Omaha Storm Chasers G.M. part of change in baseball

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Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 10:35 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Slowly, one hire at a time, baseball’s good old boy system is changing.

And the Omaha Storm Chasers’ Laurie Schlender is in the thick of it. In October 2019, Schlender became the AAA franchise’s vice president and general manager.

It’s estimated more than 100 women now hold upper management or on-field jobs across pro baseball.

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, pro sports certainly should shine a spotlight on women like Schlender.

”I just think it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the field or in the front office or even down to game day stuff.” Schlender said. “As long as we have great females doing their job across the industry, every one of those people breaks a barrier.”

Eleven females are expected to be in uniform in pro ball in 2022, including the first on-field manager to suit up in organized professional baseball this minor league season, Omaha Skutt High School graduate Rachel Balkovec.

“It’s becoming more normal, it’s pretty apparent, and it’s just exciting to see how much progress we’ve made,” Balkovec said during a video press conference earlier this year. “We definitely have a lot of room to grow.”

Jake Eisenberg joined the Storm Chasers as their radio broadcaster and communications director under Schlender. They both had to adjust to new roles during the challenges of COVID restrictions, and he said Laurie has been a true leader for the organization.

“You’ll find across minor league baseball that there are some organizations that really value their employees and have initiatives to increase flexibility and work-life balance and diversity in the front office,” Eisenberg said. “Laurie is at the forefront of all of those things.”

Of course, love of baseball is not gender-specific, and just like an on-field manager or player who needs family support, Laurie’s ballpark roots run deep.

”My whole family’s a baseball family, so I think that just kept me going,” Schlender said. “I’ve been very fortunate, you know, I have kids and a husband that supports me and they knew there for a while they knew, ‘if I want to see mom, to see my wife, I had to go out to the ballpark.”

As for being a day-to-day boss in baseball, she said the guys in uniform have been respectful, which is a good place to start.

“It may be a little less of a... good old boys chatter atmosphere, but I really felt like I was accepted and I wasn’t questioned, so I feel like they’re starting to accept it and will continue to as long as there are female nutritionists, female trainers, female coaches, female managers. That’s all going to change your outlook and they’re gonna get more comfortable with it and they’re gonna be fine.”

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