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Can the Yankees’ diversity and inclusion committee open baseball to women?

Rather than forget about it, let it be a tipping point leading into a better future

New York Yankees Introduce Brian McCann Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

If you have any semblance of a heart, you found the moment when Brian Cashman told Gwen Goldman that she was going to be a bat girl for the New York Yankees to be the culmination of a touching story. Six decades ago, Goldman applied to join the organization but was rejected on account of the assumption that a young lady such as herself would feel out of place in a locker room full of men. So when Gwen stepped out onto the field wearing the pinstripes as an honorary bat girl on June 28, 2021, not only were we happy for her, but it felt like a victory for young girls and women everywhere.

“A woman belongs everywhere a man does, including the dugout,” Cashman wrote in his letter to Goldman.

Yes! But this is a battle we have been fighting for years.

Los Angeles Angels v. New York Yankees Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“Some dreams take longer than they should to be realized, but a goal attained should not dim with the passage of time,” Cashman said in the subsequent Zoom conference call with Goldman, her family, and other Yankee executives.

And what a victory it is! We need more realizations of dreams just like this. After struggling for equality and inclusion for years, though, can we count on what you’re saying? Or are these just simply words?

“I have a daughter myself,” Cashman added, “and it is my sincere hope that every little girl will be given the opportunity to follow her aspirations into the future.”

This is the moment that made me stop and take a breath. With a mindset geared towards change, and a personal connection to the cause, would Cashman actually initiate lasting change within the organization, and perhaps even the boys club that is baseball as a whole?

Desperate for a reason to keep this hope alive, I searched for evidence that this wouldn’t be just a one-and-done deal, and discovered the New York Yankees Diversity and Inclusion Committee. This body, which was formed in September 2020, is comprised of “New York Yankees staff members, on-field personnel, alumni, and outside community leaders and business partners,” per its website. Female members from the Yankee organization include Aryn Sobo, Esq. (VP, human resources, employment and labor law) and Rose Barre (Yankees executive director, sales, service and business strategy.)

The following February, the Yankees added a partnership with CUNY in order to “identify ways to combine resources... to address and eradicate barriers that impede access, diversity, inclusion and opportunity for our neighbors around Yankee Stadium and in the larger metropolitan community.”

With CUNY, the New York Yankees Sport Management Mentoring Program, according to Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, will “provide CUNY students the opportunity to explore a variety of careers that exists within a professional sports organization while growing their professional network, as well as gain access to internship and job opportunities in this exciting field.” This program, which is 57-percent female, is an excellent opportunity to integrate women into the company and field who, like the previously discussed Rachel Balkovec, were immensely qualified yet discriminated against as a result of their sex.

Balkovec, the Yankees’ minor league hitting coach and the first female to hold such a full-time position with any MLB team, had nothing but positive things to say about the committee. “[The committee] dedicates its time to making sure we are making this an inclusive workplace for all. I can’t say enough about the peace of mind this brings me and the excitement I have for opportunities for women (and all minorities) wanting to get into baseball.”

As we are coming up on the one-year mark in September 2021, not much else about the committee has been updated or commented on since its inception. Although Balkovec is firmly on the side of the organization and praises its endeavors, I believe that it will be important for the Yankees to continue to remind the public of their efforts. I encourage the Yankees Diversity and Inclusion Committee and CUNY to celebrate theirs and their students’ successes loudly, and openly discuss the challenges and struggles they face, if not to simply continue the discourse concerning this campaign. With millions of women and minorities struggling to make their way in a world so strongly dominated by men, the committee is a rallying point and may even be a fulcrum for lasting change as we move into a more equal and inclusive future.

Sources

Diversity and Inclusion Committee. MLB.com. (2020). Retrieved 8 September 2021, from https://www.mlb.com/yankees/community/diversity-and-inclusion-committee.

Li, David K. “70-year-old Connecticut Woman Lives Out Dream of Working as Yankee Batgirl.” NBC News, June 29, 2021. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/70-year-old-connecticut-woman-lives-out-dream-working-yankee-n1272606.