deck!

 

This blog prioritizes women, non-white women and LGBTQ people who write about baseball.

If you have a pitch, suggestion or question please email heelsonthefield11@gmail.com

Follow AHOD on Twitter @allheelsondeck

Thank you.

https://youtu.be/ft7p9GTKzG0

 


Stephanie Apstein's Simple, Powerful Act of Journalistic Courage

A clubhouse celebration was in full swing.

The Houston Astros were celebrating an achievement, as they moved closer to what they hoped was a World Series title. Those celebrations, aren’t just for players. There is a long list of thoughtful, difficult decisions that add up to that one team. That one group that, somehow, with all the pieces in place working together exactly as needed at the right time, goes to the big show. The final dance. All the people that have a hand in the success are filled with their own kind of excitement, pride and hope. They’re not on the field. But they’re uniquely and essentially part of the team.

One of those people was Brandon Taubman, the team’s assistant General Manager.

Taubman began his own celebration, loudly proclaiming, “I’m so glad we got OSUNA! I’M SO FUCKING GLAD!”

In that moment, perhaps to an outsider, it would’ve seemed like harmless fun. But there was something amiss. Osuna had blown a save. The expression of glee was out of place in that moment. There was something else that was troubling that, to an outside,r might not have seemed like much. But everyone in baseball, every fan, and all those on the job in some capacity in that clubhouse, knew that Osuna had been suspended for domestic violence against his girlfriend, and mother of his three-year old daughter. The Astros have supported him in what’s often seemed like an act of defiance. They’d set aside his violence against a woman, and hoped fans would be ok with that.

Taubman’s celebratory comments were yelled within a few feet of three women reporters and, according to Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein, and anyone present, Taubman was aggressively directing them toward Apstein and the other women reporters near her. Among them was a woman who wore a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet.

Brandon Taubman, Cornell University graduate, who’d played JV baseball, got his degree in economics and management, which led to a position at Ernst and Young, former fantasy baseball player who the Astros took a shot on for his extensive knowledge of valuation applied to a baseball roster, had to have a decent amount of confidence to make such a hostile move toward those women. And why not? The Astros gave Osuna all the support in the world when he joined the team. And Major League Baseball certainly has done the bare minimum to exhibit concern for violence against women. Their responses to players committing violence against wives, girlfriends and insulting women in general has ranged from so-so to absolutely awful.

The toxic masculinity that is woven into the fabric of baseball, of sports, extends to the media. Women have come far. But we haven’t reached the finish line. I’m here to kindly tell you, there is no finish line. There’s always work to do in order to stand against that brand of masculine confidence that so often goes unchecked. There always comes a moment, when at least one woman or another decides, no, you shit head, you won’t do this without at least a good fight.

Shortly after the clubhouse closed, beat writers began filing their stories. Apstein tweeted a link to hers, with a simple statement of facts to accompany the link. There was no notable emotion or outrage, which she had every right to feel and express. She stood up, solitary, determined and clear. A wrong had been done. And that wasn’t going to be quietly buried, not that night. Damn all the narratives.

Consider the confidence Stephanie Apstein gathered to report on Taubman’s actions. Maybe you can’t. Maybe you don’t know how often women in sports media witness men doing and saying things we simply laugh off, or are just too afraid to report. To simply speak out is an act of risk. To write it, in order to right it, is a huge risk for any writer, particularly women. And women in sports media know that they’re always carefully watched, their every move examined for proof that she doesn’t belong or know of what she speaks. Or, in this case, actually does for a living.

Apstein might not even have fully realized the impact she would have by simply reporting on what she saw, heard and knew to be true. In the moment, we often don’t grasp how far these acts of courage can reach. Like Melissa Ludtke before her, who, in 1978 simply told her editor at Sports Illustrated that she’d been barred from entering the clubhouse to do her job, which led to equal access for baseball writers from then on, Apstein has taken one step. And one always leads to more.

She simply told the truth. Writing down what she saw, heard and knew to be true. Those kinds of acts are simple in execution. We speak, we write, we report to the proper people. But what follows is never simple. Stephanie Apstein took a stand. The sheer power and meaning of that can’t be overstated. Because, in doing so, she changed the industry. One step…another always comes.

 


A Baseball Story: Why All Heels on Deck is Ending

Since early 2018, a roster of incredible people have contributed outstanding baseball writing to the All Heels on Deck platform. Their work has been thoughtful, in-depth, at times fun, other times deeply serious and intimate. They've been paid, though not nearly enough, for presenting work that's uniquely they're own, and invaluable to the baseball community. There has also been illustrators and graphic designers who helped bring ideas to life. As a team, and as individuals, they deserved an audience. 

For the most part, they didn't get that well-deserved audience. 

The doors to All Heels on Deck will close next week. There are many reasons for that. But what my thoughts return to, the thought that makes my stomach knot, is that these amazing people didn't get read enough.

A few months ago, Sheryl Ring began writing her own column about the intersection of baseball and social issues. It was a dream project, very much in my personal wheelhouse, and certainly the kind of thing baseball readers want more of these days. In the aftermath of some of her writing for another publication, she was harassed so badly, she took a leave from writing and laid low. Her column, in it's early stages, would have to wait after just a few published pieces. That never quite developed. That was the beginning of the end in many ways. Not because of that, but at the same time she was facing a fallout, the sense that AHOD couldn't go on was creeping up on me. 

I announced the debut of a new baseball writing platform in December of 2017. The announcement was made after a short planning stage, but long after the idea has been in my mind. I'd been imagining creating a place that prioritized women, PoC and LGBTQ baseball writers for a long time. I also knew I wanted to pay them. I just didn't know how. So I worked out the details, and told some colleagues the idea for the name. Like Heels on The Field (my minor league baseball blog), it was fiercely feminist, independent, humorous and intended to challenge the sexist, patriarchal dominance of the sports industry. 

What no one in the business knew was that I'd had a baby. At the time I made the announcement, she was tiny and I was sleepless. During her multiple naps (hurray!) I worked on the website, the design, the plan for content, and contacted potential contributors. Every person I contacted was excited and wanted to be part of the debut, or at some point in the future. My own excitement was building. This was it. Motherhood and the most important thing I'd ever hope to contribute to the industry were happening at the same time. Ok, I was tired, nervous and completely new to both roles, but I got through that by focusing on what my heart told me, and digging in for strength I didn't know I had just as I had many times before. 

The response to the new, one of a kind site was met with a ton of support. I cherish the private messages I received from people I've respected for years. I'm especially grateful to the new connections I made with young women and members of the LGBTQ community who loved the platform, and many who wanted to know what they could do to contribute. 

But that positive response was a bit darkened, and quickly. A backlash, led by another woman in baseball media began almost immediately. I was riding high, but also ready to listen to helpful feedback. What could we create that was unique? How could we challenge the sexist garbage takes we'd read for years? What sorts of analysis, features and interviews were important to publish? What could I do to succeed at managing the business side, something I was ill-equipped to handle alone? I hoped for guidance, cameraderie and energetic debate. That is not what unfolded over the next couple of days. 

The attacking comments about the title that insisted I was creating something that was "dangerous" to women, and the petty mockery that was personal and cruel, and, honestly, typical of girls I went to school with who delighted on another girl's misery, weren't important enough to send me into hiding. I wasn't going to dismantle the project because of that kind of dialouge. I'd faced enough of that from men. The one that stayed with me the most was from Yankees fan and writer Amanda Rykoff. She didn't include my handle, but addressed my life and career, and what my set of beliefs are, without ever having a conversation with me.

Her tweet read: 

"Heels" is her brand- her blog, her Twitter hande, etc because she believes "heels"= feminine. It's always been problematic to me. I want to support this but I can't -- as conceptualized now."

In a few short sentences, she erased my years of work, based on a sexist idea that I'd mainly heard from men. Her perception of me was all that mattered, and, I realized, this was possibly true of other women in the industry. It wasn't the first time I'd been subjected to that kind of harmful erasure as a woman, both in the sports industry and in society, but it was so concise in delivery. So certain. I knew that no matter what I had done in my life and career, no matter how many women I'd helped in the industry, no matter how much sexual harrassment I'd faced in the clubhouse, the press box and from fans, despite many miles traveled and over a decade of nose to the the grind baseball writing,and writing about sexism in the industry, and, finally, creating a platform for undrepresented voices in baseball, I was not an acceptable woman and feminist.

Not only that, she was making an assumption, as men do, about the symbolism of "heels" as an indication of something about a woman. Never mind that the "brand" was one I'd built to give myself the confidence to do things I never imagined. I felt like a super hero or a character, someone that I'd hoped to be. A woman with no fear, a woman without a past of abuse, who could breeze past sexist bullshit. I can't tell you how far those "heels on the field" had been from the baseball world throughout my life. I'd overcome sexual abuse and assault, as well as relationship violence. I had pursued something no one believed in, and few encouraged. I was almost always alone in those minor league clubhouses and press boxes. In the major leagues, I felt like a child leaving middle school to transfer to the big scary high school. I felt small. The heels gave me a bit of magic power, like fairy dust sprinkled on my feminist brain, as I powered forward, dying to kick the shit out of the patriarachy. 

I was nothing, according to her. And what I was creating deserved no notice, no chance. I read lots of talk from a circle of women in baseball who echoed her attitude, and made clear that as a woman, that didn't mean I was above criticism. Gender criticism is important. I have said that many times. Feminism is an idea. And not everyone agrees on the idea or how to execute. So, no, that was not a problem for me. The questions were valid, and I tried to answer them as best I could without revealing everything I knew would be in the debut. I stayed level-headed for the most part. I seeked guidance from Christina Kahrl. I heeded her advice, trying to stay completely up and open. 

So when the debut arrived, I figured that once those women read the incredible first few stories that included a personal essay by a trans writer, and another personal essay by a fully veiled Muslim Cubs fan, they would then continue their thoughts. We would resume the discussion. Pehaps they'd ask some tough questions, and, hopefully, a lot of praise on the writers. Once they read the work, what did they think? But, as I learned, that was never their intention. They weren't there to have a discussion in good faith. They didn't want read the work of undrepresented voices in baseball more than they wanted to see me fail. As Rykoff pointed out, I was problematic. What I accomplished, and what all of those writers were doing to change the industry, didn't matter. What mattered was perception. What mattered was hating me for what kind of woman they believed I was. Like many men in my life, and in our lives, they just wanted to silence me. Sidenote, one of the women in the herd writes for a site that I love. It's called Bitch. I hate that word, and refrain from using it to describe women. But Bitch Media also explained why they chose that name on their site. I have pitched them and regularly read their work. They too were questioned about that name. If you don't have a problem with a site that uses a word that is historically derogatory towards women, you can't really have such a huge problem with the word "heels" in the title. It's not hard to connect those dots back to what I said earlier in this piece. It was personal and rooted in feelings about me as a woman in sports media.

AHOD went forward, and nothing stopped the train as we progressed down the tracks. New subscribers were coming in daily. The energy was there for a short time. As the months went on, I tried and I tried and I tried. I raised funds, I endlessly promoted the site, the writers, the importance of the idea, and the unique and meaningful fact that I was paying people per story.

I also moved back home to Philadelphia, continued caring for my baby and myself, battling a lot of dark moments, confusion, utter exhaustion and isolation, mixed with wanting to hold her, comfort her, watch her grow every moment. I was afraid to be too far from her. I was overwhelmed to not have a moment to breathe. I wasn't alone. But I was alone a lot. 

After awhile, the train kept stalling. As a new mom with minimal help, adusting to a new life, and working through PPD, while trying to build and balance a business, and be an editor, I just wasn't able to create the platform I hoped. I didn't get the funding. I didn't get the subscribers. I can't pay writers what they're worth. I can't manage all of it alone. I have tried to reconfigure this juggling act many times since AHOD's inception. I have to move forward, but hopefully not forever. I want to bring this back. Open these doors again. Maybe someone will partner with me in the future. Maybe someone has a new idea we can work on together, in order to give this platform a new lease. I hope so. 

When I look back at the body of work that people contributed, it looks more like we worked on a lengthy project, a kind of experiment, or maybe a book together, rather than a blog or website. We dreamed our dreams out loud. I connected with people who taught me a lot about how important these moments are. Non binary people who asked, "Do I need to identify as one or the other, or anything at all?" The answer was, of course, no. You are you. Please come in. Teach us, tell us a story, whether it's personal or statistical analysis or a mashup of all sorts of ideas. Throw paint at the wall. Write the wild thing you think no one wants to read. Analyze a trade or a team in a way that other sites might not allow or find interesting. Bring your pain, your joy, your absurd thoughts, your silliness, your creativity, bring all of you. AHOD was home if you wanted to be there.

I don't want to say I failed. I just wish I could have made this last. I have to do what I've always done in my career and throughout my life. Take a moment, reasses, breathe, and ask for guidance. See where the next idea is.

And, ok, I won't say I failed, but I am sorry. Women, PoC and LGBTQ baseball writers need to be heard, and the industry must seek to include them without apology, without qualifying by saying, "Hey, we just want the best person for the job." Nope. Not going to work. Sports editors must be deliberate in changing the industry. They must put the idea of equality into action. Not with specialized programs or quota filling. Make diversity hiring a priority. Period.

AHOD will be live for a bit longer, with final wrap-up coming. And Patreon subscribers wil continue to receive content for awhile. They're separate, and I'll be addressing them that way.

This idea is now yours. What can you do with it? Where can you take it? How can you make this successful? How will you have impact? What can you create that will shift the balance, inspire and connect? Please do it. Don't hesitate. 

I leave you with the words of a poet Goddess from country outer space:

"You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, so you might as well do what you want." Kacey Musgraves

Thank you readers, friends, colleagues, followers and subscribers. 

And fuck the patriarchy. 


Katie Gwinn Hewitt’s Returns "Home" To Temple University

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

OmahaKatie Gwinn Hewitt at the 2019 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Credit: Michigan Athletics

 

The questions flashed through Katie Gwinn Hewitt’s mind. Do I want to do this forever? Am I happy? Should I stay in the industry? What would life be like without it?

 

Gwinn Hewitt didn’t have all the answers. She was 23. How could she be expected to?

 

She was only a year into her first full-time job in the industry at her alma mater, Saint Leo University, which she'd graduated from the previous year.

 

But this wasn’t what she had originally planned. Florida was where Gwinn Hewitt called home for most of her life. Graduation was her chance to leave.

 

She wanted to live in a big city, and was as close as two weeks away from getting her wish.

 

When Gwinn Hewitt graduated Saint Leo in 2013, she was offered a job in a big city. At Temple University in Philadelphia. But just two weeks before she was set to make the move, she was offered a full-time role at Saint Leo. She decided to take it.

 

Her dream of living in a big city was put on hold for a little while longer. But she would see it come to fruition at Temple University just a few years later.

 

“Everyone has their own path, so it’s crazy this is mine”, reflects Katie Gwinn Hewitt, who just accepted the role of Assistant AD for Branding and Digital Strategy at Temple University earlier this month.

 

It’s been six years since Katie Gwinn Hewitt was presented with a job offer from Temple University, yet she found herself in the exact same position earlier this summer.

 

“When I took the job at Saint Leo, I didn’t count out going back to Temple. But it never crossed my mind that I would go back to Temple.”

 

This time, she’s really making the move. The Associate Director of External Communications and Public Relations at Michigan University for the last four years, Gwinn Hewitt was drawn to the attractive duties and appeal of working full-time in the Digital and Social realm when considering this position at Temple.

 

While working in athletic communications, digital and social were just a fraction of Gwinn Hewitt’s day-to-day responsibilities. Her previous role at Michigan was “a jack of all trades and master of none” type position. She was looking to move into digital and social full-time. This position with Temple satisfies that desire.

 

So how does Katie Gwinn Hewitt find herself going back to the place her career was almost guaranteed to start? She describes her journey back to Temple as “crazy”, but a closer look at her career shows there have been several “full circles” completed throughout her years in the sports industry.

 

***

 

At first, an eight-year-old Katie Gwinn Hewitt wasn’t too fond of the idea of playing softball. Her parents requested that she make the switch from baseball now that their family had moved to an area with a Little League that offered the sport.

 

But it wasn’t long until she fell in love with softball. It became her life. So much so, that she pursued a softball career. She continued to play all throughout high school, and in college at Saint Leo University, a DII program, on scholarship for three years.

 

It was a tumultuous three years of college softball for Gwinn Hewitt. She suffered three rough injuries and endured a coaching change before deciding it was time to hang the cleats up. She quit. But that was only the start to her career in collegiate athletics.

 

Gwinn Hewitt began college wanting to pursue a career as a sportswriter. She hoped to follow in the footsteps of her favorite writer, Rick Riley of Sports Illustrated and ESPN, and become a writer for Sports Illustrated herself.

 

The Communications Management program she was enrolled in required her to complete a pre-internship and a full-time internship. Still a student-athlete at the time, she approached Michael Farrant, her Sports Information Director, to see if she could fulfill the pre-internship by working with the Athletic Department.

 

For three hours a week, Gwinn Hewitt would write feature stories as part of her pre-internship. But she’d spend much more than three hours a week in that office. She was learning so much. It was where she wanted to be.

 

“The more time I spent there the more I realized all the things that went into Communications and PR”, recounts Gwinn Hewitt of her real start in the sports communications industry.

 

From 2011 until graduation in 2013, she never stopped coming into the office. She became a student-worker who would work all the time. She was a fixture, and her worker bee ethic was on display from the start.

 

There wasn’t one single moment that signified to her that this was the path she would take in her career. It was the accumulation of the experiences she had during her pre-internship that solidified it.

 

“I started doing something and kept doing it.”

 

When she graduated Saint Leo in 2013, Gwinn Hewitt knew she wanted a career in collegiate athletic communications. That’s when she was first offered a position at Temple University. She instead accepted a full-time position at Saint Leo University as the Manager of Athletic Communications and eventually took on an additional role as Co-S.A.A.C. Advisor.

 

As part of these roles, Gwinn Hewitt had the opportunity to partake in the tasks that initially reeled her into athletic communications. She was the primary contact for seven of Saint Leo DII programs, including baseball and softball. She had a hand in redesigning their athletics’ website, worked on social media strategy, coordinated interviews, wrote press releases and game notes, and filmed and edited videos.

 

And she got to work with the athletes. That’s what Gwinn Hewitt really enjoys. She was in their shoes once, a student-athlete at a DII program. She knew what they were experiencing.

 

Gwinn Hewitt appreciates the amateurism of college sports. Because for most of them, this is an opportunity to become better people and hopefully excel at a high level. The percentage of those who actually make it pro is rather small, but these men and women are dedicated anyway.

 

VolleyballKatie Gwinn Hewitt (left) at the 2016 NCAA Volleyball Sweet 16 in Austin, Texas. 

Credit: Michigan Athletics

 

Student-athletes are constantly learning and growing. Many of them are competing at the highest level possible for their sport while balancing things that make them better people. They juggle internships, classes, and volunteering within the community. She appreciates that added level in collegiate sports. It’s why it’s the place for her.

 

Gwinn Hewitt had another thing in common with the athletes she worked so closely with. She, too, was a student. She was continuing her education at the university by pursuing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. From the outside, it appeared that the early stages of her career were shaping out nicely.

 

She was working in the field of her desire right out of college, which is no small feat. But it wasn’t in a big city like she had dreamed. She was still exactly where she had been for most of her life. After about a year working full-time at Saint Leo, Gwinn Hewitt took one of the biggest risks a 23-year-old could take. She quit.

 

***

 

Katie Gwinn Hewitt knew that she’d have to trust herself. She knew she needed to take a step back to see what it was that she actually wanted to do with her life.

 

The only way for her to do that was by leaving the industry. So, she quit her job at Saint Leo to join the staff of another school. This time, a high school. Her role, English Teacher.

 

“It was a year of self-exploration”, reflects Gwinn Hewitt about that uncertain period of her life. She worked full-time with the School District of Hillsborough County for a year in hopes of finding the answers to some of her deepest questions. She enjoyed working with collegiate student-athletes, and thought she’d experience that same gratification working with students as a high school teacher.

 

She didn’t leave the sports industry all together, though. While teaching, she picked up a part-time Athletic Communications Internship with The University of Tampa, another DII school. Her daily tasks were similar to the work she had done at Saint Leo’s, but it was just part-time.

 

By day, she was teaching high school English. By night, she was doing what she originally envisioned for herself- writing press releases and features, and managing social media for a collegiate program.

 

It was the most challenging and rewarding year of Gwinn Hewitt’s life. She learned more about herself and society as a whole while teaching in the high school than she ever thought she could. Perhaps most importantly, she discovered this wasn’t the path she was meant to walk for a long period of time.

 

She couldn’t teach forever, and so decided to return to Saint Leo as the Assistant Director of Career Services after one year in the classroom. In this position, she was able to help students learn and grow in yet another way, while still sticking to her roots by managing Career Services’ social platforms.

 

In a time when she herself was still exploring the path she could take in her career, one of Gwinn Hewitt’s responsibilities in her new role was counseling and assisting students with their career exploration.

 

She was just three months into this new job when her next adventure would present itself. One day, her phone “randomly” rang.

 

It was The University of Michigan calling. There was an opening with their Division I Athletic Department as the Associate Director of External Communications and Public Relations. She hadn’t worked in athletic communications in over a year, but was offered the job anyway after completing the interview process.

 

Still searching for answers to the questions that boggled her mind, she decided to take another risk. Gwinn Hewitt packed up her life in Florida and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

***

 

In the beginning, being a woman working in sports was especially lonely. There were so few women in the industry that Gwinn Hewitt personally knew. Whenever she needed advice, she didn’t know who to ask.

 

Katie Gwinn Hewitt first met Olivia Coiro when she was still working at Saint Leo. Coiro was then working as the Assistant Director of Athletic Communications at Lynn University.

 

Anytime Gwinn Hewitt encountered another female in the industry, she worked to build a relationship with them. Coiro was one of just a few women she crossed paths with. Although they didn’t live near each other, they both worked in the Sunshine State Conference, and got to know each other very well.

 

Once Gwinn Hewitt and Coiro started new jobs at the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro respectively, their bond grew even stronger.

 

Gwinn Hewitt had a situation at work, and believed she needed advice about how to handle it. She felt as if there was never anyone to guide her with decisions or to share perspective when she needed it. Coiro agreed. Where were all the female mentors?

 

That’s when the idea came to Gwinn Hewitt. They would become the mentors they so yearned for.

 

They knew they wouldn’t be able to do one-on-one mentoring for every young woman in the industry, so they decided to cover anything anyone could ever ask about the industry and put it somewhere.

 

In 2016, Sparkles and Sports was born. A resource for women in the industry seeking advice, there are articles about everything from what to wear and how to quit your job to tips for building the perfect resume and cover letter. The official podcast, launched just last year, provides advice and discussion via a different medium.  

 

In just three years since its creation, the site has evolved so much. The internet has evolved so much. There are a lot of women out there of all ages and stages of their careers who work in the industry. And they’re all going through the same thing.

 

The all-female staff of Sparkles and Sports has grown from two to 14, and includes a diverse group of women who currently work or have worked in the sports industry. Mirroring the community of women in sports that has formed on social media, the staff includes everyone from freelancers and college students interning in sports to industry vets and professors.

 

The more experienced women share their insecurities and the challenges they’ve faced as a way to help guide the next generation of women in sports. They’re the ones who have seen the industry begin to take a step in the right direction.

 

“From my perspective, there’s a renewed sense of commitment to hiring minorities and people of all ages and abilities”, remarks Gwinn Hewitt. Although her perspective is “skewed” from the places she’s worked, she does believe that many organizations are more committed to building diverse workplaces and staffs.

 

Several professional organizations have begun hiring female coaches, and more women are blazing their way to positions higher up on the business side of sports.

 

It’s been a slow change in diversity, and there has been progress made since she began her career as an intern in 2011, but there are still opportunities for improvement.

 

As a new mother, she’s realized that working in the sports industry does serve as a “roadblock for motherhood”.

 

PregnancyKatie Gwinn Hewitt while pregnant at the 2018 NCAA Volleyball Regionals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Credit: Michigan Athletics

 

The position at Michigan Gwinn Hewitt bid farewell to just two weeks ago wouldn’t have been possible as a new mother. It’s not for lack of trying or support. If she was going to continue at Michigan in her former position, they would’ve figured something out. However, the solution would’ve made some people unhappy.

 

“We can’t change people’s minds about a lot of things”, Gwinn Hewitt concludes, “It’s easy day-to-day to get frustrated, but eventually, we’ll [women] have a bigger voice in sports”.

 

That day may be approaching faster than she thought.

 

***

 

Katie Gwinn Hewitt thrives in her alone time. She’s likely to skip the huge company gatherings. The atmosphere is exhausting.

 

Gwinn Hewitt is an introvert, but she’s not shy. In fact, if you get her into a personal one-on-one conversation, she might not stop talking.

 

She views herself as being a very open and honest person. She’s always been the type of person others feel comfortable around. Her confidence is genuine, and that radiates in each conversation she has.

 

What you see on social media is an accurate painting of Gwinn Hewitt, whose Twitter profile is filled with tweets of inspirational quotes and words of encouragement. Her DMs are open, and she doesn’t shy away from letting her followers know she’s just a quick message away. But sometimes, that’s a lot of added pressure.

 

She often finds herself having the same conversation over and over again. Many women in the sports industry just don’t seem to have any confidence in themselves or their abilities. The days are long. They feel undervalued.  

 

The women who seek Gwinn Hewitt’s perspective are usually strangers. She doesn’t know many of them personally, but speaks to each as if they’re her best friends. She listens to their stories, and can’t help but see how amazing each of these women are. They’re good at their jobs, too, but they don’t seem to see it.

 

“I want to lift people up”, explains Gwinn Hewitt. “Even if you don’t think you’re doing a good job, if you’re working in sports, you’ve already tilted the scale.”

 

She doesn’t like to focus on the negatives when women come to her for advice. If she can make someone smile or feel better about themselves, she counts it as a success. She doesn’t demand they stop the way they think about themselves. Rather, she tries to get them to start believing in themselves.

 

“I’m very proud of who I am, but I’m not perfect”, she says, “You have to believe in your value to make others believe”.

 

Gwinn Hewitt prides herself on being positive in a sea of negative voices. She saw just how commanding that quality of hers is when she sent a tweet the morning of August 13, 2019.

 

It started like any typical day. Hewitt was chatting with Jen Heisel and Hannah Bradley, two of the women on the staff of Sparkles and Sports. They were brainstorming topics for upcoming posts.

 

They wanted to do more interviews and feature more Q&A’s on the site. In hopes of finding some leads and to get a better sense of who they should be interviewing, Gwinn Hewitt sent out the tweet that wound up being heard around the world of women in sports.

 

 

The moment she sent the tweet, she had no idea it would become as big as it did. She was expecting to get five responses. She wound up with over 1,000.

 

It became a driving force of conversation on Twitter for days after she originally tweeted it. More and more people, both women and men, continued to drop the handles of the most inspiring women they knew in sports.

 

As more people were tagged, more conversation was created. The women began responding to each other. Gwinn Hewitt couldn’t keep up.

 

As a young woman starting in the industry, Gwinn Hewitt didn’t have any female mentors. Now, it was clear that was no longer a problem. There were too many inspiring women in sports to count. The tweet had gone viral.

 

***

 

Baseball is Katie Gwinn Hewitt’s first love. The affair began when she played her first game of t-ball at the ripe age of four. She grew up playing baseball. For four years, she played ball with all the boys. Her local Little League didn’t offer softball. She liked it that way.

 

Along with volleyball, baseball was the sport she worked most closely with at Michigan. Up until her final season with the Wolverines, the baseball team had never made it past the NCAA Regionals. That was 2017. The team didn’t qualify for the tournament in 2016 or 2018. The 2019 season would be much different. It was going to be a “weird” year.

 

Katie and her husband Matthew welcomed their first child, Tyrus Hewitt, into the world on February 15 of this year. They named him after Tyrus “Ty” Cobb, “the greatest baseball player ever”, Katie adds.

 

Baby Ty 1Katie Gwinn Hewitt and her son, Tyrus Hewitt.

 

Baby Ty is very special to her. He’s the couple’s first child after two miscarriages. Fittingly, he was born on Opening Day of the college baseball season.

 

Gwinn Hewitt missed a lot of the 2019 season while she was on maternity leave. She knew from the beginning that being a mother would be a huge difference. She took things day by day.

 

Being the worker bee that she is, Gwinn Hewitt struck a deal with her boss at Michigan that allowed her to help out while she was on maternity leave. She would’ve been bored if she was completely away from the game during those months.

 

The new mother had worked her entire life prior to her leave. She felt like she was missing something without it. Even though she wasn’t able to attend the games, she was still following along. Still contributing by doing a different kind of work.

 

She was scheduled to go back to work soon after the team made the Post Season. She admired their staff. The Seniors started at Michigan when she began her tenure there. It meant something for her to be there for them during one last Post Season run, especially once they qualified for the College World Series.

 

Then the text came in. It was her boss, asking if she wanted to fly out to Omaha for the College World Series. She wouldn’t be able to leave Baby Ty home; they had never been apart for so long as a day. So, Michigan figured out a way to get Katie, her mother, Lisa Gwinn, and Baby Ty all to Omaha. Her husband would drive there to join them for a weekend towards the end of the tournament.

 

On June 13, Gwinn Hewitt returned to the baseball field. And on June 15, just four months after giving birth to Ty, she worked her first College World Series Game.

 

The Wolverines made it all the way to the Championship Series against Vanderbilt. They won Game 1 in a convincing manner, 7-4, but would lose the next two. Even though her team didn’t wind up winning the tournament, going to Omaha was a dream come true.

 

“I’m so thankful for what Michigan did. They made all these things available for my mom and Ty.”

 

As she says goodbye to Ann Arbor, she continues to look back on those two weeks in Omaha. She spent all four of her years in Michigan working with that team. She loved the players and the coaches. She still has to take a moment. Did that happen?

 

***

 

The Hewitt family is making the move to Philadelphia this week. It’s a dream come true for Katie. She’s finally going to live in the big city she almost moved to six years ago.

 

A lot has happened since then. A lot happened in Michigan. It’s the place where Katie Gwinn became Katie Gwinn Hewitt. It’s the place where the couple grew stronger after experiencing two miscarriages. It’s the place where their son Ty was born.

 

FamilyThe Hewitt Family: Matthew, Katie, and Ty (left to right)

Credit: Andrew Woolley

 

Gwinn Hewitt became who she is during those four years in Michigan. But now it’s time to leave. It’s the right move for her, both personally and professionally, to start a new adventure at Temple University.

 

This is the second big move in Gwinn Hewitt’s life. Her move from Florida to Michigan was much easier. She and Matthew were engaged, but they were not yet a family. There’s a lot more to consider now that they have Ty.

 

They can’t just up and move. A lot of thought went into the decision of accepting the job at Temple. They had to consider daycare locations and health coverage. It was much more adult this time around.

 

When the Hewitt Family does arrive in Philadelphia, they’ll have the comfort of knowing that family is nearby. Matthew’s brother lives less than an hour from where they’ll be living.

 

The couple didn’t have any family in Michigan. Both Katie and Matthew are from Florida, and both sets of their parents still live there.

 

“The family aspect wasn’t the deciding factor, it’s the icing on the cake.”

 

 

Follow Katie Gwinn Hewitt on Twitter @kfgwinning.

 

RoseAnn Sapia is a Features Writer and Co-Editor of Lifer for All Heels on Deck. Follow her on Twitter to discuss all things baseball (basketball, too) @_RoseAnnSapia


Lifer 11: Summer Wrap-Up

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Welcome back, Baseball Lifers, to the August Edition of Lifer by All Heels on Deck!

Who else is excited to read that line again? We are thrilled to share what we’ve been working on during our summer hiatus. Our Summer Wrap-Up has a little bit of everything. 

Last month, the world of sports celebrated #WomenInBaseballWeek. I’m sure you saw it all over Twitter, with everyone associated with baseball shouting out their favorite women who are dominating the world of baseball. The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory hosted a week-long celebration of “the cultural significance of women in baseball”. We’ll give you a closer look at their unique lineup of events.

Women’s Baseball has been a hot topic in the baseball world lately. With Maddy Freking becoming the 19th girl to compete in the Little League Baseball World Series during this year’s tournament, we’re reminded of all the women who have come before her as pioneers in the sport. But, what if you want to physically show your support for women’s baseball? We have you covered with some apparel you won’t want to miss out on.

Minor League Baseball Teams are always thinking of innovative ideas to make fans’ ballpark experience as unique and memorable as possible. Everything from pop culture theme nights and discounted food items to creative giveaways are used each year to drive crowds to the ballpark. This season, the Hartford Yard Goats have decided to go beyond promotions to create an extra-special atmosphere. We’ll share some of the details that made headlines earlier this summer.

We've officially reached the Dog Days of Summer, which means our teams are headed into the home stretch of the season.  Wouldn't it be fitting to have your team represented right in your backyard as you get in those final summer BBQs? We’re sharing some items of décor that all you Baseball Lifers might want to add to your collection.

We’re back with the second installment of Hit ‘Em, our new segment dedicated to the intersection of baseball and music, where we feature a new baseball themed song each edition. This month, you'll be getting two songs! Jessica Quiroli and I will be showcasing some country songs that will definitely make you think baseball.

 

 

~RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

 

Louisville Slugging Women

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

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Last month, the world of baseball made it a point to acknowledge the women working in the sport we love. Many fans tweeted about the impact of women in their lives, while several teams celebrate by hosting a special theme night during the season. This year, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory made it a point to highlight the history of women in baseball in some of the most creative way.

 

Think you know the history of women in baseball? As part of the celebration, museum goers had the opportunity to compete in some trivia. Questions ranged from the AAGPBL and A League of Their Own, to general Women in Baseball facts. The person who answered the most questions correctly got to take home a personalized bat!

 

When you hear Jackie Mitchell, what comes to mind? This is the woman who infamously struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and the Louisville Slugger Museum brought these moments back to life. Twice during the week-long celebration, a Frazier History Museum teaching artist performed a live portrayal of this incredible story for fans of all ages to appreciate.

 

 

 

The Museum went even deeper into the history of women in baseball by highlighting the importance of Bloomer Girls Baseball, a league that was active between the 1890s and 1930s, which coincided with the suffrage movement.

 

Basically, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory hosted a week-long immersion into the history of Women in Baseball, and we absolutely love the idea.

 

To learn more about the celebration, click here.

 

For more information about Bloomer Girls Baseball, click here.

 

 

 

A League Of Our Own

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

With Women in Baseball Week last month and the USA Women’s National Team competing this month, now’s the perfect time to flaunt your support for the trailblazing women who play the sport we all love. There’s no better way to do that than by rocking some women’s baseball merch!

 

Penny Marshall. That name holds a lot of status for many baseball fans. Her film, A League of Their Own, was the first to showcase the groundbreaking All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) and highlight just how significant a role these women played in history.

 

It’s fitting that the International Women’s Baseball Center (IWBC) kicked off their Penny Marshall Celebration in honor of her life and accomplishments just last week with apparel that honors the iconic director and her beloved film.

 

 

Choose from a vibrant tee commemorating the Penny Marshall Celebration and a tee that features the IWBC logo with the phrase, “Step up to the sport”. Top it off with a Rockford Peaches cap, and Baseball Lifers everywhere will know exactly where your heart lies.

 

The US Baseball Women’s National Team is currently riding a seven game winning streak, so now’s the perfect time to show them you’re cheering them on with Team USA gear!

 

There’s a wide selection of merch for Baseball Lifers of all ages including sweatshirts, caps, popsockets, and pins.

 

 

 

 

On the apparel side, Team USA gear covers everything from hoodies, fleeces, and pullovers to caps, tees, and shorts for men, women, and children. With sizes ranging from S-XXL, you’re sure to find the style and size of your preference.

 

The accessories are where you can get a bit more creative with how you rep Team USA’s Women’s National Team.

 

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Popsockets are definitely the current trend, and now you can get a Team USA branded one! Nothing shows support like attaching a team logo to an item you have with you at all times.

 

 

 

 

A lot of the Team USA merch can be used on the baseball field. Branded canteens, batting gloves, bracelets, cooling towels, and wristbands are all items you see baseball players at every level sporting on the field. What better way to support these women than by representing them while you’re playing baseball?

 

For more information about the IWBC’s Penny Marshall Celebration, click here.

 

All USA Women’s National Team gear can be found at their official team shop, here.

 

 

 

“Buy Me A Hot Dog And Yard Goats Cap”

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

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When you think baseball, what’s the first food that comes to mind? For many, the first is peanuts.

 

Based on data collected as recently as 2018, about 1.8 million children in the United States are allergic to peanuts. Despite the efforts of the Commissioner to attract the youth of America to baseball, there’s a large population that isn’t able to attend games at the ballpark even if they wanted to because of their allergies.

 

One Minor League Team, the Hartford Yard Goats, has decided that it’s time to change that narrative.  

 

The Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies has officially gone peanut-free for the 2019 season, making them the first ballpark to go peanut-free for an entire season. Peanut and peanut-related items are no longer offered at concession stands at any home game. This is in an effort to make Dunkin’ Donuts Park more family friendly, since many children suffer from severe peanut allergies.

 

Because peanuts are part of the traditional baseball experience, many families that have children with these allergies have been unable to attend games. That is, until this season.

 

Now that there’s finally a peanut-free ballpark, many children are attending baseball games for the first time. Just last week, a tweet circulated of a young girl with peanut allergies at her first ever baseball game.

 

 

The Hartford Yard Goats have created an accommodating environment that allows children who otherwise wouldn’t get to experience the thrill of watching a game at the ballpark to finally get that chance. There’s something special about being at the field, and now a whole new group of baseball fans will finally get to make those same memories.

 

You can learn more about the Yard Goats peanut-free initiative here.

 

 

 

Yard Of Dreams

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

When you’re not at the ballpark this summer, wouldn’t it be nice to have a yard that gave you a glimpse of it? An outdoor space that conveyed just how much baseball means to you? A balcony that, from the second your guests step outside, they know belongs to a Baseball Lifer?

 

Well Baseball Lifers, now you can bring your baseball lifestyle to your outdoor property with Fanatics MLB Themed Outdoor Furniture! All 30 MLB teams are represented, and there are A LOT of products and décor to choose from to express how you do baseball.




 

 

 

Want everyone to know what team’s colors you bleed from the moment they step foot on your porch? Then a team-branded Door Mat may be exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Choose from Coir or Vinyl Logo Mats to subtly inform everyone from your friends to your mail-carrier of your baseball fandom.

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking to be the center of social gatherings this Post-Season, why not create the bar atmosphere with a baseball twist? With team-themed Billiard Table Covers, Cue Sticks, Cue Racks, and Billiard Ball Triangles it’s easy to add a hint or four of team spirit to your Pool Table. If Darts is more your scene, the team branded Dart Cabinets would be the perfect reminder of what team has your heart. Now your favorite pastime can meet your game room to create the ultimate baseball fan social scene.

 

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If you have a larger outdoor space, you’ll need some place to relax. Whether you have a garden, deck, or lawn the team-branded Park Bench would be a unique addition to a yard favorite. The team color schemes make them look like they could’ve been taken straight from the ballpark, and who wouldn’t want to catch that vibe?

 

You can find every item mentioned here, plus more outdoor décor and furniture on the Fanatics website.

 

 

 

Hit 'Em: Country Edition

 

Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats"

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

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“Right now…”

 

As soon as you hear the opening chords of this one, it’s almost impossible to refrain from singing along. This is an ultimate throwback, and baseball is an integral part of the chorus and message of this song. Bet you already know the exact lyrics I’m referring to.

 

I dug my key into the side
Of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive
Carved my name into his leather seats
I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights
I slashed a hole in all four tires
Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats

 

A Louisville Slugger represents power in baseball. It gives a batter the ability to shift the flow of a game. Hitting a baseball just might be the most difficult feat in all of sports, so those who can do it with the highest skill instill a sense of fear in the opposing team.  Afterall, the Silver Slugger is the awarded to the best offensive players in all of baseball.

 

There’s something foreboding about a Louisville Slugger because the batters that can really swing it are most dangerous. When Carrie chose to open the music video with a montage of her Louisville Slugger wrecking a car, you can’t help but think of the allegory.

 

Taking a Louisville Slugger to shatter someone’s pride, be it their headlights or their perfect ERA, paints a vivid picture. It’s a symbol of revenge, power, and destruction.

 

“Before He Cheats” is a song essentially about competition; someone trying to one-up the person who wronged them. Like a hitter getting revenge on a pitcher who made them look foolish by hitting a moonshot with that Louisville Slugger his next at-bat, Carrie gets revenge on a cheating boyfriend by destroying his car with that same Slugger.

 

 

Miranda Lambert's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

By: Jessica Quiroli 

The gritty, house-on-fire sound of Miranda Lambert's 2007 single, from her album of the same name, is certainly what we've come to expect from the country star who made ACM Awards history in 2018 with her ninth consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year (surpassing Reba McEntire)['; Every album contains a song or two that sounds like Lambert is off the rails, unapologetic about her state of mind. 

But with 'Crazy Ex," she sounds, perhaps, the most unhinged she's sounded in any song, with the possible exception of her first ever single "Kerosene".

She looked at my man like he didn't have on a stitch

Somebody tell that girl to step up to the plate

I wanna pitch, little bitch

These pretty girls can play their game

but they damn well gonna know my name

 

The unbridled wildness of her rage, mixed with a baseball metaphor is fun, but unmistakably dangerous, like the most intimidating player going to the plate or, in this case, the mound. And that's what also makes this revenge romp even more fun--where most writers tend to use hitting metaphorically (see Underwood), Lambert makes a unique turn as a pitcher, waiting for the hitter to "step up to the plate." She finished the thought with the repeated line about being unafraid to face "pretty girls" playing "their game." She might not win, but the "damn well better know" Miranda Lambert's name. 

Btw, just in time for the MLB wildcard chase, Lambert announced her forthcoming album will be named, heyyyy, "Wildcard." And ALSO btw, here's Lambert as a Rockford peach a few years ago. Maybe that Charisma bat she's holding is the one Carrie used.

ML Peaches


Hide The Pride

By Helen Silfin

Earlier this month, the Mets hosted their annual Pride Night at Citi Field… at least I think they did. You see, the Mets did just about everything they could to check “Pride Night” off their moral checklist without actually making LGBTQ+ fans feel any more or less welcome than at any other home game. The Mets botched Pride Night in just about every way, and if they want to make things right with their LGBTQ+ fans, then they need to learn from their mistakes.

The warning signs for a disappointing night were all there. The Mets have been advertising Chick-Fil-A in the ballpark all season, and gave the company their foul poles after the All-Star break. They only tweeted about Pride Night once, hours before the “event.” And they chose to bury the night beneath thousands of Hawaiian shirts, endlessly promoting that giveaway both online and on TV. They also missed out on celebrating Pride with the rest of New York, and the rest of the world, when the city hosted World Pride for the first time in June. So, when the only mention of Pride Night on the TV broadcast was accompanied by the sad sight of a rainbow corporate logo surrounded by the advertisements of a proudly homophobic company, it was actually kind of fitting.

 

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https://twitter.com/yayroger/status/1160349396711743489

But the Mets can right these wrongs in the future and make queer fans feel truly welcome at the ballpark instead of just making us feel like we should appreciate the crumbs they throw our way.

The first, most obvious change to make is to stop taking money from Chick-Fil-A. They cannot claim to support the LGBTQ+ community while also advertising a company that doesn’t want us to exist. It really is that black and white.

Further, they need to make sure everyone in the ballpark knows that it is Pride Night. Instead of giving out a completely unrelated promo item, like this year’s Hawaiian shirt or last year’s Noah Syndergaard bobblehead, they should give out a rainbow hat, t-shirt, wristband, or pin. They need to make sure every fan walking through the gates can represent the Mets and the LGBTQ+ community at the same time, not just the fans who knew to seek out the special ticket offer hidden in the depths of their website.

It would also be great if they got even one single player involved in the promotion or the night itself. I know Sean Doolittle can only play for one team at a time and it would be stupid of me to expect every Major League Baseball player to simply accept my existence, but there should be one player on the 40-man roster willing to put on a rainbow cap and say a sentence or two when they are filming so many other promotions during Spring Training. We support these players with our time and money, and we deserve to know if they support us, too.

With added promotion and greater acknowledgement of the night throughout the ballpark, the Mets could turn it into a really positive event for the community. A portion of ticket sales could go to a LGBTQ+ charity of their choosing. They could have a representative from said charity throw out the first pitch and be interviewed on SNY during the game. They could have a queer artist sing the national anthem. They could fill the team store with rainbow Mets merchandise to match whatever rainbow giveaway item they pick out. They could play music by queer artists throughout the game, and pick people wearing rainbow merchandise for the games shown on the scoreboard. For one night out of 81 home games, they could truly celebrate a group of people who are so often made to feel other, especially in the sports world.

Unfortunately, there is nothing the Mets can do about missing the boat for World Pride. That event came and went, and they will not have the opportunity to capitalize on the entire Pride community descending upon their city again for who knows how long. The Mets are lucky to play in New York though, and even without World Pride, there will always be a strong and vocal LGBTQ+ community celebrating here in June.

It’s not SNY’s fault that the only shot they could get to show Pride Night was actually full of painful irony. The Mets are the ones who need to do better.

There are a myriad of roads the Mets can take towards a better, more inclusive and celebratory Pride Night, they just have to care enough to actually choose one.