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February 2019

Todd Van Steensel’s Decade-Long, Two Continent Experience In Professional Baseball Continues With Padres

By: RoseAnn Sapia

Upon returning home to Australia to pitch in the Australian Baseball League in 2018, Todd Van Steensel generated big league interest after just one game. 

His agent sent reports and videos from his first outing to major league clubs, and the Padres came calling.

“It actually happened really fast once my offseason began”, says Van Steensel, who announced on Twitter in late November that he’d signed with the Padres organization for the 2019 season. 

One might think a pitcher garnering this type of attention after only one game abroad wouldn’t have difficulty finding a spot in professional baseball, but this was after a “whirlwind” of a season, after Van Steensel played for two different teams, in two different hemispheres.

For the last five seasons, he pitched in the Twins organization, most recently with Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. He was released in early August of last year, despite a successful tenure with the team. A three-time All-Star and two time Double-A champion while with the club, Van Steensel’s sudden release was as a shock.

“It was definitely a roller coaster”, Van Steensel recalls, “I went from pitching in a Double-A All-Star Game to being out of the job in the space of six weeks.” 

During a stretch of games when he didn’t have his best stuff, the Lookouts acquired lefty pitcher David Smelzer in August, and RHP Jorge Alcala earlier that summer. Both were assigned to Chattanooga, and essentially forced him out of a roster spot. Immediately after being informed of his release, he began looking for a place to play to fini. Immediately after being informed of his release, he began looking for a place to play to finish out what was left of the season. That would prove difficult.

After an affiliated job fell though because of concerns about medical issues (Van Steensel didn’t disclose details), a few opportunities to play independent ball arose. However, the 28-year old decided it was best to return to Australia, beginning his “off” season by preparing to play back home.

Not even a month after the Twins released him, the ABL Sydney Blue Sox announced that they’d signed Van Steensel for their 2018 season that was set to begin on November 15. Because he was released and had to begin his search for a new team, he got the opportunity to pitch a full season for Sydney. “That was something I hadn’t done in years”, he reflects.

There’s something “refreshing,” he says, about playing in the ABL after years in the minor leagues. The atmosphere is a bit different than American pro baseball, despite the fun, looseness of a minor league game.

“One thing that American imports tell me about the ABL that they don’t see very often in MiLB is how much passion goes into each game”, Van Steensel shares.

There’s a sense of selflessness around the ABL; a “team first” mentality that can get lose in MiLB, when guys are fighting to the top of a very long totem pole, national rankings, and money invested into top guys. MiLB is also a learning experience, designed to teach, and develop. 

But for most guys playing in the ABL, that’s their big leagues. They’re not as worried about personal stats or success, and getting to the next level. Most of the time, there is no next level. 

“Guys aren’t out there for money, they’re out there because they want to win”, said Van Steensel, “They work during the week at their 9-5 job, then from Thursday to Sunday they become fan favorites when they put on a Blue Sox uniform”.

There’s an added bonus that makes the experience more meaningful.

“There’s something special about playing in your home town, with your home town team’s name across your chest, with friends and family in the crowd each week”, he said, “It really gives you that extra motivation to do well.”

The Blue Sox high attendance might’ve helped as well. The stands were full throughout the season, with the team pulling 906 paying customers per night (3rd in league), and finished the season 3rd overall in attendance, with 17, 212.

“Sometimes I would just stand in the dugout and look at a full stadium wondering how this happened”, reflects Van Steensel. This wasn’t always the way things were at Blue Sox Stadium. A few seasons ago, the team struggled to draw fans to the ballpark. There wasn’t a “home field advantage”. 

The Sydney Blue Sox clinched their first playoff berth since 2015, but lost in the Semi-Finals to the Perth Heat. Van Steensel is proud of the efforts of new team owner Adam Dobb, who bought the club in 2018.

“Full credit to the new ownership, without [Dobb], and the new team it wouldn’t have been possible”, Van Steensel says about the atmosphere at the ballpark. 


In Reflection

Van Steensel’s professional baseball career began in 2008. He had just finished pitching in the U18s National Championship Game when his parents agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies organization, and was assigned to the Single-A Gulf Coast League team for the 2009 season.

That stint was short lived, as the team decided to release him in 2010.

He headed back to Australia, in order to attend the MLB Australian Academy on the Gold Coast. While there, he caught the attention of the Minnesota Twins organization, and got his second chance; after signing with the team, he joined the Appalachian League Elizabethton Twins. 

After 2011, he was again released, and again returned home to play with the Sydney Blue Sox. He would not return to America to play professionally again until 2014. The Twins organization that took interest yet again, and that was where he would stay until this past August. 


Going Forward


The pursuit of chasing a career in professional baseball isn’t for the faint of heart. There are countless stories about minor league life, and how challenging the professional baseball pursuit is. Van Steensel remains focused.

“It really comes down to how bad you want something”, he said.“It’s definitely tough when one day you’re a professional baseball player and the next day you’re out of the job, but you just need to back yourself. I would love to be a Major League Baseball player, this is why I do this, but when it’s all said and done the most important thing I want to be able to tell myself is that I chased my dream as far as the universe would allow me.” 

The grind of pursuing this dream goes far beyond the outfield fences of the ballpark. As players increasingly join social media to document their MiLB experiences, we’re getting a wider shot of what those dream chasers are enduring. 

“The average fan doesn’t know what it’s like, and when they hear about a few things it really opens their eyes that Minor League Baseball life is a grind”, he said.

Before players like Van Steensel began explicitly discussing the topic, one of the biggest misconceptions about minor league life was that players got paid a big-league salary. Not true, of course, as most players in the minors often have to live from paycheck to paycheck, in cramped quarters with other teammates. Many depend on host families for a season home, as well as meals.

Van Steensel’s Twitter feed is peppered with facts about minor league life: three guys sharing a one bedroom-one bathroom apartment is commonplace, with rent expenses almost cancelling out income received on payday even with those conditions.   

He hopes to bring attention to the situation, saying that it’s important for minor leaguers to be heard. Even still, almost all of his ‘MiLB Life’ tweets are accompanied with the hashtag “#AllPartOfIt”.

“We all know how lucky we are to be able to play baseball for a living, but just because we are living out our dreams doesn’t mean there aren’t certain struggles that go along with it”, asserts Van Steensel. “At the end of the day, we all remind ourselves that we get to play baseball for a living, and all the good and bad things that we endure are all part of it.”

Here's a fun fact: The guy who keeps pursuing a career in the majors (and who just won ABL Reliever of the Year honors, was once a boy who had no idea what baseball was. When Van Steensel was seven-years old, his parents wanted his brother to start playing a summer sport. A friend on his brother’s soccer team invited him to play baseball, so he did. 

Van Steensel’s parents asked if he would be interested in joining the team, too, but he was against it since he wasn’t familiar with the sport. Then, something changed. “I went to my brothers first practice and saw how cool the uniform was, and then I told my parents I wanted to play so I could get the uniform”, recalls Van Steensel

“Even to this day I’m very particular on how my uniform looks,” he admits.

2019 begins with preparation to join the San Diego Padres later this month. That is, if his visa gets back to him in time. “The visa process has become a real struggle the last two years”, he said. He’s been waiting since January 10th to receive his visa confirmation.  

Prior to last season, Van Steensel had been approved of four visas in nine years without any hassle. What used to be no more than a ten-day process has become an inconvenient waiting game. It caused him to miss his first flight to Spring Training last year, but he’s hoping that won’t be the case again this year.

“I have a flight to catch on February 21 to head to Spring Training, so I’m hoping it’s back in my hands soon!”

As soon as that visa is back in his hands, Van Steensel will make his journey overseas to join the Padres. “They offered me a good deal, and it looked like a great opportunity, so it was easy to say yes to them”, he said.

Van Steensel is getting his fourth shot at achieving his dream, and true to his social media form, he’s ready to work, and to connect.

“If you see me around, don’t be afraid to say hi!” 

Maybe tell him how great his uniform looks?


Dodgers After Dark: The Sexual Assaults MLB Never Investigated, A Team's Culture Unexamined

A girl, seventeen, was running.

She was bouncing around from place to place, at one point residing in a group home that helped troubled girls, including those who were vulnerable to sex trafficking.

She was vulnerable, as runaways are, to being taken advantage of and endangered. She was one of the 75% of runaways who are female. And, as runaways often do, she found support where she could. Maybe on that February night in Glendale, Arizona, a city nine miles outside of Phoenix, she felt safe when she agreed to hang out with two women, who were a few years older than her, whom she’d met through social media. Panoramic-view-during-baseball-game

Maybe the prospect of hanging out with Los Angeles Dodgers players, in town for Spring Training, sounded like fun. What she ultimately experienced was a twisted night of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. And, once she made her story known, she was subjected to more trauma.

Dodgers minor league players Alex Verdugo, James Baldwin and Julio Urias, were preparing for the regular season with the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, the team’s spring training facility. Verdugo and Baldwin partied with the women at a Hampton Inn near the stadium, including the one who was underage. Nick Francona, then assistant of player development for the Dodgers, said Urias was present earlier, but wasn’t included in discussions about the incident.

“Urias was apparently with the group at some point during the evening, but people went to great lengths from the onset to avoid having his name involved at all and didn’t even want to ask him any questions about it,” Francona explained.

 Per the police report, as the night went on, the girl became violently ill and vomited on a bed. And, as has been widely reported, the other two girls began beating her up. Here is a detailed description  of the beating Verdugo and Baldwin witnessed, per the official police report:

"*Kayla (not her real name), began yelling at her, pushing her head into the bed and throwing water on her, *Sarah (not her real name), then threw her to the ground in an attempt to physically remove her from the room. She then informed me (the reporting officer) that *Marilyn (not her real name) and *Kayla began punching and kicking her repeatedly in the face and body until she exited the hotel room."

Verdugo and Baldwiln did nothing to stop the assault and were apparently so entertained by the violence happening to this defenseless girl, that either Verdugo, Baldwin, or both of them, posted the video to social media. When she left the hotel room, the girls she considered friends whom she was safe with, nor Verdugo or Baldwin, knew if she needed medial care. She'd been traumatized, so she clearly needed help after such a violent attack. But no one followed her to make sure she was ok. 

The girl called a friend nearby to pick her up. There was more she was holding back. She later explained that something far worse had happened to her. A case manager with the Arizona Department of Safety contacted law enforcement. During an interview with the police, the girl said that one of the players in the hotel room had sexually assaulted her. Baldwin was investigated by the Glendale Police Department for the assault.

The girl explained that she’d been drinking a lot, and felt ill, so she rested on one of the beds. Baldwin approached her and began fondling her breasts, then put his hand under her underwear, fondling her clitoris.  This wasn’t consensual, she told them. She was passing out during the act. He gave up trying when the rest of the group re-entered the room, perhaps, she said, out of frustration.

After she was assaulted and thrown out of the room, after she found someone to pick her up, she confided in her grandmother about the assault. Her grandmother contacted Gabe Kapler, then Dodgers director of player development. They discussed the attack via email. Kapler intimated that he’d handle the situation, and do his best to be of assistance. He expressed concern, and encouraged her to contact him if she had further questions. According to Kapler's public statements, he had no knowledge of the sexual assault at that point.

There were photos on record of her physical assault. Her eye was bruised, her face swollen. As for the sexual assault, when she was asked to press charges, she declined, saying it wouldn't help her situation.

In August of that same year, Major League Baseball implemented a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Policy. The policy states that, “The Commissioner’s Office will investigate all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse involving members of the baseball community.”

[This story has been updated to reflect clarification of the Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy as it pertains to Minor League Baseball. The policy, per Jeff Lantz, Senior Director of Communications for MiLB, was received in August 2015, and was to be distributed to MiLB clubs; MLB clubs then distributed the policy to individual players.]

While the incident migh not fall under the DV portion of the policy, which states that "abuse in any intimate relationship," and includes "physical intimidation," and "injury" as violations, the violence done to her was by her friends. It is an "inimate" violation, as she was among friends, in a social situation. The incident was also filmed, so that either Verdugo and/or Baldwin, failed to help a person being physically abused. 

The second portion covers sexual assault:

"refers to a range of behaviors, including a completed nonconsensual sex act, an attempted nonconsensual sex act, and/or nonconsensual sexual contact."

"...occuring when the victim is asleep, incapacitated, unconscious or legally unable of consent."

The alleged victim specifically states that she was extremely drunk, rendering her incapacitated and unable to provide proper consent to be touched or otherwise sexually engaged. 

The final portion addresses child abuse.

"Any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker...which results in serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child who is under the age of 18."

Investigation of Incidents

A. Process. The procedures set forth in this Policy shall be triggered when the Commissioner's Office learns that a player is alleged to have engaged in a Covered Act. Clubs are required to report any and all allegations of Covered Acts to Major League Baseball's Department of Investigation.

All of what *Sarah reported violated the Policy. The Commisioner failed to act. The entire incident was swept into a dark corner, without explanation. No "due process" occurred. 

And so, a vulnerable girl, without the powerful support of a major league baseball team, kept going. She was easily dismissed, easily discarded. The Dodgers could sweep her into the darkness. No one had to answer for what happened. There was no adherence to a half-baked policy. There were no consequences.

There are details in the email exchanges  between several individuals, including Francona, that reveal no one felt sure what to do about the physical assault (the only thing all personnel was aware of at that point), but everyone expected Kapler to take action.

One conversation, between Kapler and the girl’s grandmother, reads as follows:

GRANDMOTHER: {Granddaughter] has changed her mind because last night one of the girls said the guys and girls involved want to take her to dinner. She feels scared and that she’s being set up for something bad. Now I am feeling scared that she has to look over her shoulder. I really appreciate you trying to help her. Thank you.

KAPLER: I’m copying Nick Francona, our Assistant Director, Player Development.

This dinner is our initiative. We will ensure [HER] safety. We believe we can teach valuable lessons to all involved through this method of follow up. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. Thank you.

GRANDMOTHER: Good afternoon Gabe. [HER] boyfriend has kicked her out because of all this, so now she is without a place to live. Is there any way you can help her? She and I appreciate anything you can do to help her. Thank you.

[Kapler then sends an email with this conversation copied and pasted with the word “FYI” to Francona]


FRANCONA: Thank you for filling me in. Have you taken action on this?

KAPLER: No. Sleeping on it. I’m having a negative initial reaction.


After the Washington Post published a story on the assault and cover-up, Kapler, now manager for the Philadelphia Phillies, issued a statement. He published the full explanation on his lifestyle blog,,  describing his intentions in arranging the dinner.

“The sole purpose was to provide the opportunity for the victim to receive an apology.”

But in the email, he talks about the incident as being something everyone present in the hotel room needs to learn from. The young girl was essentially being asked to participate in a learning experience for people who hurt her. He said the idea was dropped once the victim declined. Were there questions about her well-being? About her emotional and physical health? The people who’d abused her were given a lot of leeway to make amends, but the victim wasn’t receiving the kind of care one requires after being exposed to violence. Even without awareness of sexual violence, physical harm had occurred, and a player in the organization had delighted in the violence against her, so much so that he thought nothing of sharing it on Snapchat.

Kapler also states that there was a request for money. In that email exchange, there’s no such request. The grandmother asks for help, because that’s what Kapler offered. Maybe that’s semantics, but the characterization that it’s a straight money grab isn’t accurate. That characterization helps shift the story: the victim as suspect. The spotlight shines on the victim’s worthiness, her level of guilt in her own victimization. The sentence “any type of offer,” quoted in Kapler’s statement, does not appear in the emails he shared with Francona. We don’t know if that request was made privately, by the victim or her grandmother, when talking to Kapler. It’s entirely possible that an exchange in which those words were spoken took place by phone, or in another email. In the only reported email to Kapler from the girl, reported by the WP, she writes, “The boys [players] got me drunk, and the girls beat me up. [Your player] videotaped it all.”

She had nothing to gain from reporting the player and pressing charges. She’d been offered an opportunity to confront her attackers, and, to possibly receive an expression of regret for the physical abuse. There was no harm in her asking for more help. That doesn’t erase her victimization.

In the email exchange, according to the grandmother, the women who physically assaulted her granddaughter initiated the dinner request. They suggested some sort of make-up dinner that involved everyone who’d hurt her. Her grandmother communicated that there was fear, on both their parts, that now the girl had to “look over her shoulder.”

The Dodgers didn't immediately know about what transpired that night. Kapler tells Francona, who’s asked if action has been taken, that he’s going to “sleep on it.” There’s also a promise to “ensure her safety.” A promise she had no reason to believe. Because she’d been assaulted, humiliated, abandoned and, after all that, asked to meet with those who’d harmed her. She didn’t know Kapler, and likely didn’t trust him any more than anyone else she met out in the world. Something told her that her safety wasn’t ensured. How Kapler felt he could do that isn’t clear. No matter how good the intention, the approach wasn’t conducive to healing trauma. It’s understandable that Kapler felt the situation was over his head. But while he’s known for an unconventional way of working with players, this was a moment he could’ve possibly benefited from some outside guidance.

He soon notified the Dodgers, and they failed to report the incident to MLB. Verdugo and Baldwin weren’t subjected to an investigation, as promised by MLB policy. And if there was any counseling or discussion, as Kapler suggested, in order to teach players responsibility, or, more to the point, to not assault women, or celebrate their abuse by videotaping a beating, there’s no record of the “teaching” they received.

As police officers tried to track down the girl again to gather additional details, they were given phones in her name. Any one of those numbers could have been current.  There was a duffel bag they were instructed they could pick up. Maybe that would leave clues. There was also the possibility that she’d been in prostitution, or as had been suspected, the victim of sex trafficking. The girl later denied that when police asked.

Her Grandmother didn’t want to rattle her granddaughter by asking her to come home again, or convince her to press charges. She’d seen no point in doing that. Her grandmother wanted something done, but, like so many girls and women, the girl didn’t do anything unusual by refusing to seek justice for herself.

That dinner never happened, of course. She’d been too afraid she was being “set up for something bad.” A thorough investigation by the police led to nothing, and the door to that night was shut.

In February, Verdugo was part of a trade that sent him to the Boston Red Sox, by all accounts his favorite team. Baldwin left baseball, and currently plays football for Golden West College. 

Urias remains a big mystery in the details of that night. Why wasn't he questioned? Why did the Dodgers go to such lengths to protect him? 

In June of 2019, Urias was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. According to witnesses, he became violent with a woman in a shopping mall parking lot, shoving her to the ground. 

As for that girl, there was only one final footnote. When detectives tried to continue the investigation by contacting her, she shut that down. She didn’t want to talk about it.


In February 2015, a maid at The Hampton Inn was doing her daily work. A young man staying there kept harassing her. He wouldn’t give up, despite her protests. The maid later explained this to her manager, after he’d gone too far. She told her manager that after weeks of harassment, he grabbed her from behind. And then again.

The player, Luis Rodriguez, was discussed at length by team personnel who worked in Player Development, including, again, Kapler and Francona.

An exchange via text between Duncan Webb, current director of international player development, and Francona reads as follows:

FRANCONA: Can you get on top of this?

WEBB: Oh yeah. I plan on talking with him tonight. [Field Coordinator] Clayton McCullough and I were just discussing it.

WEBB: We’ll wait to hear from Kap [Kapler], but obviously this is a pretty serious offense.

FRANCONA: Yea, it seems like it.

In a later exchange, the conversation about the woman’s assault is again discussed, after members of player development staff had a meeting after talking to Rodriguez:

FRANCONA: Any initial thoughts on how to handle Rodriguez?

WEBB: Well, we just sat down with him (Clayton, Knapp, Juan, McGrath and me). We have to go to the hotel to get the full story because he denied it. But he was shady about it. I don’t trust him.

FRANCONA: Ok, got it. My take is that if it even remotely resembles the truth, this is very serious and needs to be far more than just a talking to.

WEBB: I totally agree. I don’t want to let it slide and then have the guys think they can get away with this kind of behavior. I’m going to the hotel today to speak in person with them, and we’ll go from there. Either way, great example for the others here.

While the final sentence appears to be sarcasm, Webb and Francona were clearly trying to do some investigating of their own. 

Later, Francona checks in with Roman Barinas, Manager of international player development. He initially doesn’t know what email or incident Francona refers to. Apparently, the story wasn’t making the rounds to the proper people. Once Barinas reads the email explaining what’s happened at the hotel, he swiftly reacts.

BARINAS: Holy F**k

FRANCONA: He should be in jail.

BARINAS: This is a send him home situation.

BARINAS: Especially since it is now documented.


In texts between Kapler, Juan Rodriguez and McCullough, Kapler makes a familiar suggestion as they contemplate what to do next.

RODRIGUEZ: Housekeeper confirmed the picture. Purchasing flight for tonight. She leaves her shift at 4:30. I’d like to keep him at cbr until then.

KAPLER: Any thought to asking him if he’d like to apologize before we send him home?

RODRIGUEZ: We can definitely ask. She seemed a bit off and not wanting to talk about it too much.

MCCULLOUGH: Absolutely. Apologizing is the right thing to do.

MCCULLOUGH: At least the hotel manager.

In later emails that have been reported, Kapler said he was “embarrassed” by the situation, in reference to Luis Rodriguez actions. He also, again, sees the possibility to create a teaching moment.

KAPLER: Although this was an isolated incident, it was egregious enough to warrant a conversation with all of our men.

Please ensure that we use this as a teaching and sharpening opportunity for all.

Rodriguez was eventually released, later signing with another MLB team. They too would release Rodriguez after a short stint.

Major League Baseball’s official statement by league officials showed no concern for anything being reported on. “This was handled as an internal matter by the Dodgers and we consider the matter closed.”

The woman did not press charges. And that’s not surprising. Analysis by the Center for American Progress showed that of complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, more than a quarter were from employees in service industries. Women represent the majority of employees in those industries.  There were apparently concerns that the woman was an undocumented immigrant. Perhaps she was of the 24% of undocumented immigrants in this country who work in housekeeping or maid service. Based on conversations, she wasn’t especially willing to talk to a bunch of baseball guys about anything. Whatever her personal reasons, following through might’ve seemed too troublesome. She reported what happened to her supervisor, and that was as far as she went. In the end, she didn't want to talk about it. 

The player flew under the radar. The Dodgers never had to answer for any of it. No one did.

With every email and text, a group of men employed in baseball search for ways to handle incidents of sexual and physical assault. They wrangle with the details, and the proper protocol. They carefully consider each step. They wonder who needs to know, and when, and, once both situations are confronted, at least one person wondered if an apology, as a response to physical and sexual trauma, was appropriate. Each person in every exchange seems to have their own approach, their own moral code and imperative. Kapler, and to a larger degree, the Dodgers, seem to operate by their own philosophy. Kapler kept it about a “learning experience” for the players, but perhaps that was as much as he felt he could do. Once these matters were brought to the attention of the Dodgers, they had a responsibility to report everything to MLB, and, in turn, MLB had a responsibility to uphold an agreement; one that gave a measure of hope to baseball fans, who’d been frustrated and appalled by incidents of violence against women by players, who seemed to get nothing more than a “talking to.”

There were conversations, meetings, calls, concerns, attempts at one botched solution after another. A teenage girl was beaten, and later reported being sexually assaulted at a hotel party. A woman was sexually assaulted in her workplace. Dodgers players were the accused abusers. The Dodgers knew all of these things.

Why has no one ever had to answer for any of it?

The system is broken for sexual assault victims in general. 63% of sexual assaults go unreported to police, per The National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

MLB’s system in confronting violence against women is also broken. Their policy allows for statements such as “we’re handling it internally.” What does that mean? Major League Baseball could have demanded the Dodgers pony up the details. They could’ve insisted on knowing. They violated the terms of their own commitment, one they so proudly announced that August.

A multitude of questions remain unanswered. They’re not answered in Kapler’s thoughtful, but incomplete statement. And they certainly aren’t answered in any of the Dodgers comments on the matter. Worst of all, is MLB's duplicitous actions, willful ignorance, and total disregard for their own contract to do right by victims of violence.

When will Major League Baseball, and the Dodgers, answer for this?


A Woman On Top: MLB Doesn’t Need The First Woman GM To Be A Perfect Choice

When the possibility of the first woman baseball GM is discussed, many men have a go-to. 

Gender, they say, shouldn’t be part of the equation. The fact that only men have ever done the job erases that point. But that response, as bland as office carpet, persists.

My unapologetic opinion of hiring a woman GM, is that I don’t care if she’s the perfect fit. 

She isn’t required to be the most of the most of all the ones across the land. She doesn’t need to have been hardwired to a lifetime of studying baseball by doing things like “working harder than the men to prove myself” or some variation of what people enjoy hearing when say when asked about learning and working in the industry. They love to hear us scraping our fingernails and heels on the impenetrable wall around baseball. But, no, thank you, she doesn’t have to be a martyr, or identify with “the boys”, or have a special stamp of approval from men baseball fan. I have no opposition to the team hiring her just to hire a woman. In fact, that would be fantastic. Imagine an MLB team ballsy enough to, perhaps, not sign a person who’s committed domestic violence, but, hold onto your hats, have the absolute gall to hire a woman who’s just good enough for the job, but also because she’s a woman. She needn’t be a unicorn. Just a smart woman who knows baseball.

The “issue” of a woman being in power in sports, or anywhere, isn’t an “issue” at all. It’s a failure to commit. It’s fear of trying something new, something that’s never been done before. That fear is understandable if you’re entirely focused on fans fear, or your own. But let’s just get over it, already.

The point of this hiring is to create precedence. The starting point is giving a woman the opportunity. Open the door, see what one woman can do; of course, she’s going to fail. They all do. Every man who’s ever done the job has failed, and every man doing the job has had some level of success. They’ve learned on the job, grown into the role and earned the respect of the fans. OR they don’t. Because that’s sports. Stop using the woman card and saying we’re using it. We see through the charade. The problem isn’t whether she’s going to have failures like any man; it’s that many men in baseball, or watch baseball, don’t feel comfortable with a woman GM. Men who talk about women in sports can’t use that card enough to zero in on her gender, and find all the reasons why she shouldn’t get a shot. 

The name mentioned most to receive that shot, Kim Ng, MLB’s Senior VP, has even gotten the vote of confidence from legendary Yankees manager Joe Torre, now MLB’s chief baseball officer. “She’s very well prepared in whatever she does,” Torre told reporters a few years ago. “She’s way over my head when it comes to all the knowledge she has about a lot of aspects of the game.” But for her MLB experience, including four years with the Yankees as Assistant GM, before the Dodgers hired her in the same capacity—she still remains just a possibility. 

MLB execs could look to the minor leagues. MiLB has been a strong ally in advancing women in the sport. On the GM front, they’ve been there and done that. In 2018, the Triple-A Reno Aces hired Emily Jaenson as General Manager. She joins a group of five women currently in that role in MiLB: Jennifer Reynolds (Visalia Rawhide), Rachelle Madrigal (Bradenton Marauders), Jane Rogers (Staten Island Yankees), Christina Edney (Pulaski Yankees), and Kim Parker (Burlington Bees).

Those women represent something important. They prove that once you see the value of giving a woman an opportunity, you can begin to reconstruct the boys club model. That is, if you want to. 

There’s also a larger point to be made about how professional baseball could change with a distinctly non-white male voice. Would the response to a player committing domestic violence be the same? Would there be so many carefully worded, but woefully misfired statements addressing violations against women? 

And in terms of hiring more women, perhaps a woman GM would make more of an effort to balance the scales in the front office, seeking out young women who might be overlooked in a crowd of recent college graduates who are mostly guys. 

Men in power in baseball should hire women, period. I’m suggesting they start hiring women across the board to create a balance, and sports editors and front office guys should hire them because they are distinctly not white men. Hire trans women. Hire women of color. Hire them because, yeah, they’re smart, capable and clearly have sports knowledge. Of course. Just like when they hire the multitude of dudes that come through their offices. I’m sure they wouldn’t argue that every guy straight out of college is some brilliant scientific mind of baseball. They interview men who are smart, capable and have a knowledge of the game they’re covering. They can hire twenty of them, and one woman, and, I guess they figure they’re work is done. The actual work of change demands a consistently active focus, and taking actions, big and small. Some of those actions must be revolutionary. And when editors are asked if they prioritized diversifying the sports department or front office, or coaching staff, or any aspect of professional baseball, they should proudly say, “Yes.”

Specifically speaking about hiring the first woman GM, do this without wavering. You can hire a woman to do this job, because she’s shown she’s capable. You do not need to justify that she’s the best of the best, in fear that you’ll be questioned about how “smart” it is to be the team to hire the first woman. Again, the fit doesn’t have to be perfect. Get the bat off your shoulder, and just do it. Create the energy and opportunity; commit to the small but important revolution of changing the face of baseball. 

Unless someone steps up and takes that first chance, nothing changes. Focus on moving the needle.