Our celebration of women in sports for Women’s History Month continues today as we take you behind the scenes. We are honored to introduce you to Nikki Warner. Nikki is the Public Relations Director of Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA). What a great job!
Not only does Nikki work in baseball but she gets the fun job of keeping current and former players connected. That’s just one of the many things she does in her position. So, let’s see what Nikki had to say…
How long have you been working in the sports industry?
While I was at Whitworth University, I wrote sports features for both the newspaper and yearly publication. At the time, journalism was more so my passion than sports, but luckily I found myself assigned to the sports desk. Being constantly submerged in athletics opened my eyes to the joys, triumphs and tragedies players and teams experience on a daily basis and in a fresh light. In 2008, I interned with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association for a summer and after two days, I knew I would never leave. After college graduation, I completed a one-year Communications Fellowship in the private school sector. The MLBPAA hired me in 2010 as a Public Relations Coordinator and I don’t plan on leaving! The sports industry is where I belong.
Did you always want to have a career in sports? If not, when did you realize it was where you wanted to be?
No, I did not always know that I wanted to have a career in the sports industry. In fact, my lifelong goal was to be a dentist…and then I took a chemistry class in college and realized “this is not for me.”
The passion for sports and entertainment has always been a part of me; just not one that I knew could translate to a paying job. I was hooked on baseball from an early age as evidenced by my father’s penchant for telling baseball bedtime stories rather than the ‘gender-appropriate’ princess bedtime stories. By the age of 10, I was an expert on all things Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and the perplexing Pittsburgh Pirates.
The moment that changed everything was when I interned at the MLBPAA and found myself interviewing Mark “The Bird” Fidrych for a “Where Are They Now” piece. He told me, “It sounds like you love what you’re doing. Keep at it.” Those words are so simple but changed something in me and made a light bulb go off.
Have you seen a change in attitude towards women since you started working in this field?
I do believe that I have fought hard in all jobs to ensure that I compete at the same level as all other colleagues – male or female. I can say that my office team (colleagues) appreciates all the talents and gifts that both genders bring to the table. I know that I am in a blessed situation where both genders have equal voices and opinions are honored.
What is it like to be in a male dominated field?
Less Drama! I have worked in multiple positions dominated by women and appreciated many aspects such as a caring environment, but when working with men – they mean what they say and there is no hidden agenda. it is refreshing to be able to focus on work and not have to deal with drama. (Our Colorado Headquarters is 50 percent men, 50 percent women).
Have you ever felt put down or not paid attention to in your profession because of your gender?
No, in fact the complete opposite is true. I think that I have garnered more attention but that may just be because I demand it. Being a six-foot tall woman who knows how to project her voice has never hurt.
As a side not, I’m the only woman in the fantasy league and came in second place last year.
In general, do you feel there is still sexism in the sports world?
Baseball is a male dominated sport but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t led to opportunities in my professional career. I have not felt the effects of any “sexism” in baseball and in fact feel that I have been treated incredibly fair.
What does your job entail? Can you describe a typical day for you?
I wish there were such a think as a typical day for me. Unfortunately, it is hard to illustrate the “average” day for anyone in the office of the MLBPAA…and that is the intrigue of working in sports. I appreciate and love that I never have the exact same schedule or routine. Isn’t that the beauty of sports in general? The unexpected is appreciated.
One of the programs I manage is the Heart and Hustle Award which is annually given to the player who best demonstrates a passion for the game and who best embodies the values, spirits and traditions of baseball. It is the only award voted on by Alumni Players and it is presented by a former player to a current player from each team in a pre-game ceremony in all 30 stadiums.
I also manage our Social Media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) and write and push press releases for over 125 events every year. I produce a quarterly print newsletter (Baseball Alumni News) and a monthly online version that is sent out to current and former players as well as other professionals, wives and family and fans of the organization.
I also plan and publicize the annual Legends for Youth Dinner held in New York City every November. This event serves as the primary fundraiser for our Legends for Youth clinic series. This year (November 13th), the event will be held at the Times Square Marriott Marquis and one of the honorees will be Dave Winfield.
The list could go on and on…
What is the most rewarding part of being the Public Relations Director for MLBPAA?
Connecting generations. What don’t I love about working in baseball? I love that baseball connects multiple generations that may not otherwise have common bonds. Baseball is about memories; it’s about narratives and conversations and differing accounts. I love that baseball is a game of redemption and grace; you can fail miserably one day and have the opportunity to be a hero the very next.
The best part of working in baseball is that the more I learn about baseball and it’s legends, the more I fall head over heels in love with this spectacular sport. Personally, the most rewarding part is seeing grown men revert to childhood at the mere sighting of their hero.
One of my favorite memories was seeing Dmitri Young’s eyes glisten when meeting and playing baseball with Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Dick Williams, Jim Rice, and Ozzie Smith at the 2011 Hall of Fame Classic. It was so rewarding to see that no matter who you are or your age, baseball transports you to a time in your life that was pure and delightful.
If asked what you do for a living, do the people that question you ever give a funny look or question even more after you say you work in baseball?
No, typically I receive an “I am so jealous” response. I’ve found that many people want to tell me their favorite baseball memory (typically with a parent or family member). Again, baseball connects people who may not have anything else in common.
On the flip side, some assume I am a walking, talking Baseball Almanac. The complete opposite is true. Certainly I have had to do my research on players, but I could not tell you who the starting pitchers of the 1982 World Series were or who pitched the most innings in 1976 (Randy Jones and Jim Palmer missed it by one out).
How important is it for you to see women succeed in the sports world? Do you want to see a female GM, coach, manager, etc.?
Depends who it is and the position. If the candidate is qualified they should earn the position.