Mariners president Katie Griggs is part of a wave of female sports bosses


SEATTLE — Katie Griggs walks the concourse of T-Mobile Park and picks up trash. She sees a plastic spoon and throws it in a nearby trash can. napkin. It’s a bottle cap. She is the president of her operations business for the Seattle Mariners and is the only woman in her baseball league to hold that high title. She could order hundreds of stadium employees to quickly clean up after her fans. She would rather do her part, no matter how tedious the job.

You have to spend some time around Griggs to really understand who this is. She does elite work without an elitist approach. She has the mental agility to surprise and intimidate her room and is outspoken as a communicator. But the traits that distinguish her as a boss navigating the early days of women gaining more power and influence in male professional sports are her curiosity and service leadership.

“I’m not the kind of person who, at 18, started saying, ‘One day, I’m going to be president of the Major League Baseball club,'” Griggs said. Year. “And here I am. Frankly, I never thought I would want to be president of a major league baseball team. In terms of career trajectory and career path, it all has to do with innate curiosity.” I like to learn new things, I like to put myself in challenging situations and can bring certain skills and experience I’m missing something I need to do and I can build that muscle.

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In addition to Griggs, the Miami Marlins have hired Caroline O’Connor as Chief Operating Officer and Ng Kim as General Manager. The New York Mets hired Elizabeth Benn as her director of operations in her February majors league, making her the highest-ranking female executive in franchise history. In the NFL, the Las Vegas Raiders named Sandra Douglas Morgan as her president of the league’s first black women’s team this summer. The NBA has an abundance of female representation in the middle ranks and near the top of various organizations.

After a tremendously slow journey to this point, an opportunity now exists for greater gender inclusiveness in a male-dominated field. It’s highlighted everywhere, including the NHL and Major League Soccer. It’s still hard to predict how far we’ll see women promoted to head coaches and managers, but how long will it take for the business side of these multi-billion dollar franchises to hire women managers? It is utterly absurd to think how long it took.

Griggs does not handle the Mariners roster. Jerry DiPoto, president of the baseball division, is in charge of that. He has led the franchise towards contention on the field for his seven years. A year ago he finished 90-72 and the Mariners, who fell short of the playoffs on the last day of the season, stand to earn a wild card spot as the Finals. This quarter of his 2022 run begins. They want him to reach the postseason for the first time in 21 years, the longest of any team in any of America’s four most famous professional sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). drought.

In that sense, Griggs arrived at an ideal time after quitting his job as chief business officer of Atlanta United FC and switching football to baseball. As the ultimate fan-focused leader, she has a knack for bottling up her excitement and deepening the connection with the team and its fanbase, but she also has a knack for helping restore the trust of her upper echelons. I came to Seattle knowing I had to. Former Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather resigned in February 2021 after a video surfaced of offensive comments he made about his club’s players at the local rotary.

Mother has been with this organization for 21 years. He was promoted in his 2014, replacing his predecessor Chuck Armstrong after 28 years in charge. The franchise needed a fresh approach even before Mather’s mouth kicked him out. Expected from major professional teams. It doesn’t always work properly.

Last August, just before his first day with the Mariners, Griggs had a conspiracy with her husband, Justin.

“What am I going to wear?” she asked.

He laughed and asked her what she wanted to wear.

“I want to wear jeans and Jordans,” she said.

“I’m sure you’re the boss,” Justin told her.

She was costumed and comfortably commanding. She is a 40-year-old wife and mother of two. She’s sophisticated and purposeful, but she’s also relatable, self-deprecating and charming.

“I’m fully equipped to dress for the occasion, but that’s who I am,” Griggs said. I don’t mean they are independent of each other.”

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Griggs took an unusual path to becoming a sports executive, but her childhood athletic experience explains why her career has evolved in this way. At age 11, she was homeschooled in North Carolina where she was able to learn at a faster pace. She graduated from high school and entered the North Carolina State University class at age 14. Sports enhanced her social and emotional development while speeding up and getting an education at her home.

she swam She played tennis, soccer and softball. she rode a horse Sport meant a connection to her, and throughout her life she has been fascinated by the way games build community.

“Part of the role of sport in my life was not just pursuing it, the joy it brings, the competitiveness, but I loved all of that,” Griggs said. “It was also a social component.”

Griggs transferred from North Carolina to Dartmouth, where he graduated with a degree in International Studies and then earned a master’s degree from the university’s Tuck School of Business. She grew up within the organization, getting a job at Turner her sport and learning the complex media rights deals. She left to help launch Futures Sport and Entertainment before going to Atlanta United to quickly take the franchise from early expansion days to championship organization setting MLS attendance standards in a city notorious for fan indifference. helped guide me to

She came to the Mariners and declared them to be the “most progressive” franchise in baseball. It balances the desire to know, the desire to empower staff instead of micromanaging, and master the pace of baseball.

“When she spoke about her approach at a press conference last August, the jury didn’t agree with me. I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll believe it when I see it.’ ‘ said Mandy Lincoln, the team’s senior director of experience. marketing. This was the new role that Griggs created and the challenge that Lincoln needed after he spent 15 years with the Mariners. “But she has a listening and relatable style. I want to know how I can make things better.” It’s really exhilarating. “

Lincoln has weekly meetings with Griggs. His boss’s first question is always the same. How are you doing? Not a polite and obligatory greeting. She wants to be honest and she responds with empathy.

Griggs is the first to listen at every meeting, but the staff know that when she speaks, she is always equipped with questions and ideas that challenge her to think differently. I am thinking of moving the concession so that the field is clearly visible to spectators as they circle the concourse. Or they’re asking to look at the menu to streamline the ordering process and help the queue move faster. We’re looking at ways to save money and better customize ticket sales and seating options.

“How do we really understand what people want?” she wondered.

She loves walking and observing stadiums. She jokes that she’s annoyed that her average number of steps per game is only 10,000, which is less than the 20,000-plus steps she recorded walking around during MLS games. She records when and which direction her fans are looking. She checks everything, even if the video board is faulty.

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After the first game of a rare day-night Seattle doubleheader of the season, Griggs donned gloves and helped workers clean up between games. She found a baseball in the bleachers at center field. She put it in her pocket and when the gates opened for Game 2, she saw a boy in his Mariners gear sitting on his 300 level with his family. He looked about 4 years old.

“Are you a Mariners fan? Do you play baseball?” Griggs asked him.

“If someone hits the ball and I throw it, do you think you can catch it?”

she threw it. The boy surrounded it and cried.

As Griggs walked around the ballpark that night, she knew she was in the right place.

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