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

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-- https://www.gofundme.com/sheryl039s-transition-fund


Sheryl Ring's Baseball Talk: Lance Berkman's Transphobic Beliefs Forgotten with "Good Guy" Label


One of my favorite parts of the offseason is baseball Hall of Fame voting. There are the player profiles, like these from Jay Jaffe, that remind you of the great players of just a few years ago. There are the hot takes – so many hot takes – about who should be in and who shouldn’t. And if you’re at all like me, there’s the endless refreshing of Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame ballot tracker, watching childhood favorites like Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez grow closer and closer to induction.

But as I watched this past year’s Hall of Fame debate, I was struck by something. Each cycle, we discuss the meaning of the character and integrity clause on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

We talk about it, most often, in the context of performance enhancing drugs, when we debate the eligibility of players like Barry Bonds. For the first time this cycle, we started talking about the need to consider character and integrity to the context of the #MeToo movement, with players like Roger Clemens, who groomed Mindy McCready for a sexual relationship beginning when she was fifteen years old, and Andruw Jones, who threatened to choke his wife to death – and actually tried. We talked about the character and integrity clause when it comes to players like Curt Schilling, who has compared Muslims to Nazis and called for the lynching of journalists. But however you fall on the question of how to treat this sort of behavior in the context of the character and integrity clause, we at least talked about it. We started a conversation.

Not so with Lance Berkman.

Lance Berkman is one of the sport’s good guys. Or, at least, he’s supposed to be. Bleacher Report talked about how scandal-free he was when writing up his candidacy. Bloggers talked about how underrated he was as a player.


No one talked about the character and integrity clause when it came to Berkman. No one even mentioned it. I couldn’t find a single article from a major publication about whether Berkman satisfies the character and integrity clause.

Jay Jaffe, my colleague at Fangraphs who did his usual admirable job of presenting other candidates’ more egregious behavior, didn’t mention it. And why would they? Berkman’s one of the good guys, right?

Good guys don’t go on television to call trans women “troubled men.”


Yes, that is Lance Berkman in a 2015 major market political campaign ad opposing the rights of trans women to use women’s bathrooms. That’s him introducing himself by invoking his baseball bona fides. And yes, that is former Hall of Fame candidate Lance Berkman saying that trans women are nothing more than “troubled men.” You see, Houston, Texas had a proposed ordinance that would protect trans women from discrimination, particularly in bathrooms. And Berkman became heavily involved in opposing it. Not only that, though: Berkman didn’t just oppose the ordinance, he actively trumpeted the invalidity of trans people, particularly trans women.

"My wife and I have four daughters. Proposition 1 would allow troubled men who claim to be women to enter women’s bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms," said Lance Berkman.

And because that wasn’t enough, Berkman made a second video explaining his reasoning for doing the ad. This video:


And in that second video, “good guy” Lance Berkman, he who was so above reproach that the character and integrity clause was considered a mere formality in his Hall of Fame case, said this:

Who knows what the intent of that person might be. They truly might think they're a woman, which is a little strange to me. But they could be a child predator. They could be somebody that's in there who likes to look at women and just claims to be a woman. ... If we're going to go down to the zoo, I just want to be able to live life without having to have an extra thing to worry about when it comes to protecting my family. ... It's crazy. It makes me want to say... 'wake up, America!' And that's what I want to scream at people because, what are we doing here? We have the potential for men going into a woman's bathroom. The very few people that this could be slanted as discriminating against, is it worth putting the majority of our population at risk... to appease a very small minority of the population? I don't think so. I think it's crazy, and it's unbelievable that we're even talking about this. ... We have to try to rise up against this threat, and the only way we can do that is go and vote 'No' against Proposition 1.

Amazingly, Berkman wasn’t done yet. Those videos were turned into radio ads that blanketed the Houston metro area. Unsurprisingly given Berkman’s stature, the proposed ordinance went down in defeat. Berkman went on KTRH 740 AM to talk about how he was the victim of “digital persecution,” and that “I felt that I had an obligation to stand for what is right.” And then came this:

"To me tolerance is the virtue that’s killing this country. We’re tolerant of everything. You know, everything is okay, and as long as you want to do it and as long as it feels good to you then it’s perfectly acceptable do it. Those are the kinds of things that lead you down a slippery slope, and you’ll get in trouble in a hurry," said Berkman

And still, after months of being the face of a political campaign that successfully demonized an entire already-oppressed community, Berkman still wasn’t done. He then gave an interview to Craig Calcaterra, doubling down yet again on his hatred of the trans community.

"It’s not an easy topic. You’re taking their word for it, saying that’s the way they’re born," Berkman explained. "The issue is, what to do about a 15 or 16-year-old boy who thinks he’s a girl and wants to shower with the girls? Maybe he is [transgender], maybe he’s confused. But I wouldn’t want him in the shower with my daughters. We shouldn’t have the rights of 2% of the population trump the rights of the other 98%. Is it a mental choice? I don’t know. But it’s a Pandora’s Box."

So in the span of four months, Lance Berkman said trans women were “troubled men,” accused the entire community of being predators, said tolerance was killing the United States, implied trans people are lying about their gender, called being trans a “mental choice,” and said that trans people aren’t entitled to legal protections because we’re so small a population.

This was just four years ago. And yet, despite how high-profile that campaign was, despite the fact that Berkman’s campaign ads are still up on Youtube . . . the entire affair was completely forgotten. The Cardinals even honored Berkman for his faith on “Christian Day” in 2017, despite protests from the queer community. Since then, in mainstream media and culture, Berkman’s rols as the face of a movement inciting hate and violence towards an entire marginalized community was completely ignored and forgotten.

But that matters. Or, at least, it should matter. In an era where we rightly talk about whether or not statutory rape and domestic violence should keep someone out of the Hall of Fame, trans rights are not less important. Nor is this issue mooted by the fact that Berkman didn’t get in anyway. Berkman didn’t get into the Hall of Fame because of a crowded ballot, not because of his comments on trans people. In fact, those comments were completely ignored at best, and celebrated at worst. If Berkman had been elected, no one would have batted an eye.

You can follow Sheryl on Twitter @Ring_Sheryl

Lexington Legends Emma Tiedemann And The Play by Play of A Broadcasting Life

By RoseAnn Sapia



It was a championship clinching game and Emma Tiedemann was in the booth.

It’s the thing dreams are made of, and Tiedemann got to experience it in her first season with the Lexington Legends.

“I was freaking out internally, but more calm on the broadcast”, says Tiedemann remembering that surreal moment when the Legends recorded the final out.  

The winning run was in scoring position at second base, and the infield convened for a meeting at the pitcher's mound. One more out to seal the second Championship in franchise history in the season which the team made history.

“It was an incredible series with drama; a back and forth with the BlueClaws.”

The final call: “...left side. Picked up by Diaz. Tags third base. LEGENDS HAVE DONE IT!" 


2019 SAL Championship Call



The 2018 season garnered a lot of attention for the Lexington Legends, the Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, with plenty of buzz before the season began. The team named Emma Tiedemann new Director of Broadcast and Media Relations in early March, making her only the second female play-by-play broadcaster in Minor League Baseball history, and the first in the South Atlantic League. This season, she’ll be one of six women in the booth in the minor leagues.

With a change in personnel, Tiedemann is entering 2019 with a renewed focus. “We have a lot of arms this year in Lex. As a broadcaster, I’ll be focusing more on pitches, grips, and arm slots”, says Tiedemann.

The Mizzou alum will have the opportunity to focus more on the technical side of the game this season. Since she’s alone in the booth, she won’t have someone to bounce off of like a former pitcher who would have a lot of knowledge from pitching experience. Because of that, Tiedemann is ready to expand as a broadcaster. 

Although just her second year in Lexington, Tiedemann has been calling games since high school. Her journey started when her grandfather, Bill Mercer, invited her to assist him on the call of a women’s basketball game for the University of Texas at Dallas. She was just 15 years old.

“I knew I wanted to do play-by-play since 2010, but thought I’d want a network or college or university”, recounts Tiedemann who’s niche really surfaced when she took a broadcasting gig with the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaska Baseball League, a summer league for college players.

Tiedemann served as play-by-play and color analyst for the Miners in 2014. “Once I was in Alaska and got to work day-in and day-out at the ballpark, I fell in love with it”, she says.

Her broadcasting career led her to several teams in several leagues, allowing her to gain experience at varying levels. She spent two years as the Broadcast and Communications Manager for the Medford Rogues of the Summer Collegiate League, and one as the number-two broadcaster with the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association, all leading up to her current role with the Lexington Legends, the Class-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. 

There’s something special about each of these leagues, and Tiedemann got an up-close look at what makes each unique. The game may stay the same, but the men who play it are quite different.

“I spent my first three years in Summer Collegiate League which was college guys trying to make that transition from aluminum to wooden bats”, Tiedemann shares. “There’s coaches from different backgrounds with different attitudes, and all the players have that sparkle in their eye hoping for that standout season”, she continues, mentioning that the guys playing in the Collegiate League are the ones hoping to draw interest from MLB scouts.

Then there's the Independent League, the fringey sibling of the minor leagues, who's gaining importance to MLB. “A lot of guys finishing their careers that want to play the game they love, and some that hope to get a call to the Bigs”, Tiedemann says. The men playing Independent League baseball are filled with passion for the game, and that had a huge impact on Tiedemann’s perspective.

According to Tiedemann, the Saints had one of the best office cultures. “Their slogan was ‘Fun is Good’ and I’ve carried that with me”, she shares, “That’s how I approach my work”. She took that attitude with her when she joined the Legends last season.

Now entering her second year in Minor League Baseball, Tiedemann has enjoyed the opportunity to get creative and have fun in the booth, noting that if she “botches” a play, she’s able to laugh it off and make a joke while on the call. “I apologize and tell them what happened, but I’m more relaxed and okay with things going wrong”, she says.

One of the unique parts about working with a Minor League club is that Major League teams are always watching. “The Royals and the visiting clubs are all paying attention to you”, Tiedemann remarks, adding that it’s important to remain professional as a broadcaster while having fun.

Although there are differences between the Collegiate, Independent, and Minor Leagues, there is one thing that has remained a constant during Tiedemann’s tenure with each. “I’ve actually called a Championship Series in my first year with every team”, she shares. However, she was on the losing end of each series until last season when the Legends won it all.

“I had former bosses reaching out, they were jealous”, Tiedemann says, then laughs, “Karma’s gonna get me and this’ll be my only Championship”.



A lot of work goes into being the Director of Broadcast and Media Relations for the Lexington Legends. The job doesn’t end with being the voice of the team.

Along with calling every home game, Tiedemann is in charge of writing press releases, game notes, and stat packs. She’s responsible for tracking and documenting roster moves, and oversees the happenings in the Press Box and AV Room. The team of 10-15 people she manages includes everyone from the PA Announcer to those working the cameras, and the in-stadium DJ.

“I absolutely love it, it’s a dream job”, gushed Tiedemann. “It’s long hours, but I can’t wait to go back every day.”

Since there’s always so much to do in her role, her job doesn’t end when she leaves the ballpark. To put it into perspective, Tiedemann shares that her play-by-play prep is done after hours.

“I take each player from every team and do a Google search looking for stats and streaks, and then I go to Google News”, says Tiedemann, “I do five to seven hours of research for every team”. She then puts all the information she collects into a binder she created that has a page dedicated to every player. She goes back to the binder each time a player does something notable to ensure her notes are up to date.

This is all done in an effort to “paint pictures more than numbers”. Tiedemann considers her style of broadcast to be more human than others, and she clearly puts a lot of work into making sure she accomplishes just that.




There are bus rides, and they are long.

“Travel took a lot of getting used to”, Tiedemann admits, when thinking of the way she’s managed traveling throughout her career. In the leagues she’s worked, bus trips at random times of the day and night become part of the lifestyle. However, the ten-year broadcasting vet does have a system to help navigate traveling.

When traveling through the night, Tiedemann makes sure to be actively preparing during the day. When traveling during the day, she turns to Netflix. “I have watched more True Crime Docs than anything," she says humorously. 

But every long trip does come to an end, which gives her something to look forward to. She explains that you're either at a new destination or finally back home, but says that one just gets used to that hectic pace.

“I didn’t really have an off day”, Tiedemann shares about her schedule this past season. In that rare occasion when she does have a day to herself, however, she likes to spend it relaxing.

“I try to catch up on sleep, but that internal clock goes off”, she says, adding that more than anything, she stays away from social media and her phone, and gets outside whenever she has free time. “Grab a cool beverage and find a nice pool and sit outside” is how she describes her ideal day off.

When the season ends, her schedule quickly goes from about six months of nonstop baseball to no baseball at all. That’s when she becomes a lot like the players she's watching all season. Winter jobs are necessary. 

“I have a lot of random jobs during the off-season."

She spent a lot of this past off-season driving around Lexington, Kentucky as an Amazon Delivery Driver and Lyft Driver. Both jobs helped her pay rent, and allowed her to meet the people of Lexington. Driving jobs functioned as a way for her to further immerse herself into the community, creating a deeper connection with her neighbors outside of the ballpark.

Her non-baseball work didn’t end there. In October, she was named the play-by-play voice of Morehead State University’s women’s basketball team, becoming the first woman to hold the position in university history.  

This gig allowed Tiedemann to get back to her roots of calling basketball games, just as she had done back in high school. She got to travel with the team, in what she described as a dream set-up.

“It was the best off-season I could’ve asked for.”



Rain is falling at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. The tarp has to come onto the field. In the booth, Emma Tiedemann sends her listeners to break, then sprints down to the field to help with the tarp pull. A daunting task that she's game for.

Once the tarp is on the field, she heads back up to the Press Box. She recalls all the rain delays from last season that she spent watching the AV team try to keep the fans entertained. She remembers one particular instance when the On-Field Host brought all the kids out for a rain delay dance party.

Rain delays are when she can really take it all in. She might not be on the field dancing, but she's living out a life she loves. And, in the process, has established a place in the baseball history books. 


Follow Emma on Twitter @emmatieds.


RoseAnn Sapia is a Features Writer and the Co-Editor of Lifer for All Heels on Deck. She's an East Coast girl. Follow RoseAnn on Twitter to discuss all things baseball (basketball, too) @_RoseAnnSapia.

Picture it, Phillies, 1946: The Remarkable Life of Edith Houghton, First Full-time Female Scout

Hard as it is now, Houghton joined a boys club when it was damn near impossible.

By Jason Love

The Philadelphia 76ers made national news recently with the hiring of Lindsey Harding as a full-time scout. The former WNBA and Duke University basketball star became just the second full-time female scout in NBA history. Harding’s hiring is reminiscent of another female pioneer who made history with a different Philadelphia professional sports team over 70 years ago. 


The Philadelphia Phillies hired Edith Houghton as a full-time scout in 1946. Houghton who grew up in North Philadelphia (the same neighborhood where WNBA star and Olympic gold-medalist Dawn Staley would hone her basketball skills years later) across the street from a baseball diamond. Bob Carpenter, the Phillies owner, decided to hire Houghton after she met with him and General Manger Herb Pennock. 

Houghton became the first full-time female scout working solo in Major League Baseball history. Bessie Largent was previously employed by the Chicago White Sox in the 1920s through the early 1940s scouting players. However, she worked alongside her husband Roy who was a full-time scout for the team. Bessie assisted Roy as they worked in tandem. 

Born in 1912 Houghton played for the Philadelphia Bobbies, an all-girl baseball team. The Bobbies pre-dated the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). The AAGPBL started in the 1940s and was the inspiration for the film A League of Their Own starring Geena Davis and Tom Hanks.  Houghton, the youngest player on the Bobbies, toured the United States and even Japan playing baseball throughout the 1920s. Known as “The Kid” she primarily played shortstop and was a student of the game. 

Established in 1883 the Phillies have never been known as a progressive team. The Phillies were the last team in the National League to integrate. Philadelphia was also one of the last teams to introduce analytics to their game plan. With the exceptions of their recent hiring of Gabe Kalpler and Matt Klentak, the Phillies are an old-school organization rooted in tradition. The hiring of Houghton was a bold move by the Phillies at the time. There is some debate as to why Carpenter took a chance on Houghton. Was he impressed with her knowledge of the game? The team had struggled for many years (decades even!) and some say he had nothing to lose with adding Houghton as a scout. He decided to take a gamble on the young woman with an incredible amount of baseball knowledge.  


How did a young woman from North Philadelphia end up working for the Phillies? Houghton served in the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services) during WW II. After the war and needing a job, she simply asked to meet with the ownership. At this time the Phillies played at Shibe Park (later named Connie Mack Stadium) at 21st and Lehigh not far from her home. Growing up in the area, many people within the sport were familiar with the young baseball prodigy. Her persistence paid off, and she was brought in for the interview. 

After being hired, Houghton worked for the Phillies from 1946 – 1951. The region she covered was the Greater-Philadelphia area and South Jersey. Houghton signed more than a dozen players during her time with the Phillies although none ever made it to the majors. Since she was still in the Navy Reserves, she was called back to service during the Korean War. Once her service ended Houghton decided to move on from baseball. 

Many years passed since Houghton’s time with the Phillies before baseball saw another female scout working on a full-time basis. The Seattle Mariners hired Amanda Hopkins as a scout in 2016. She is currently in her third year working for the Mariners. Nathan Bannister is a pitcher Hopkins scouted who was drafted by Seattle. Bannister is playing for the Arkansas Travelers in the Mariners minor league system. 

In addition to the Mariners, other women are now working with MLB teams. The Oakland Athletics hired Haley Alvarez as a scouting coordinator. A few years back the A’s also hired Justine Siegal to work for the organization as a guest instructor with their younger players. Astrid DeGruchy worked on a part-time basis scouting for the San Diego Padres. Kim Ng holds a vice-president position within Major League Baseball’s executive offices. Women are making inroads into many different upper-level positions within professional baseball. 

Baseball had a female general manager on the minor league side of the equation a few years ago. Lindsay Rosenberg worked her way up within the Camden Riversharks organization until being named GM in 2015. The Riversharks were an independent team playing in the Atlantic League. Unfortunately, the Riversharks ran into difficulty with their lease at Campbell’s Field and the team folded after the 2015 season.

It is feasible that in a few years a woman will be a general manager for a major league team. Returning to Houghton, after leaving the Phillies she lived a relatively quiet life. Houghton ended up moving to Sarasota, Florida where she passed away in 2013 at 100 years of age. She is buried in Northwood Cemetery in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. It is fitting she is buried alongside professional baseball players such as Kid Gleason, Duke Esper and George Bradley. The Baseball Hall of Fame also has a display about her inspirational story. From growing up in North Philadelphia to playing baseball throughout the United States to visiting Japan to having her story told in Cooperstown, Edith Houghton lived a remarkable life. 





The Feminist, Celebratory, Unapologetic Victory of G.L.O.W.

'G.L.O.W.' Gives Women A Ringside Seat To a Feminist Uprising

By Jessica Quiroli

I can’t look away from Debbie Egan’s face.

The hold her every expression of pain, unhinged humor, desperation, heartache has on me is transcendentally powerful.

And in this moment, the final minutes of Season 2 of the Netflix original series “G.L.O.W.”’ she’s holding me so still that the only sensation I feel is my throat tightening, and a vague shakiness.

For that moment, standing before her ex-husband, Mark (Rich Sommer), and her infant son, Randy--Look. At. Her. Face.

Betty Gilpin is a brilliant revelation not just in that pivotal moment. She experiences so many different and complex emotions and situations, and plays them all to the hilt. Her utter embodiment of a woman on the verge makes taking my eyes off of her impossible. I felt her performance in my bones.

Every woman in the cast creates a unique energy. Each character carries a weight, expresses a desire to achieve, and represents something within each one of us, or, at least, someone we’re familiar with. Ruth, played pitch perfect by Alison Brie, stars as the central character who also offsets multiple key storylines. Her character is a mess, but knows it. She’s smart, but not particularly savvy, something she develops as time goes on when she's forced to up her game. She’s also the estranged best friend of Debbie--estranged due to extraordinary betrayals.

The dynamics between the two women is chemistry personified. Not only are they entirely different people, and opposites in how they live their lives, they’re also at constant personal odds over real-life pain. Lucky for viewers, and fictional fans in the seats, they bring that to their rivalry in the ring.

But, digging deeper, they represent an archetype. Debbie, the good wife and mother sacrifices a successful acting career, and her ambitions, in order to stay in her suburban home with Randy. Ruth’s single and struggling to find success in her career. She’s disconnected, uncertain, but ambitious and passionate, while battling wounding insecurities that lead to self-destructive actions.

The Netflix original series is set in the 80’s, but these women are as real and current today as in the era  of big hair. In the age of the #MeToo movement, they feel urgently necessary.

There are direct forms of sexual politics and harassment, such as Ruth’s private meeting with an exec who wants a sexual encounter, and, perhaps, if she cooperates, there’s a possibility that could facilitate the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling surviving. Women’s experiences as easily abused sexual objects, overpowered throughout industries big and small are weaved into the fabric of every episode and, of course, the entire premise. The women in the ring didn’t choose GLOW, it chose them. But, eventually, a bond forms even between the most unlikely of sisters. That camaraderie is so much the essence of female kinship and solidarity, whether personal or professional, or both. What these women get isn’t what they showed up for. But, as is so common, women begin to unravel, reveal and fight in ways brand new to them. 

There are important characters across the board: richly drawn with emotional depth and nuance. Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) is the leader the team needs: athletic, an experienced stunt woman, vocal, passionate and sharply instinctual. Her marriage to referee/actor Keith (Bashir Salahuddin) shows a healthy relationship between an African American couple, something television needs much more, and that includes all communities of color. Tamme, Welfare Queen in the ring, is superbly, poignantly portrayed by real-life wrestler Kia Stevens. While diversity is often discussed and not executed, the series will hopefully continue showcasing their talents, and increase their screen time. With creators Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive serving as executive producers, along with Jenji Kohan (Weeds, Orange is the New Black) and Tara Herrmann, the possibilities for the women of G.L.O.W. seem endless. 

Let's talk about Marc Maron. As Sam Sylvia, he plays G.L.O.W.'s weathered director. His behaviors are sometimes sexist, but there’s some unraveling here, too. His attitude toward Ruth as a director, or Debbie as a producer is barely camouflaged insecurity that pulsates through his face and voice in every scene. And he’s honest in many moments about that, privately, outwardly and in ways that require some old fashioned women’s emotional labor in order to recognize the subtext. We can’t praise him for his treatment of Ruth and Debbie as enthusiastic creative partners. We can, however, recognize that he’s not trying to abuse anyone, even as his inclinations are hurtful; and he’s as complex as the women he’s working with. Is Ruth a hero? Is Debbie? Both women hurt each other, manipulate, tear down, judge and play power games. In male-speak, that’s being a cutthroat business man. When you peel the emotional layers of Sam, Debbie and Ruth, you don’t see hateful, selfish, immoral people. You’re looking in the face of desperation, desire, loss of self, unspoken or unrealized love, and hopefulness. It’s easy to be equally angry or disappointed in them, as you simultaneously root for them, cry for them and laugh at the moments they surrender to their emotional nuttiness, no longer hiding their cracks.

Finally, there’s a larger theme here that cuts deep, making G.L.O.W. even more timely.

Just as this retro sports show has exploded in popularity and honors (TEN Emmy nominations!), women’s sports is emerging on a bigger stage, but, more than that, women are fighting more publicly, and with tremendous support. Serena Williams came under attack by the French Tennis Federation for a bodysuit she wore to compete. The suit, designed to help her with postpartum blood clots, wasn’t the final word. She wore a tutu the next two times she took the court, sending a message, with acid humor, that you can’t control women’s bodies without a defiant act, and a ton of outrage across social media. The WNBA has been fighting for equality in pay and coverage, and, the most powerful moment in recent sports history happened when USA Olympic gymnasts came forward as sexual abuse survivors, outing former coach Larry Nassar for years of harm. These moments change the guard. Creators of television and film would be wise to commit to reflecting that in their art.

I imagine a day in the fictional G.L.O.W. universe, when Debbie and Ruth stand on a stage being honored for their contributions as women and performers. I envision them speaking publicly and forcefully about the need to take power from the sexist monsters who attempted to or actually did assault them, and so many other women, while stealing their dreams with no consequences. The subplots that touch on these charged issues of sexual objectification and powerlessness are retro AND current. Big hair and spandex have changed. Other things don’t.

This is our time. And G.L.O.W. fits right in. 


Special Report: "Chyna," WWE's Cautionary Tale, Had Big Impact on LGBTQ Youth

Why has the WWE taken so long to honor Joanie Laurer's popular alter ego?

By Em Burfitt

The end of Joanie Laurer’s story is far too common. The perils of an addictive personality mixed with a cavernous need to be loved inside of anyone can be damaging. Why should the Ninth Wonder of the World be any different? 

As a kid in the 90’s, the WWE—then the WWF—was everything. More in, as a girl in the 90’s who was wild about it, there was nobody greater to watch than Chyna. Lying in a bath of bubbles around Summerslam may have taught me the meaning of “viewer discretion”, but I was never particularly advised.

I stopped watching wrestling around the time that the WWE let Chyna go, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Rumors swirled around the wrestling forums I used to lurk, where we’d each have terribly pieced together banners of our favorite wrestlers done in Paint. For years, the circumstances over her no longer appearing in the squared circle was because of the love affair between Paul Levesque—known as Triple H—and Stephanie McMahon, the boss’s daughter. Equally, for years, that tale was canon.

Turns out, according to Jim Ross, she’d bitten the hands that fed her by asking for more money than the company could handle for one superstar. This explains why she was let go, but as for being left out of the Hall of Fame when the stars already in its annals are, arguably, just as screwed up. Arguing to separate the art from the artist can only go so far, but Joanie certainly never killed anyone. 

Even though I stopped watching years ago, I still kept quite a bit of the memorabilia I’d amassed over the years. There’s a cover of RAW magazine with Chyna on the cover; on it, she’s holding up a metal globe on a background of stars. The last time I rifled through this box was right after she’d died. Another thing I hadn’t realized was that, in the time between when I’d been a teenage obsessive and that moment, this iconic woman many of us had looked up to had fallen on the wrong side of the tracks.

At the root of it all, Jim Ross said that she just wanted to be loved. Who can’t relate to that?

When I began reading more into Joanie’s post-WWE life, it was a mix of feeling empathy for her, and wonder. A wonder of how the same woman who pinned Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship received more flack for doing porn than she did praise for the entire legacy she’d left in the wrestling world. There was a feeling of disconnect. 

In an interview with Broadly, Joanie’s mother Jan LaQue, said that she’d advised her daughter not to go back to California. She told her to get away from the “Chyna” persona, and to just be her. After 30 years of not speaking as the result of a tumultuous decade that ultimately led to Joanie leaving home to live with her father, they’d been exchanging emails in the years preceding her last. In the course of the emails, LaQue thought her daughter wanted to escape the persona and return to who she was. 

I bring this up because, as a wrestling fan in my teens, the superstars were who they were on television. Despite relentless searches on dial up internet connections about wrestlers’ real names, Chris Jericho was Chris Jericho, Kane was Kane (and given his current political standings, if only that were still the case), and Chyna was Chyna. So if Joanie was Chyna to many of us who idolized her, then presumably, that was the path to being loved. And those of us who loved her or not, should know how solid her standing should be in the legacy of the WWE: the Hall of Fame.

Something I also remember from the wrestling days was a barrage of comments about how “Chyna is a man!” or “Chyna is a lesbian!” I’m a queer kid from a tiny town, so there was always an interesting level of what I like to call Whatthef-kery going on there. If being muscular means you’re “a man” or a “lesbian”, aren’t both of those terms, directed at a woman, meant as an insult? Statements like that not only affected Laurer—a woman who wanted to be seen as sexy and feminine—but gay kids like me who heard we weren’t “good enough” either. And, unfortunately, even after the WWE, these insults towards Joanie herself only increased after her sex tape with Sean “X-Pac” Waltman.

On that same note, is a sex tape really that much of a big deal?

In the PG-rated world of wrestling—all holds barred matches and playing with nails is fine—apparently, yes. 

But even if the first of many sex tapes didn’t exist, would Chyna have been inducted into the Hall of Fame? 

In the November 2000 issue of Raw magazine, which is both the one I mentioned earlier and also has an article about Chris Benoit, there’s an exclusive “sneak peek” into Chyna’s Playboy shoot. In the sneak peek, Laurer talks to the magazine about how she hopes the shoot will be inspiring. She says that from a Joanie Laurer standpoint, “There’s a lot of bodies that are not shown because they’re not the norm.” Later, she asserts that she can be bigger and stronger and still beautiful, regardless of outsider voices. “The great thing to me is that I can show [who I really am] in all of those aspects.” Maybe her personal downfall that would happen just a couple of years later came from not getting to be who she was at the same time as being part of her wrestling family.

I reached out via email to an incredible entertainment writer who might be one of the best voices on the topic of wrestling, LaToya Ferguson. I wanted another woman’s view on what happened with Joanie, as I navigate this strange world I was once so familiar with, from the outside, it’s often difficult to split what happened in the ring from what happened in reality. As the author of an in-the-works book on women’s wrestling—covering both sides of the McMahon/Levesque/Laurer divide—she was certainly the right person to ask.

In doing this, my internal search for reasoning behind wanting to know more ended up taking a different path to the same argument: Chyna should be in the WWE Hall of Fame. She should have been long before she lost the cage match to addiction. However many people out there say she wasn’t a good wrestler, I’d put my left foot on the line in saying there’s three times the number of people who say and think otherwise. I’m one of them.

Chyna should be in the Hall of Fame for a legion of reasons, but now, in ways, I understand there were things she did that destroyed the chance. Or liabilities that, when under the influence of who knows how many substances, she might. LaToya said it best via email, that there was always going to be a chance she’d go off script and maybe if she’d have gotten fully clean and apologized, just maybe, she’d have gotten back into the fold. Unfortunately, it sounds like there were other forces at work. When you’re surrounded by demons, it’s often difficult to see the lighthouse through the storm. And see who’s good for you, and who’s bad.

I’m 13 when I see Chyna enter the Royal Rumble. The first woman ever to do so. We only had video tapes of matches, so as far as we knew, the Corporate Rumble and Raw didn’t exist. I’m sure they’d mentioned her taking part on a title card at some point, but none of those stick. Entrances, on the other hand, were everything. Each entrance was a surprise to us, and at 30, when Chyna appeared, I was suddenly aware that girls could do anything. 

Despite the personal and professional differences between Joanie Laurer and Vince McMahon, with all of the private goings on put to one side, there’s simply no excuse strong enough to leave the Ninth Wonder of the World out of the Hall of Fame. This is a Hall of Fame that have lobbyists who want to see Benoit inducted, and unless the gender divide is bigger than I imagined, I’d say murder-suicide is worse than revenge porn ten years later. But even Benoit aside, the hall is full of wrestlers and celebrities, men and women, with their pasts just as dark as Laurer’s. 

Tammy Lynn “Sunny” Michaels was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011; since then, she’s been arrested various times and has also starred in her own adult film. She’s still in the Hall of Fame. Rightfully. For the 186 individual inductees in the Hall of Fame—including embarrassments in the “celebrity” ring such as Donald Trump, Pete Rose, and Kid Rock—there are 16 women. That’s across individual and legacy inductions. 

The Fabulous Moolah, whose brutal pimping ways have come to light in the last few years, was inducted in 1995. Not only did WWE not take her out of the Hall of Fame, they also nearly named a Battle Royal after her, only reconsidering after fans had made their ire known. Hulk Hogan, arguably the WWE’s most famous wrestler of all time, was involved in a scandal that included not only a sex tape, but a racist rant that meant it wasn’t just his mini-Hogan caught on tape. (You can find out more about this in the Gawker vs. Hulk Hogan Netflix documentary and sports journalist Dave Dyer’s column, about the WWE Hall of Fame’s hypocrisy). 

For those who don’t know, in short, Hogan received a suspension from the Hall of Fame after the scandal. Great, in ways, but what about 2014-inductee Scott Hall’s multiple arrests for domestic abuse and drunk and disorderly actions? Or Steve Austin’s spousal abuse? “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka allegedly killed his mistress in the early 80s, and granted, WWE pulled him out of the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t explain the countless superstars that have had the same kind of problems as Joanie had. What is it that makes her different?

If Hogan was making the WWE so much money via merchandise that he got reinstated because of his legacy, how about the legacy of Chyna?

In an interview with Jim Ross, Stacy Carter—who was once, as Miss Kitty/The Kat, Chyna’s manager and also one of her good friends while they were in the company—said that they didn’t talk a lot after Joanie left the WWE. Carter left, too, remarking to Ross that it was getting away from the wrestling world that saved her, but in the case of Laurer, the comfort and stardom of being a WWE superstar was, ultimately, what she craved. She also remarked on how much Joanie’s personality changed with the drugs. Like she was barely the person she knew anymore. Also, that she shouldn’t have gone back to LA so soon. (Statements that were echoed by Laurer’s sister, Kathy).

At the Judgment Day Pay-Per-View in 2001, Laurer had her last match as Chyna against Lita. Chyna would continue to hold the women’s championship for months after she’d left the WWE, but that match was the start of the women’s division being taken seriously. And when Chyna took Lita’s hand and raised it up over the ring, even not knowing we’d never see the Ninth Wonder of the World the same again, it felt like there was a shift. It breaks my heart, as a fan, that she was so deeply affected by circumstances that she’d never get to experience that thrill again.

Joanie Laurer had a difficult life. In the WWE, she found acceptance, family, and love. These are the kinds of purity that drugs take away. They don’t mesh with alcohol or meth or coke or steroids. But it’s those drugs that take away the pain. If people she knew and who knew her and loved her didn’t recognize her by the end, then we have to ask whether who she was around was a good influence. After reading the Broadly article, I’m even inclined to ask whether she knew that the WWE offered her their rehabilitation program or not. Did she know? Or were there voices that spoke for her?

After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

Chyna was a force to be reckoned with. But it’s with Laurer that her legacy lies. It was Laurer who brought a force to the ring so powerful for kids like me and thousands of others. It was Laurer who was unapologetically strong, who did dozens of things in the then-federation for the first time. She had problems, she made stupid decisions, she said and did stupid things—but why should that take away her legacy when it didn’t the countless others?

WWE will induct Chyna into the Hall of Fame eventually. I hope.

It just should’ve happened a long time ago. 

Because she was the Ninth Wonder of the World, but more importantly, she was human.




Thank you to LaToya Ferguson and Dave Dyer for your wise words and knowledge.


Skirting The Issue: Reflecting on the 2011 MLB Dress Code, Post #MeToo

By Jessica Quiroli


For all the things that have changed in America in recent years, sports media hasn't changed much. Women’s presence in the industry is still a thing. We continue to be judged on what we do, our looks, our manner and certainly how we dress. 


In the age of #MeToo, though, a changing of the guard can be seen. Sports media hasn't yet had its defining moment in the movement, but issues are being discussed more openly, and that's incredibly important. 


Sexist behaviors and attitudes are being analyzed on a whole new level, although it can be argued that women in media have been discussing those behaviors and attitudes for years. We did so privately, fearfully and, at times, self-loathingly, questioning how we might have contributed to our own abuse because, for so long, we were told we were responsible in some way for men’s actions. Athletes were largely given a free pass.


Abuse of women sports reporters became a national topic in 2008 when Erin Andrews, then with ESPN, was stalked and sexually assaulted, via peephole, by a man who filmed her naked in her hotel room before an assignment. Since then, organizations such as the Association of Women in Sports Media, as well as social media, have created more opportunities for women in sports to network, increase their profile, connect emotionally with other women in similar situations and, crucially, to finally be heard by the masses.


Now, when we talk on Twitter or Facebook, or on sports panels (though those still lack a strong female presence) about our experiences, we’re no longer screaming into a void. We’re connecting. We’re having more of an impact.


* * * 


Six years ago, Major League Baseball implemented a media dress code. The action sparked a long-overdue conversation about sexist attitudes toward women in sports media. It also created confusion and a large amount of outrage. 


Male reporters were directed not to wear flip-flops for "health reasons," per trainers consulted, but female media members were barred from wearing shorts skirts and halter tops. Surely those bans were not instituted for "health reasons." 


Now that we’re in the age of #MeToo, when increasing numbers of women — and men — are stepping forward to report sexual trauma and harassment, those distinctions take on a new meaning — or maybe we women are just being more honest in our reactions to how we are policed. 


A workplace dress code isn’t a problem, per se, but in the context of professional sports, the message it transmits can be. MLB’s dress code failed to resolve ongoing issues for women in media. The ban on short skirts felt particularly insulting: Were we expected to measure the length? Who would be observing us, and who would be deciding whether the skirt was to MLB's liking? Women, it seemed, were being directed to be good girls while men were given light-hearted directives. 


Jane McManus wrote about the double standards at the time for espnW: 


"Look at it from one woman's point of view. She saw a player drop his towel right in front of her like an aggressive dare, but didn't want to report it to MLB. Like a lot of young women, she feared that reporting the incident would make her a pariah in the locker room and destroy her ability to do a job she loves. 


Instead, the league instituted a policy to hold her responsible for wearing a skirt that doesn't go down to her knee, but does not address the problem of inappropriate player behavior. 


'I'm glad they're telling me how to behave,' she said wryly." 


Full disclosure: I was that unidentified woman. 


Later in the story, McManus referenced another unnamed source who felt anxiety about her attire but noticed that male reporters didn’t make adjustments during hot weather. She was worried about people noticing her bare arms. 


McManus also asked male and female baseball reporters whether they thought about the dress code while dressing. The women interviewed said "Yes"; the men she spoke to said "No."


* * *  


Women throughout the history of sports media have been subjected to all manner of verbal and physical abuse. There has been an attitude, usually unspoken but nonetheless clear, in press boxes and sports departments that "This is where men go."


The reactions to the Andrews case were eye-opening: They revealed a collective negative attitude toward women in general, and women in sports in particular.   


Andrews was forced to relive her humiliation and pain as she began her legal battle against her stalker, Michael David Barrett. The "she deserved it" line of attack made the rounds. Sometimes it was blatant; other times, it surfaced during casual chats among reporters. 


One woman, while sitting in the Phillies' press cafeteria, asked, "Who even does naked squats?" as if that were the issue, as if we had any right to ask such an absurd question. The subtext was: "She deserved it." 


Two years before MLB's dress code went into effect, NFL reporter Ines Sainz riled up the masses when she wore what was perceived as too-revealing attire to a Jets practice and was hassled by players. Many reporters, particularly women, wondered privately if baseball's new rules for attire were a response to Sainz and perhaps a criticism of Andrews, a kind of pre-emptive response before anything else happened. In many ways, though, they were a response to what had been a source of debate about women in baseball.  


A lot of baseball fans, in particular men, and male reporters shrugged at the new guidelines. They didn't get how itchy they made us because of what we had been experiencing for too long. We had been waiting for players to be punished for blatantly abusing us, and yet there we were, talking about our damn clothes. What might have seemed like an overreaction to our male colleagues was a boiling point for us.  


* * *


We female reporters are likely not adhering to all of baseball's guidelines, and no one has ever spoken out about being told they’re breaking the rules, so the media dress code's impact has probably been minimal at best, but something about it still stings.  


As Twitter has emerged as a powerful platform for survivors of sexual assault, physical abuse and sexual harassment, many of us have described our own experiences in raw, emotional detail. In light of those disclosures, baseball's media dress code has become more than just something that's absurdly unimportant or an act of misplaced attention; it's now a sign of a time that has passed, but also a time from which we haven't moved forward.


We’re still harassed. We're still underrepresented and overlooked by editors. We still speak in our private spaces about our frustrations and how we are treated differently than our male colleagues.  


In other words, we're no longer checking the length of our skirts. We're digging in, as we always have, and trying to get the job done. MLB hasn't shown a willingness to fully commit to changing the boys' club mentality. As the #MeToo revolution marches on, we women in baseball, and all other sports, are forcing change as decisively as possible.