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

Lifer Logo


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




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.




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




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.




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




“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

Hard Hit: Working Through Postpartum Depression While Working in Baseball

By Jessica Quiroli

I started writing, and the baby started crying.

My sweet one. She doesn't know I just want five minutes to write, to breathe, to work on projects gathering dust. I don't feel guilt or that I'm a failure. I just feel overwhelmed.

After thirteen years as a baseball writer, most of them spent covering minor league baseball, I'm on the bench more often lately, waiting for the opportunity to jump in the action. I'd decided before I'd even known I was pregnant that I was changing course. I wanted to write more in-depth baseball stories, dig deeper. I envisioned trying new things and expanding as a writer. I knew I wanted to work on projects completely outside of baseball, such as continuing to study screenwriting. Connecting in that community has also been inspiring. As I was expanding my focus, with the biggest moment of my life just around the corner. I'd be expanding in other ways, of course. But I wanted to live quieter, simpler, and find more meaning in everything in my life. Learning I was pregnant actually aligned with my shifting focus.

Sometimes I'll keep writing, and she'll find something to do as she gains more independence. But it's usually not for long before my sweet one is crying or whining at my feet. This happens during phone calls, work emails, and so on. I spend my time wisely. I can no longer be so free with it. That's good for me, but sometimes that reality catches up and becomes frustrating.

The day I began this story, and she wouldn't quite give me a moment, I stopped, explaining softly that I needed a few more minutes.I played with her with one hand, while trying to form sentences for a story that I'd planned, done the research for, gotten sources on the record, and told readers, many of  them paying subscribers, that this story will see the light of day soon. I'll be late. I know that. It's ok. She needs me. I want her to need me. I don't ever want to miss anything, or for her to feel she's second. So, as I try to strike the balance and care for my needs, and still work and do things I love, I'm also always letting my child know that she's most important. I return to the story, to the stats, to the baseball stuff I know so well. I juggle the experiences. There are days I drop it all. I'll sit down to work, and instead I'll meditate while staring out the window. Or I'll read a magazine and eat dark chocolate. My mental health needs my focus too.

I write this not knowing if I should be this candid. Will this affect my career? Am I opening myself up on a personal level that I'll regret? The intersection of those parts of myself--the one that loves to create and share, and the one that safely guards my private thoughts and experiences--has smoothly co-existed and then crashed at different times in my life and baseball career.. I know I'm not the only one, but, as the story goes, I often feel that way. And the baseball world moves quickly, leaving you behind if you're not savvy, prolific and engaged on a consistent basis. You're supposed to be much more of, in the words of the wonderful Erika Jayne (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills...yes, I watch that sh**), a "showgirl." Everyone in sports media tends to be more of a personality these days. That's never been easy for me. Now, more than ever, that aspect feels a bit strange. I like showgirls...or show business. But I'm not sure today's show bizzy style of sports reporting is quite my thing. I don't like the desperation over every job, every story, every bit of information obtained. I've also watched the impact of social media on colleagues. Believe me, they're obsessed with their stats too.. There's a need to be "verified," rather than just build relationships you value, while creating stories you're proud of. I don't want to focus on being liked or image building. I want only to write, connect on a genuine level and share ideas. 

I  looked around for work this season, investing most of my time and efforts to AHOD, I don't get tons of quality sleep, but I've learned to outsource, hiring someone to come to my home a couple of days a week, for 2-3 hours, to run errands, go to the grocery store, clean the house, and tend to her while I'm a few feet away trying to work. She's developing trust, relying more on being social.  I still can't reconcile the part of myself that wants to continue my baseball career with leaving her alone with a caregiver yet. I'm fortunate that I'm not the main source of income. I can make that choice. But if I want to continue contributing to this industry, I'll have to find ways to make this all work. But HOW? There are many questions, answers aren't always easy, the journey has an offering of many millions of books telling you HOW. But still...really, there is no perfect book no perfect answer.

Welcome to my baseball mama life.

And then, there's this...

I've suffered from severe depression and social anxiety from as early as I can remember. Writing, depression and anxiety have always been companions. In the last two years, I've searched for ways through debilitating depression, while also trying to be more open, comfortable and present. Social media and the sports industry can make everything-- anxiety, depression and even the most basic human insecurities-- worse. Social media can also deeply connect you with others with similar experiences. Social outlets provide a community; that community has grown with more high profile media people becoming increasingly open about their struggles.

Our strange lives in sports aren't always conducive to mental health. I've come to terms with that over time, realizing I've put myself in high pressure situations to do something I love. But many of us, in our own way, find a way to make it work, to thrive, to be authentic, and stay mindful of our needs. As social anxiety goes, I want to be seen and read, but not seen only read...sort of known, but only in ways I can control. But, yeah, that's not how this industry, or any industry, or, life in general works. That is, however, how social anxiety and depression work. Your feelings are often symptoms, and it's been eye-opening, and very helpful, to fully understand that.

Becoming a mother created the biggest challenge mentally and physically, while  also completely shifting my baseball career.Men in the industry have families to think of, yes.  They have children and partners they love and often miss, especially beat writers on late post-game deadlines.There are men in baseball who are the primary caregivers, many often working from home; they're the exception, not the rule. Maternity leave, the majority of childcare, and postpartum depression are issues that distinctly impact women. Our industry still works best for men, especially the single guy with no kids, moving around the industry with far more ease. I'm falling behind them. I can see that. It helps that I'm not upset about that very often. Even when I was on top of my game, those guys could move with a lot more ease through an industry that's mostly comprised of them. 

The care of children isn't all that's left to women. There's the obvious. The pregnancy and birth experience are long, stressful and absolutely life-altering.Your energy entirely shifts. Our recovery can take weeks or months or, in my case, two years. I took time to find my way back to the possibility of going back "on the field." And I'm scared. I'm not entirely sure of myself. I feel like I've started over again in some way. I'm different. I've got a lot more to consider. I have some things organized and operating smoothly. But there's so much that is not and I don't expect that of myself. That's freeing. I'm taking my time. I'm breathing. Postpartum depression has its own set of challenges. I'm doing my best. Going back, but going forward. This road has been long. 

My pregnancy was fraught with difficulties, trips to the ER and lots of bed rest. One week after finding out I was expecting a child, my Grandfather died. He was my hero, my baseball buddy, the person who knew me as no else does. He loved me like he loved everyone: with openness, joy and a healthy dose of discipline when one truly seemed to need that push.  I was still living in Florida, bedridden, worrying I was going to lose my baby after a scary incident one morning; I never told my grandpa I was pregnant. After that, I didn't tell many people. I stayed quiet. I grieved, gestated, and, while still studying stats and trying to contribute, studied pregnancy and childbirth. I tried to keep my grief from being too intense, hoping that my sadness or stress didn't impact my child. I turned to my loving partner with all my woes, all my needs, each one met. I was supported in my little cocoon. The daily physical toll of the illness, throwing up sometimes three or four times a day, unable to taste food, unable to keep food in the fridge because I didn't want to smell anything, kept me not only from leaving the house, but blocked me from focusing too much on emotions. Grief would have to wait. Joy over impending motherhood would be diluted by the excruciating relentless sickness. I had to focus all my energy on physical wellness and a delicate life I was completely responsible for. And, as a consequence, the baseball life I'd known for over a decade was halted. I didn't mind that much. But I also didn't know how to cope with all these changes, all at once.


I took some baseball writing work, including one story I wrote in bed, bleary eyed, hungry, under intense stress, and on nausea medication that barely worked. Modern medicine is really slow on that front. In my second and third trimester I took more work, did phone interviews, and made a few trips to ballparks to work on stories. I knew my "leave" had begun when I climbed some familiar stairs, and almost fell over retrieving a pen. I looked down at the baseball field, feeling utterly disconnected from a space I was so accustomed to feeling at home in. I needed to actually go home. Baseball season was now gestation season. 

But while postpartum depression comes with motherhood, social anxiety is a whole other bear that's growled at me for years. I've ignored those feelings, and, upon reflection, I see how hard I pushed away that struggle. I still do at times. But now I'm much quicker to sense my twister of emotions building. I definitely care for myself with increased awareness. I no longer fear those feelings. They're more normal than I used to believe.

As much as we love social media for various reasons, there are many pitfalls for people struggling with mental health, who are trying to maintain success or just stay on track in life. I've always been slow to recover from heavy emotional blows. Just my makeup I guess. I move on quickly, but I tend to hold on internally, and memories can be fresh as the day the thing happened. I realized recently that I've spent the last couple of years trying to recover from a ton of those kinds of blows. And, I see now, I've not quite bounced back.That's motivated me to reassess my place in the world, and my place in baseball. 

In the past few years, I experienced professional and personal relationships crumble with people I valued and cherished. I'm the first one to call myself out. Apologies aren't hard for me. Supporting people via social media, or other ways, isn't conditional. I don't care how popular you are. I'll ride or die. But as I was rounding the bases (hey, that's actually pretty accurate *wink*) to arrive at pregnancy and motherhood, I learned that social relationships can be sticky or not what you might've believed. I also realized that sports media was getting so competitive that even I might've not noticed how desperate colleagues felt. I wasn't paying attention to a lot of things, and I was hurt by many people. I had to make decisions that weren't just about my career, but about the path my life was on. 

In the middle of that turmoil, a devastating loss, and pregnancy, I decided, almost inexplicably that, hey, now's the time to take on the biggest project of my baseball life! 


All Heels on Deck was a very small idea in my head for a long time. Not the name, but the concept. I wanted to build a site that expanded baseball media. I didn't want to write on the site very often.. The focus was to be on others, my contribution mostly behind the curtain. I wanted to create a platform for others and pay them. And, to be exact, as you already might know because you're reading this site, the focus of the platform was baseball writers who are women, PoC and LGBTQI those underrepresented voices in baseball. They'd write about the game, and about all sorts of things related to the game-covering gender, race, homophobia, transphobia, and that would mix with baseball analysis, trade evaluation and other creative, fun baseball stories. I had a vision. After some planning, and asking for feedback from people in the industry, the plans was set in motion. 

I began developing ideas for stories and business aspects of the site, I was going through excruciatingly difficult months of early motherhood, while also feeling the combined intense protective love and joy that enraptured my heart, and took over my life. I struggled with so much, almost immediately. While I'd prefer to keep certain details private, I will say I felt emotionally ripped apart, lost and physically exhausted. 

My love for my daughter and tending to her needs, and my pride and excitement for AHOD's launch provided daily inspiration. There was some backlash--some people didn't like the name--but mostly there was tremendous public support, mixed with healthy, important debate and discussion about the name, the idea and what the platform could accomplish.

I was still scrambling to make sense of a lot that was outside of that experience. As I suffered through painful changes and normal adjustments, I was mentally overwhelmed by the fallout of those professional and personal relationships. Nothing was ever resolved. Baseball, life, motherhood, the process of adjusting and reassessing continued.

I don't have proper words to explain how difficult the management of AHOD has been. The blog, and Patreon for subscribers, have not run smoothly. As May unfolded, I found myself unable to process simple emails about the blog. Every time I tried to write a quick response, my heart raced. I have been almost entirely unable to write anything of length or depth, outside of this. I haven't posted in a newsletter in longer than is regularly scheduled. I haven't sent out a team memo in a couple of months. 

There are times I'm so overwhelmed, so exhausted, I question how I can put any effort at all into a baseball writing career. I've been at it a long time. Maybe I've lost my edge. Perhaps I just don't have the right amount of energy. Is it time for me to just do new things, entirely outside of that world I knew so well? I can't imagine the hours of commuting I used to do. Or the hours of research I used to focus on so intently, the hours breezing by. with my mind, stats and stories cruising through, developing mostly with ease. I have moments where I feel so disconnected from that person, and that period of my life where I was "Baseball Writer." I feel all the time like I'm watching a baseball game in the distance, on a screen with one eye, catching some moments, but still desperately wanting to BE THERE. I'm never in my seat for long. I am often unsure "who's on first."

In April, I connected with a health practice that focuses on women, and found a doctor that has been tremendous in helping me get healthy. She put me on a mild anti-depressant, something I would've been less open to, and would never have been open about in the not so distant past. I knew that I needed help, and couldn't function as I had been. My daughter needs me healthy, and so do I. Whatever that means, however I can take better care of myself, I choose that.

The minor league baseball season started and I set up my credentials with the Trenton Thunder, a place I'd spent so many formative years as a baseball writer. I had a few plates in the air, several outlets showing interest in my work. I felt ready. For what I still didn't know. 

On a beautiful June day, the kind of day that is so perfect for baseball, I was set to cover my first game in two years, I had a severe episode of postpartum depression and anxiety on the street, while walking my daughter. I stayed in contact with my partner, and he assured me he was on his way. She fell asleep, and I sat in Rittenhouse Square Park weeping amid the beauty of a place I love dearly. 

I don't now if I can return to baseball life this season. That day was a revelation. I slowed my mind down, fully realizing that I still have far to go. I'm still without answers. I know that's ok. I need to not worry about "Baseball Writer." I need to just worry about "Jessica." And my sweet one. 

Those high heels I bought for my return to the field will be sidelined for now.


I've never quite figured out how to be in the baseball world as a person with clinical depression, or social anxiety. And I don't know how to be in the baseball world with the challenges of postpartum depression. The changes are more extraordinary than I expected. Many mothers will say the same. 

Like any mom juggling the roles, and tending to mental and physical health, I don't have the perfect solution. Things are always changing, and we're always learning, and growing within our hearts to understand ourselves and the world around us. I tried to take a dip back into field work this season. I turned around, and, just like in the final months of pregnancy, went home instead.

Everything is different, but in many ways I'm still just me. I'll keep working through the challenges. I'll keep writing. As I always have. Like any good baseball player, I'm adjusting. I'm focusing only on what I can control. I want to be present, not looking back or ahead. Baseball, like motherhood, like postpartum depression like love and life, gives you many opportunities to just go out there, try to do something you can be proud of and feel is your truest, purest self. 

Then, there's this...

I was sitting on the sofa with my sweet one, before that terrible June day, looking at the cherry blossom tree in full bloom outside our window. I could've stayed there for hours. I love baseball. I love writing. But I love the quiet of these moments in which I'm none of the things I used to be. I also love my wellness. I don't know how baseball fits into that picture, but I want it to.

In many ways I've expanded my point of view of baseball as a career, what I should be writing. And motherhood expanded and narrowed my point of view, probably equally. Much like postpartum depression and social anxiety. You have to see yourself as you are, and as you hope to be. Baseball requires patience. Motherhood and depression require even more patience. And so, I breathe, step to the plate when I can. And watch the world unfold from the bench, happy to be there, and happy to wait and see where I am needed next. As with everything in my life and career, I wait to hear where I'll be called.  


Follow Jessica on Twitter @heelsonthefield


Sheryl Ring: The Week From Hell

By Sheryl Ring

“Crusty tranny dyke.”

For some reason, of all that my wife and I endured during what we now call “The Week of Hell,” that’s what sticks in my memory the most. Three little words. “Crusty tranny dyke.”

How bad was it? I’ve dealt with hate before. You can’t be a woman – especially a trans woman – in any kind of even quasi-public setting without having some kind of vitriol thrown your way. But this was different. I’d been misgendered, mocked, harassed, called a “thing” and “that.” I’d even received anonymous threats before. But these – these were personal. I’m not repeating the threats here because I won’t give those people the public platform they so clearly crave. I won’t give them my platform, or whatever is left of it. But I will include a sampling of how social media responded to my story. It’s not, alas, all that much better.

T1 Sheryl

It started inauspiciously enough. I spent months working on the Cubs’ coverage of Russell, talking to people in positions who would know what was going on. I’m eternally grateful that of all the people they could have confided in, they chose to talk to me. I told no one of our conversations, because that’s what they requested – and I agreed. Eventually, one of the sources let me know that they would be willing to go on the record, at least anonymously. It’s an enormous responsibility to be entrusted with telling someone’s story, especially when that story involves issues as weighted as domestic abuse and freedom of the press. By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what it is I’m talking about.

I’ve been a storyteller my entire professional life. In my day job as the legal director at Open Communities, I represent people facing eviction, foreclosure, or housing discrimination who can’t afford lawyers. My job is simple: tell my client’s story. Tell it truthfully. Explain why this person doesn’t deserve to be on the street, homeless, because they lost their job, or because of the color of their skin. My job for Fangraphs is similar, though – usually, at least – the stories are of less import. Until, that is, this weekend.


T2 Sheryl


I won’t deny that the Addison Russell saga is personal for me. I explained why for Fangraphs last year, with a piece that I was honored to receive a SABR award for writing. So the idea that an organization – a powerful organization, like the Cubs, with flagship radio and television stations and ownership connected to the politically powerful – would willfully try to shape how our society views a domestic abuser was alarming to me. It should, I’d argue, be alarming to everyone. I’m not going to opine here about whether Russell is or should be deserving of a second chance; that’s irrelevant now. And my point was never to denigrate the man. Rather, my point was that when a powerful entity tries to control how the media portrays an abuser for its own gain, that damages all of us. It normalizes abuse. It makes the abuser, rather than the victim, a sympathetic figure. 

These kinds of narratives are why women don’t report abuse. They’re why rape culture exists. And they’re why people felt comfortable telling me, in some detail, the process they would use to rape, kill, and dismember me. The first death threat I received Wednesday morning – the one that began by calling me a “crusty tranny dyke” – spanned three pages of this kind of detail. Why? Because the writer accused me of ruining Addison Russell’s life. You see, when you deliberately paint an abuser as a redeemed figure, you make it acceptable to abuse others. If abuse is a redeemable mistake, abuse becomes a trivial matter, and demands for accountability become the greater evil.




When Julian Green was saying that I had “absolute power unchecked” – he knew very well what he was doing. Of course, I had no such thing. But that’s the very essence of misogyny. 

When Julian Green was saying that I had “absolute power unchecked” – he knew very well what he was doing. Of course, I had no such thing. But that’s the very essence of misogyny, you see.Saying a woman has “absolute power” will inevitably lead to men trying to undo that power, especially when it hits a nerve those men see in themselves, like domestic abuse. Threats of rape are the ultimate way of removing women’s power.

Threats of rape aren’t about sex – they’re about power. There is something primal about the fear that comes with being threatened with rape. It’s a threat to take away your autonomy, your agency, your sexuality – and in so doing it does take away your autonomy, your agency, your sexuality. There are few things which can make you feel so powerless. Everything the Cubs did was about eliminating my power. Suddenly, when 670TheScore was talking about me, I wasn’t even allowed to be a lawyer anymore. Instead, I was listed as a person “whose Twitter account says she’s a lawyer.” It would have been easy enough to look it up, but they had to cast doubt on every one of my credentials.

And there’s little doubt that Green made a conscious decision. After all, a number of media members, reporters, and commentators – largely cishet white men like Mike Gianella, Herb Lawrence, and even Paul Sullivan – tweeted confirmations that what I had said was accurate. But Green didn’t go after any of them. He went after only the woman, and told a radio audience that woman was abusing her power. He may not have sent the rape threats himself, but he got exactly the response he was hoping for. Every woman knows that when a man publicly says you have too much power, he’s inviting the mob to put you in your place.




Take the threat which began “crusty tranny dyke.” That one went on for three interminable pages, describing how I would be raped, dismembered, and murdered. I didn’t read the whole thing before I blocked the sender, vanishing the message. But the memory stayed, burned into my subconscious. It’s impossible to read how a man is going to brutalize you so you will know your place without being changed. 

I was mocked for having a “GoFundMe” to pay for my transition surgery. The GoFundMe is humiliating enough – having to out yourself is brutal as it is – but having people spread the lie that I made this up to get money for my surgery is transphobic as hell. And that’s when the misgendering started, calling me a “TG Wannabe” and a man. Evidently, “TG Wannabe” became my new moniker on Reddit. Some threats even referenced my surgery.

Later on Wednesday, I was receiving so many of these terrifying messages that when a phone number I didn’t recognize called me on my cell phone, I froze and panicked, convinced that the caller was yet another threat. It wasn’t – it was actually opposing counsel on a case – but I was too terrified to answer the phone. I froze, utterly in shock, until I collided with the car in front of me. I was still hyperventilating when the police arrived – not from the crash, but from the fear. What if one of these people came and raped me whilst I was at the accident scene, unable to leave?

I spent hours crying in my wife’s arms. It impacted her, too; you can’t watch your spouse go through something like this without going through it with her. She was resolute the entire time, wiping my tears, telling me it would be okay, urging me to be proud of who I was and the stand I had taken. As the world closed in around me, she tried to hold it back with her bare hands. It was amazing and terrifying to watch, as the strain of what she was trying to do tested her. She didn’t sleep at all that week, keeping a watchful eye out in case someone decided to act on their threat in the middle of the night. My wife, who has lived in and around Chicago her entire life, watched as her home turned on her family. And when she didn’t think I could hear, she cried too. 

Before Julian Green reached out to Fangraphs, he didn’t reach out to me. In fact, he and I have never spoken. I didn’t mention him in my tweets, although his unflinching insistence that I was talking about him is pretty clear evidence I struck a nerve. Only two people reached out to me for a comment. Bill Baer talked to me before he wrote his story for NBC Sports. And Gabe Fernandez with Deadspin not only asked for a comment, but also asked for permission to use my name given the threats I was receiving, a courtesy I very much appreciated. Paul Sullivan, whose article in the Chicago Tribune rather backhandedly threw shade in my direction for making my account private (and made no mention of the threats I was receiving as the reason why), didn’t reach out to me at all. Neither did anyone from the Mully and Haugh show on 670TheScore, despite having Julian Green on the radio for a prolonged rant impugning my integrity. Green himself also didn’t talk to me before his screed, which ignited a new round of threats. Once the threats couldn’t come through Twitter, the threats came to my “Sheryl Ring, Esq.” facebook page, so I deleted that. Then they came through Instagram, so I made that account private. The sheer volume of hate was too much; I deleted the Twitter application from my phone, and let Meg Rowley and David Appelman at Fangraphs, and Jessica Quiroli at All Heels On Deck, know I was taking a leave of absence until the storm of harassment had passed. 

I don’t know when it will be safe to write again. I’m writing this, even though I know it will make things worse again for a while, because it’s important that people know and understand what happened here. I broke a story – a true story - about a powerful organization’s protection of a domestic abuser. Men with that organization responded with dog whistles that led to me receiving rape and death threats. There’s no better confirmation that my story was true than in how the Cubs responded. Misogyny, you see, doesn’t – can’t – hide. The Cubs organization valued the men who reported on my story. The only woman? She got thrown away. Silenced. Told to go back to the shadows. All so they could sell Addison Russell, abuser of women, as redeemed by playing a game.

It’s almost as if the Cubs don’t view women as human beings.


You can request to follow Sheryl Ring @Ring_Sheryl 

You can donate to her transition fund on her gofundme page--


Postcards From The Minor Leagues: Todd Van Steensel Faces New Questions With Optimism

This is the third installment in this series. The fourth and final part will run in July. 


Well, as you all know I am no longer in affiliated baseball and about to embark on my first journey into independent league baseball. I signed with the St Paul Saints who play in the American Association of Professional Baseball. It wasn’t something I had planned for this year, but with everything I’ve come across in life I’ve had to find a way to make it work and figure it out. And with the mentality that “It’s all part of it” I was going to make the best of a less than ideal situation. 

With being released came a lot of problems. One problem was where will I stay in the US while I find another team? Luckily the people I’m staying with were generous enough to let me stay with them for as long as I needed. It’s funny how the universe unfolds, because the person I’m living with here actually lived with my family and me in Australia for two months, about seven years ago when she worked for the Sydney Blue Sox of the ABL. So we hosted her back then, now gets to be my host here! It’s fun because her and her husband work in baseball, and are big baseball fans, so they understand the struggle of working in baseball. They have been more than accommodating to me. Image1

A second problem was how am I going to stay in game shape for the next month when I don’t have access to a baseball field? Luckily, I was able to find someone on Facebook who lives in Tempe who was also preparing to join a team in Canada. We met up everyday at a soccer field nearby to play catch. He would drive from Tempe, and I would ride a scooter to the field. Unfortunately he left to go join his team this week, so now I’m on the lookout for another catch partner! In the meantime, I’ll just continue to throw baseballs against a fence! Sometimes you just have to do the best with what’s in front of you. Find a reason to make it work instead of finding a reason you can’t do something!

A third problem was, how am I going to fund myself for the next five weeks? As everyone knows you don’t get paid a salary in spring training, so I was supporting myself with the money I saved in the offseason. Luckily I live at home in the offseason and my mum doesn’t make me pay rent, and she cooks for me every night, so I’m able to save nearly everything I make in the offseason playing in the Australian Baseball League. Along with funding myself for the next few weeks, how was I going to pay for the necessary things I need once I got to St Paul. When I got released by the Twins in August last year, another player moved into my apartment and used all the bedding, pillows and towels. Unfortunately when the season was done he wasn’t able to pack it all so I told him to leave it in Chattanooga for the next person to use. So those things were back on my shopping list of things I’ll need. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I thought, why not post my venmo account on twitter and see if anyone was willing to donate. It couldn’t hurt? People might make fun of me for it, but I’ve never been someone who has shied away from asking for help. In four days, people had donated a total of $583. That is enough to buy everything I need for my apartment, as well as contribute to paying rent. People have also messaged me saying that they can donate silverware and plates and other kitchen utensils. It is honestly heartwarming and humbling that so many people want to help you and support you. 

My mum is a big believer in paying it forward. After all the years of her taking in baseball players at our house in the off-season, her coming to the US and taking myself and teammates out for dinner or even making dinner, and just willing to help anyway she can, I think this is the universe paying it forward to me because of her. 

Which leads to the reason for this post. In times of struggle, no matter how big or small there will be people willing to help. When it’s all said and done, it’s never just you who got to where you are. Everyone who helped you along the way, they are the reason you get there. They are the ones who believe in you and support you when it gets tough, and for every single person who has gotten me to this point, I am eternally grateful.

You can follow Todd Van Steensel on Twitter @toddvs35

Blue Jays in MiLB: A Q&A with Buffalo Bisons Andy Burns

By Tammy Rainey 

Probably not a lot of MLB fans, particularly outside the Blue Jays’ fanbase, are familiar with the name Andy Burns. That’s not really surprising. Burns, a shortstop on draft day, was drafted by Toronto in the 11th round of 2011. Taking a similar career path to current prospect Kevin Smith, Burns was in AA within the second full season after he was drafted, but with less attendant fanfare. While he played mostly 3B as a pro he proved his ability to play all over the field along with solid offensive skills. He got a couple of cups of coffee with the Jays in 2016 which turned out to be just the beginning of his baseball adventures.


Over the winter before the 2017 season Burns signed with the most popular team in the Korean League, the Lotte Giants. After two productive seasons in the KBO he’s now back with the Blue Jays having signed before the season as a minor league free agent. Now 28, and the second most senior hitter on the Buffalo Bisons squad, Burns has a rare perspective on the ongoing discussion of minor league pay rates, the Blue Jays leadership on increasing that pay (as well as other investments in the success of farm system players) along with the experience of going from minor league prospect to KBO star. Recently I ask him to discuss with me the insights he’s gained on his journey as a professional ballplayer here and abroad.



TR: Thanks for this, Andy. I want to set the stage by bringing up the larger conversation going on around MiLB at the moment. There's a lot of talk over the last couple of years about the gross inadequacy of the pay for minor league players, particularly given the Blue Jays decision to raise salaries across the board. In a lot of these conversations some fans argue that players do alright because they get nice signing bonuses but that, as you know, is actually rare. You were drafted in the 11th round by Toronto, were you one of the few who got more than the most basic signing bonus?


AB: I was an 11th rounder but I was fortunate to receive an above slot bonus. it was a solid amount of money but as a young man I wanted to do my best to live off the money I was making and try not to dip into my signing bonus. I was never scraping by as a player but I was also very conscious of how much money was coming in and how much was going out.


So I assume you have, or witnessed, some creative survival stories from your five plus years (the first time around) in the Blue Jays system?


I don't know if I personally had full blown survival stories, but I know a lot of my teammates through the years had much harder times than I did. I remember my first year in Lansing I decided I would spend the extra 150 dollars a month to have my own bedroom in a three bedroom, one bath apartment. We had up to five guys in that apartment at one point and while $150 a month doesn't sound like much, when your making $1200 before taxes $150 is a large chunk of that salary. You hear the stories of peanut butter sandwiches for dinner and such and those are real, I was just fortunate enough to not have to grind like that.


What did you do to supplement your baseball income during the off season?


in the off seasons I would always do some lessons to supplement income, but the real star was my wife. While we were struggling through the minor leagues she would always pick up an odd job in the season or offseason to help bring in money to pay for rent or food. She put her career on hold to allow me to follow my dreams, and be with me in the process and she always did what she could to help bring in money.


On the field you experienced the oft-discussed difficulty of making the transition to AA. Still, even though the on-base rate dropped, a player who could play all over the field with doubles power and usable speed on the basepaths who made it to AA by 23 was far from a disappointment. That earned you your first invitation to big league camp in 2014. What was that like?


As a kid you always dream of being a major league player and the first time you go to big league camp, not only do you have that moment where you realize you are getting close to your dreams but also there’s a little bit of that star struck moment. (Also) I feel like that first big league camp for a lot of players is a lot of figuring out how to do things the big league way and figuring out how to interact with major league players.


In 2016 you made your big league debut, but you only got as many as 2 plate appearance in the same game one time. I know that the excitement of being in the big leagues kind of trumps everything, but looking back did you feel some frustration that you didn't get more of a chance to prove you belonged?


To make my major league debut in 2016 and look around the clubhouse and see Donaldson, Bats, Tulo, Eddy, Pillar, Martin, Smoak and so on, and be a part of a team that went to the ALCS I am honored to have been there. That’s a tough lineup to crack so even to be apart of a big league roster like that I feel fortunate. Would it have been nice to get my feet wet a little more in the big leagues? Sure but to be a part of a team with that lineup I was fortunate to be there and the things I learned in my time there are priceless.


So jumping forward to the next off season, the official transaction says that the Bisons released you in the first days of 2017. I assume you ask for that release so you could sign with the Lotte Giants in Korea?


I was DFA'D in December and I had interest (from the Giants) to go over there a week later. It was one of the toughest decisions I had to make in my career but I had a lot of discussions with Toronto’s front office and the team in Korea was able to buy out my contract and I was released so I could sign in Korea.


What was that process like? Do players in your position tell their agents to explore a deal in Asia, or do those teams approach targeted players in the U.S. first?


I think a lot of players have interest to go overseas and make money so it’s more Korea and Japan that initiate conversation. As a position player there are only 10 of those jobs in the world, to be a position player in Korea, so the teams more so pick through their list to find their guy.


That status, knowing you were chosen for such a select group, must have been a tremendous confidence boost before you even took the field there?


I think it’s something you don’t realize until you’re over there to be honest. Once the season starts you look around the league and there are only 10 of you. Heading over there is so much unknown that you really have to take everything day by day and sometimes hour by hour but after awhile you get adjusted and things become normal.


The difference in the pittance that an average player makes in the minors over here and what the Giants ended up paying you must have been pretty breathtaking?


I think players become better players and learn a lot about themselves overseas but what drives them over there are the salaries. Few people know how much your able to make over there and once they hear they go “Ooooooo I get it now.” That though was probably one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in my life. I come off my first year in the big leagues and possibly have a chance the next year to get playing time there or provide for your wife and future family. Nobody dreams of growing up and going and playing in the KBO but at the end of the day there is a responsibility to make as much as you can in the short amount of time you have in the game and I'm very thankful the Blue Jays allowed me to pursue that and give me a chance to set my family up for financial stability in the future.


What was the Korean baseball experience like? On and off the field?


Playing in the KBO was one of the coolest environments that I've experienced. It’s the major leagues just in a different country. Korea is all about cheer songs and bat flips and until I show people what I'm talking about they don't really understand. I think an understated part of playing over there and why players have success when they come back is you go from wondering if you belong to (a situation where) you’re the guy. You’re the guy everyone looks at to get a big hit in front of 20k people when millions are watching on tv. You’re the person everyone recognizes when you go to Starbucks in the morning before the game and wants a picture. You're the person everyone blames when you lose a game. learning how to play with that in someone else's country makes you a much better player.


It sounds like you are a supporter of more expressive play in North America as well  (bat flips and such).


Honestly the bat flips are the finish to their swing. You’ll see guys bat flip singles it’s just how they’ve finished forever. But I feel like the cheer songs is something that really keeps the fans engaged and having fun. I think that environment brings more than just baseball fans to the park and they enjoy their experience.


So after two very productive seasons there, what motivated you to return?


As I said earlier there are only 10 of those jobs in the world so they are hard to keep. our team over there didn't win last year and when a team doesn't win over there the first place they look is foreign players and coaching staff. The team decided they wanted to go a different direction and I'm very thankful to be back here with Toronto. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and I know Toronto has a far better player than they did before I left.


Is it happenstance that you ended up back in the Blue Jays system or did either of you make a specific outreach to the other?


I couldn't be happier than to be back with Toronto. They have treated me so well thru my entire career. When I knew I was coming back to the US I reached out to my scout who drafted me Blake Crosby. I'm very comfortable here and have a lot of great relationships with people in the organization and we were able to get something done. I think they knew the player who they let go to Korea but I think they are continuing to find out the player who they have now.


Now you find yourself surrounded by high profile young prospects like Bichette, Biggio, Alford and - for a little while at least - Vladdy,  what's been your experience as the relative veteran teammate of such a heralded group? Do they look to you for clubhouse leadership? Was that part of what the Jays were buying when they brought you back?


The group of young payers we have coming up in our organization is extremely talented and it’s fun to go to work with them everyday. With that we have some older guys in our group headed by Sogard who's a great leader and a great player. I had a lot of older veterans help me when I was younger in Buffalo and teach me a lot about the game and I hope to be able to do the same for these guys. We have a great group of guys here in Buffalo and we are pushing each other today to get better.


Obviously, you're only 28. You probably wouldn't still be doing this if you didn't think you'll get another chance to prove yourself in the majors, but do you have ambitions in the game beyond whenever your playing days end?


I've really struggled with the question and I've only thrown around ideas. I truly believe the second I start thinking about a career after baseball that I've given up on my career in baseball. so have there been brief thoughts sure, but not serious thoughts. Do I think there is a chance that I'm a baseball lifer? Yes.


Finally, I want to circle back around to the pay issue. As a minor league free agent, the Blue Jays' choice to raise all the base rates presumably didn't directly affect your salary this year, but you are in a clubhouse and an organization that added very few such free agents last winter, so most of your teammates must be buzzing about it. Do they, or you, feel like this is (even though it is frankly still not enough pay for the work you guys put in) a real game changing choice for the organization in terms of perception of the team among minor leaguers, inside and outside the Toronto system?


The Blue Jays deciding to raise the minor league wages for its players is one of the coolest things I've seen an organization do. What they have invested in each and every player so they can get the most out of their ability both at the field and in their paychecks is astonishing. I think for a player to have a bedroom and money to eat during the season will make such a huge difference in player’s lives. I was very proud to be a part of this organization when I found out they were gonna do this.


Similarly to that, the current management team has had a great deal to say, and taken a lot of concrete steps, to move to the cutting edge of player development. Can you describe the difference you see in the way things are done now with, say, five years ago?


Well the fastest way to find out is walk into the lunch room now compared to four years ago. The minor league side is getting the quality of food they need to perform as much as the major league side which is amazing. I feel like the attention to detail in every players specific development is unmatched around baseball. The structures of workouts to every single players specific needs, and truly addressing the mental side of this game which is really hard to tap into. To look back at 2016 and see the early stages of where the organization wanted to go, to now close to fully executed, is really cool.


You can follow Tammy on Twitter @Tammy_Beth

Sheryl Ring: The Cubs, Laura Ricketts Fail to Show True Support for Queer Community + The Betsy Devos Connection

On Betsy DeVos, the Ricketts Family, and Why Representation Matters


The queer community, a longstanding pillar of the Chicagoland area and an integral part of the Second City’s history, has long been linked with the North Side’s venerable baseball team. Back in 1981, the Cubs’ AAA affiliate in Iowa was run by an openly gay part-owner and executive, Rich Eychaner. The team’s annual pride night, called “Out at Wrigley,” was started in 2001 and is Major League Baseball’s longest-running queer pride event. The Cubs have long had a float in the city’s annual pride parade. In short, there’s no way to separate the Cubs from the city’s queer history.

Or there wasn’t until relatively recently. In 2009, the Tribune Company sold the Cubs franchise and Wrigley Field to the ultra-conservative Ricketts Family, which for decades had been heavily involved in Republican politics. Joe Ricketts, the family patriarch, is the billionaire founder TD Ameritrade and bankroller of GOP presidential campaigns, including a million-dollar donation to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. He’s also the figure behind the family’s recent racist email scandal and a longtime holder of white nationalist views. Joe Ricketts have four children who hold equally odious views. Pete Ricketts is governor of Nebraska and an employer of white nationalist aides. Todd Ricketts is the national campaign chairman for Donald Trump. Tom Ricketts, who is chiefly in charge of the Cubs’ operations, recently partnered the team with Sinclair Broadcasting, a media conglomerate that requires that the television stations it owns run virulently homophobic and transphobic content, misogynistic drivel attacking victims of sexual assault, and pro-Trump pieces. As an example of the type of people Sinclair employs, its chief meteorologist is known for referring to trans people publicly as “things” and “its.”

Then there’s Laura Ricketts, Joe’s daughter.

Laura Ricketts, a former litigation attorney, co-owns the Cubs and is the first openly lesbian co-owner of a Major League Baseball team. On the surface, Laura seems refreshingly open to the queer community, despite her family: she’s a philanthropist for queer causes from Lambda Legal to Howard Brown. She fundraised for Barack Obama. At first, Laura’s influence seemed to keep the Cubs squarely in the center of the queer community; in 2011, for example, at her urging, the Cubs became just the second MLB team to join the “It Gets Better” project. But as time went on, it became clear that Laura had less and less influence into how the team was being run. For example, in 2018, the Cubs acquired second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was known as much for his bat as for his repeated homophobic comments about the gay “lifestyle.” Laura defended the trade after discussions with her brothers. But the team’s acquisition of an openly homophobic player caused massive backlash among the city’s queer population and the team’s sizable LGBTQ fanbase.

In one move, the team had gone from the heart of the city’s queer community to well outside it, and Laura Ricketts had taken the side of her homophobic family.


But the reality is that Chicago’s queer community should never have had faith in Laura Ricketts to preserve the Cubs’ ties to the LGBTQ community at all – not necessarily because she wasn’t up to the task, but rather because she was always a flawed messenger. Remember, Laura comes from a remarkably conservative, homophobic family. For some – even most – queer people, having a relationship with an intolerant family isn’t even possible. Laura’s privilege was her family’s money, and in order to accept that money she turned away from the worst excesses of her family regardless of whom they supported. And lest you think that this is just about politics, it’s not. You see, we learned all we needed to know about Laura Ricketts when she participated in the purchase of the Cubs.

Why? Because the Ricketts family, as odious as it is, isn’t the most homophobic or racist family involved. That distinction instead belongs to their minority partner in the Cubs ownership group, the Devos family. Yes, as in Betsy DeVos, secretary of education.

The DeVos family was known for its questionable morals long before Betsy sat before Congress and admitted to intentionally rolling back protections for trans students because of the data showing increased suicide rates for trans children. Family patriarch Richard DeVos, who made his money with AmWay, a multi-level marketing scam that was probably illegal, and he and Betsy, his daughter in law, spent it on homophobic causes. In the 20 years before the DeVos family purchased a stake in the Cubs, they donated more than six million dollars to organizations supporting conversion therapywith Betsy leading the way. She bankrolled efforts which she said would “confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God’s Kingdom, but not to stay in our own faith territory,” and compared queer people to pigs.

In 2015, most of this was already publicly known. But the Ricketts family sold about 10% of the team to the DeVos family to finance the renovations of Wrigley Field anyway, and gave them an advisory role with the team. Laura, it should be noted, said nothing publicly, and did nothing publicly, to oppose the sale. There are no reports that she did anything to oppose the sale privately either.

And if you still don’t believe me, remember this. Laura Ricketts is a queer woman who sits on the Board of the Chicago Cubs. And yet she said not a word when the Cubs traded for domestic abuser Aroldis Chapman. She again said nothing when the team tendered a contract to domestic abuser Addison Russell. And yet, she has no problem playing Kingmaker in Chicago politics. If she won’t stand up against domestic violence and institutionalized misogyny by her team despite being a woman, why are we expecting her to speak up on behalf of queer people because she’s queer? In fact, she’s doing the opposite: using her position to shield her bigoted family from criticism over decisions like the Murphy trade.


So for those people torn about whether the Cubs are still a queer-friendly organization, I would argue you have your answer already.

Laura Ricketts, whether intentionally or otherwise, has allowed herself to be tokenized as the friendly, female, queer face of an ownership group that is ardently and effectively campaigning for the elimination of queer people and the subjugation of women. As much as Laura Ricketts is a lesbian, she’s also rich and white – two privileges which many people in our community don’t have. And she’s using those privileges to the detriment of women and queer people alike.


Postcards From the Minor Leagues: Todd Van Steensel

This is the second installment of this series featuring pitcher Todd Van Steensel's life in the minor leagues. 

Hey Todd, what’s spring training like?


5:20am - “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy”. 

Is the sound of my Queen inspired alarm tone going off to wake me up for a normal day of Spring Training here in Arizona. I quickly jump in the shower and try and get out of the house by 5:40am. I opted not to stay in the team hotel during camp, instead living with a friend of mine and her husband in Scottsdale. So I get to enjoy a nice 35 minute drive to the field each morning! 

6:15am - “Good morning”

Is what I say to the attendant at the gate each morning as I walk into the facility. I casually make my way to the information board to see the schedule for the day and check if I’m pitching. On this particular day, I am pitching in an intersquad game at 1:00pm on Field Three at our complex. Now that I know what’s going on, I go get changed and head to the cafeteria to get some breakfast! If you don’t have to get treatment or workout, or have early work you get a lot of down time before stretch. So I usually just go back to my locker and relax until stretch time.

9:00am - “Behind the cones!”

Is what our strength and conditioning coach yells out just before we begin our stretch. A normal day on the field will consist of stretching, throwing, some sort of team defence. Could be working on your bunt plays, some PFP’s or 1st and 3rd plays. Once we get through all that, the pitchers go condition while the hitters get ready to take batting practise. The type of running you do changes from day to day, depending on when you pitch. Since I was throwing on this day, my conditioning was only 10 sprints to 30yds. Some would call this the easy day! 


11:00am - “Lets go eat”

Is what I say to myself once we get back in the clubhouse after spending the morning out on the field. The food here has been really good which is a huge improvement on what we used to eat in my first few years of pro baseball. Used to get half a subway sandwich, so it’s good to see that the food has gotten exponentially better! After lunch, you have time to do whatever you want before the game. 


1:00pm - “Play ball!”

Is the sound of the umpire getting the game underway on the back fields at the Peoria Sports Complex. Spring training baseball is unique in a way that the games “don’t count” and it’s more about players getting their work in. So, it’s not unusual to see an inning get “rolled” if a pitcher is struggling and can’t record three outs. Unfortunately for me, that has happened twice this spring training! You try not to look into it too much, because as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to focus more on the process than the results in the early stages of spring training and that you’re just figuring things out. A few years ago I would lose sleep over an inning getting rolled but nowadays I understand that everything will come together soon and I just need to get out on the mound more often. Also, one unique thing about spring training is that we know when we will pitch. So I threw the 7th inning in this game and it went quite well! Like I said, focus more on the process, and the process is coming along just fine and the results will follow. 


4:00pm - “Head to the weight room”

Is what the S&C coach tells you to do after we pitch, and we have to go workout. Now, I know anyone that knows me will laugh at the idea of me working out. I’ve never been good in the weight room, and have never really enjoyed it. But, it’s part of being an athlete so while I’m doing it, even though I’m not the strongest or the biggest guy, I’ll put in my best effort. I sometimes feel like a nuisance because I don’t know how to do certain lifts, but the S&C coaches here have been very patient with me and extremely helpful. So they definitely make it easier for me to enjoy working out when it’s not one of my most enjoyable activities! Once you’re done working out, you hit the showers, get dressed, check the schedule for tomorrow’s report time and get ready to leave.


5:00pm - “See ya, mate”

Is what I say to the gate attendant as I get to head back to my apartment for the day. A spring training day is quite a grind that’s for sure. But you know what you sign up for, and it’s all part of it.

As Spring Training was coming to a close, Van Steensel received some news. This is a continuation of his entry after that.-Editorial Note

“Thanks for your efforts”

I knew Monday was the day that they release players in camp, because Monday is the day they give us our $25 a day meal money for the week ahead. If they release you then they don’t have to give it to you. So I was prepared for it being a tough day at the ballpark for a few guys. Little did I know I was going to be one of those guys. 

I turned up to the ballpark around 6:00am, and just went about my business. Went to my locker and got changed and went to grab some breakfast. Once I was done I just went back to my locker to relax for a little while and was watching the news from back home in Australia on my iPad. 

One of the coaches then walked up to me at my locker and said “Hey, can we see you for a second in the office?”. Now I’ve been around long enough to know what that means, especially in Spring Training! So I followed him into the office where a few of the minor league coordinators were in. I took a seat while they all looked at me, then I was told “We’re going to release you this morning, we just don’t have a spot for you” and my response was “Okay”. They spoke a little more, saying a whole bunch of things, I basically zoned out because at that point you really don’t want to listen to what they have to say. They asked if I had any questions and I basically said “Nope”, shook their hands and walked out. 

I had a few things to take care of before I left. Had to head to the training room to do an exit physical, as well as meet with the travelling secretary to organise my travel. I did get a laugh out of it, because I was asked “Do you need a flight home? Or did you drive here?”. I wasn’t sure if that was a serious question! Because as you know, there isn’t a direct route from the US to Australia that I could drive home... yet! I told them to hold off on booking a flight home as I was planning on staying in the US a little longer to try and catch on with another team. 

Once I took care of all the formalities, I packed my bag, said goodbye to a few teammates that I got close to in the last few weeks and made my way out of there. I got there so early that I had my bag packed and was leaving while a few guys were still getting to the field that morning. So I actually may have been the first one there, and the first to leave! 

I began my drive home, and in the meantime my agent had been calling affiliated teams for me. I’m realistic, I understand how baseball works and know it is an extremely tough time to try and catch on with an affiliated club as they try to set their rosters for the season. But nonetheless he still was on the phone for me. While all this was happening, a few independent league teams were sending me messages asking if I’d be interested in playing with them. 

I got back to my apartment, took a moment to just sit down and relax before I returned some messages I received. Last year when the Twins released me, the St. Paul Saints who play in the American Association were aggressive in trying to sign me, but it just wasn’t a good fit at the time as there were only two weeks left of the season, so I opted against it. But still held onto their details. This time when St Paul called, it seemed like the perfect fit. Everyone I’ve spoken to about playing in St Paul said it’s one of the best places to play in “Indy Ball”, so after a few days I agreed to sign with them to continue my baseball journey in the US. 

Now, the hard part. I had to find a way to keep my arm in shape over the next month before I reported to spring training with the Saints on May 1st. Being in a city where I don’t know anyone this was going to be a problem. Luckily, a guy I played with the Padres wanted to help me out, and even after he spent all day at the field he said he would come play catch with me before he left for his affiliate. Once he left, it became a lot tougher! I played catch with my roommate here a couple of times, who hasn’t played competitive baseball since high school so I then went to the land of social media to send out a call to see if anyone could play catch with me. I had no luck early on, even contacted the local high schools and colleges asking if I could participate in practice but was told that it “was not permissible”. Eventually one guy got back to me, and we’ve been able to play catch and workout together for the last few days. One thing I’ve noticed about baseball players, is that they understand the struggle, and understand what it takes, so they’re always willing to help you out whenever you need it.

So as of now, I’m currently overstaying my visit with some friends in Scottsdale, playing catch with a guy I met on Facebook at a soccer field everyday, trying not to spend as little money as I can, and enjoying life as much as I can. 

I’m sure people are reading this going, you’ve been released four times? Why are doing this? Get the hint, no one wants you. But, I have reasons for why I do this. I have family and friends who have supported me for the last eleven years since I signed who have believed in me and never given up on me when I wanted to. And one day, I might have children who have this crazy dream, and I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye and tell them “follow your dreams” if I didn’t do it myself. We all have our “why”, and I know what mine are.


Stay tuned for the next installment of this four-part series next month. 

Follow Todd on Twitter @toddvs35