Michelle Skinner is a rarity in the baseball world, in that she’s currently the Assistant General Manager for the Tri-City ValleyCats. Since 2010, she has been doing her part to make a difference in New York’s Capital Region, and we had the opportunity to speak with her.
Skinner attended Ball State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Management in 2007. Her desire to become well-rounded led to her first opportunity in the baseball industry as an intern with the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League. The internship with the Lake Monsters would pay dividends down the road and ultimately lead her to Troy, New York, and the Tri-City ValleyCats.
“I wanted to do something well-rounded for lots of different experiences. I moved to Vermont with the Lake Monsters to do an internship for the summer. After that, I didn’t find a job in Minor League Baseball, but I loved that experience. [I] Moved to Nashville, interviewed with the Sounds a couple of times, didn’t get hired. [I]Worked at the racetrack, Nashville Superspeedway. I did operations there, totally different atmosphere. Worked game days for the Nashville Predators in the merchandise store. I got as much experience as I could. [I] Had the opportunity to go to the baseball winter meetings when they were in Indianapolis. The Lake Monsters introduced me to the ValleyCats at the winter meetings. I started here (ValleyCats,) as the admin assistant in a two-week span after the winter meetings.”
Joining the ValleyCats in 2010, Skinner began her ‘Cats career as the team’s Fan Development/Community Relations Manager. While in that position, she would become known and respected by peers for her work in developing relationships with fans and the community. In 2014, she was bestowed the honor of receiving the prestigious JoAnn Weber Female Executive/Staff Member of the Year Award. The award is presented annually to a woman by the New York-Penn League, for their outstanding contributions to her club, the league, and within the baseball community.
“It’s an honor. Just to be recognized by the league. It’s a very small, tight-knit group. We know everyone in the other front offices. There’s not a lot of women in the top positions. To stand out and have them recognize me is a big deal. It really means a lot.”
Some professions work around a typical schedule of 9-5, Monday through Friday. That’s not a reality for those that choose to be employed in Minor League Baseball. Working in the industry requires a commitment to working long hours and all days of the week.
“During the season, we’re here usually about 9 am. If it’s game day, we’re here through the end of the game, so 11 o’clock, 11:30 at night. We’re back in the next day around 9. The first half of the day is mostly office stuff, catching up, making sure groups are organized, and everything is under control. There’s a lot of planning promotionally, the entertainment side and what we want to do. Around 3 o’clock it transitions outside, making sure that the stadium is ready. It’s a lifestyle; it’s not a job. You have to like what you’re doing. It’s a lot of hours, weekends, a lot of afternoon and evening events. We’re here year round.”
A big part of what makes the MiLB unique is their involvement with their local communities. Giving back is not only part of the ValleyCats mission, but the most rewarding part of the Skinner’s job.
“I always wanted to do the community relations side. Just being able to see people having a good time and know that what we’re doing is fun and is making a difference in the community, is what I love to see.”
Giving back goes well beyond baseball for Skinner, as she has supported the St. Jude Children’s Hospital for many years.
“Back in college, I joined Epsilon Sigma Alpha, a philanthropic sorority. One of the main philanthropies that they focus on is St. Judes. We took a trip down to the hospital and took the tour. Since then, I’ve done a lot of stuff for them. [I’ve] worked a lot of events, radiothons, and stuff. It really means a lot to me. No family ever pays to go to St. Jude. From airfare to food to actual hospital bills, nothing.”
If you’re looking to have a career in Minor League Baseball, Skinner offers her advice on how to get there.
“When we look for interns or staff members it’s the right attitude and work ethic that we look for. We can teach people. In this environment, everyone is willing to pitch in, and help whatever the job is. Whether it’s pulling the tarp, sweeping up a mess or making the important calls for team travel, it’s such a wide variety of jobs you’re doing. Everyone has to be willing to jump in and help out.
Get as much experience as you can. You never know when that’s going to help out. A lot of my background was in male-dominated industries. I worked in a hardware store growing up, Nascar, baseball, a bowling alley. Stay focused. Always be willing to help and do whatever you can.”
You can follow Michelle Skinner on Twitter @.
*Photo courtesy of the Tri-City ValleyCats.