Women baseball general managers? The small leagues are far ahead of the game

Before Kim Ng – the New Jersey native who made history this season with the Miami Marlins as the first general manager of Major League Baseball – there were Courtney Knichel, and Katie Beekman, and Laurie Schlender, and Christine Kavic , and, well you make sense.

While the MLB is beating its chest for GM’s first woman this year, the minor league baseball broke the glass ceiling years ago with those listed above, who run teams from Maryland to Nevada.

And the lower leagues have continued to lead the top for women ever since.

Just this year, the Red Sox hired the first woman of color, Bianca Smith, to serve as a junior coach, while Sara Goodrum became the first woman to serve as a junior league coordinator when she was appointed by the Milwaukee Brewers this season.

“It was rare when I started, but as everything changes,” said Knichel, who has been the general manager of Blue Mary at South Maryland in the Atlantic League for six years. “It’s all about equality, so it’s more visible in the industry.”

Courtney Knichel, general manager of Southern Maryland BlueCrabs, has her third child in September.  But that did not stop her from doing her job.

Knichel is also one of the two general managers of the league giving birth this season.

Already a mother of two, she had her first child, Kennedy, in April 2017 after two years at work. Son Cooper was born in the same month in 2020, but the pandemic had already begun a slow closing.

This time things are very different, Knichel said. With her next child (a girl already named Colby) ending in September, she carries the burden of full-time work during each month of her pregnancy.

“It’s my first time this summer, which was tiring,” she said, but said she was happy to do so and praised the team for its support. “I always say that if I am a man or a woman, if I can do the job, I must be the one who has it. As a woman you only live one life and you want a career and a family and you can do it all. “

Knichel remembers when she first took over in 2015 that there was some impetus, but mainly because of the surprise associated with change and not with real sexism.

“When I was first general manager, we would have calls with all the other GMs and for so long they were ‘men,’ or ‘hey you guys,'” he said. “It was something that everyone had to adjust to.”

Emily Jaenson, who has been the general manager of Triple-A Reno (Nevada) Aces since May 2018, had her first two children, now aged 4 and 6, before taking up the job. But he added his third child, Elin’s daughter, in May.

She also recognized a big surprise among those in the league when they discovered that the top manager of the team was a woman.

“I’m definitely surprised a lot of managers when I go down to the locker room and say hello and introduce myself,” Jaenson said. “It simply came to our notice then. If you have never seen a woman in the role, this is part of what is important, it should be so. “

As for her pregnancy, Jason said she worked until the day after giving birth and plans to return to work in mid-August for the Aces, a subsidiary of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Emily Jaenson, general manager of Triple-A Reno Aces, gave birth to her third child just hours after making key hires for her team

“We had to restart the Aces for the new season,” Jaenson said of her pre-delivery work schedule. “It was important for me to be there for the original home, opening up with COVID protocols and endless messages on how to take care of our players.”

He recalled that he had to hire a group store manager and a new community relations manager a few hours before going to the delivery room the next day.

“It was a race to the finish line to find the best person for that position after the pandemic,” Jaenson said. “My doctor supported me and told me to keep doing it unless I was not feeling well. I had not taken maternity leave with any of my boys, I worked from home with them. For Elin, I really wanted to take the time to be a mom and be with her. “

But do not think that either Knichel or Jaensen are using the new motherhood as an excuse to slow down the work. They are both facing this season like any other and are committed to putting in the time required.

“This is the first time I’ve done the work physically and right on their faces,” Knichel said of fans and players watching her belly bloom. “I was a little nervous about how the players would treat me and treat me, but it’s good.”

One thing that helped was the Nursing Fans salon for fans and staff that BlueCrabs launched in its first year of existence in 2008, another idea that initially reached the minor league level and has expanded to some major league teams like Washington. Nationals.

“I know most parks do,” Knichel said. “I would go there and do my thing, every two hours. I see people there every game. Features chairs, magazines and air conditioning. “

It is also another source of marketing, funded by a local hospital, the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center.

“Fans come to me and ask how I feel,” Knichel said. “They ask if I need some water. I am treated very well by everyone. “

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