Jennifer Reynolds was born and raised in Oregon, but has called Visalia home since 2007. For the past 10 years, she has worked tirelessly for the Visalia Rawhide and the community. Reynolds joined us for Q&A session to share her story.
CC: What made you pursue a front office career in baseball?
“To be completely honest, I totally fell into the industry by accident. I’ve played competitive softball my whole life, through high school and all four years of college. During my last semester of college, I was making plans for after I graduated. I was a Business Major, and I had always had the goal of staying connected to sports after school, but I thought it would come in the form of working for Nike, Adidas, Ringor, or one of the other brand names that are based in Portland, OR (I’m originally from Amity, OR). I was searching around the internet trying to figure out how to apply for internships with the larger companies, and that’s when I stumbled across www.PBEO.com – the job board site created by Major and Minor League Baseball. I read through a few job descriptions & decided that would be an interesting route to pursue, so I threw my hat into the ring of a few internship job postings, figuring I’d try that for a year and see how I liked it. Well, I accepted the internship in Visalia, and I’ve been here ever since.
What made me fall in love with the industry is a variety of things. I’m wired to see processes and identify how to make them better and more efficient. As you can guess, that’s a never-ending job. So that’s what I’ve been doing the last 10 years, identifying processes and figuring out how to make them better. Baseball is full of operations, that, when questioned, have the explanation of “that’s just the way it’s always been done.” That’s not an acceptable answer for me, and I’ll keep trying until I figure the best solution to any question. I feel like I’m making a difference, both in the industry, in my community, and in the lives of our team and staff members, so that’s what keeps me going.”
CC: What does your typical day at the ballpark consist of during the season?
“This is always the hardest question to answer. Because there is no typical day.
In a nutshell, my job is to hold the vision of the organization and assist with the implementation of that vision. So a lot of what I do is guiding our staff on how to implement a particular project, in order to keep in line with the organization’s vision and goals.
At any particular time or day, this will consist of: forming sponsorship partnerships, designing social media images, creating ballpark signage, ordering giveaway items, setting sales goals, planning ballpark events, assisting a company by helping them organize an outing for their employees at one of our games, explaining the pre-game schedule to the umpires, assisting with a community baseball clinic for underprivileged kids in our neighborhood, making phone calls to sell tickets for an upcoming game, meeting with City officials regarding our operating partnership, or representing the Rawhide organization at one of several service organizations that I’m a member of. Just to name a few.
I’m always working. And my job more or less defines who I am….at least in the Visalia community.”
CC: Working in Minor League Baseball requires long hours and many sacrifices. How have you been able to attain a work-life balance? What have been your biggest challenges?
“I have definitely had to learn this the hard way. I am an admitted workaholic. As I mentioned before, I live to make things better. That’s what fuels me. When I first moved to Visalia, the list of “things to make better” was endless. So I dove in to help in any way that I could.
I can honestly say now, 10 years later, that that list is now down to just a few items. Thankfully, it was at this time when I had a major “life moment” (met my now-husband, and had our son). To attain a manageable balance is now a possibility, whereas five or six years ago, it simply wasn’t an option.
My only sister is 14 years younger than I am and just graduated from high school. I was only able to watch her play softball three times in 13 years. I had my son at age 32, and I was back to work in four days. There are plenty of sacrifices, but if those who surround you are supportive of what you do, then that makes the regrets a little easier to swallow.
My biggest challenge has always been saying ‘no’. When I feel like I can help a situation, organization, or an area in our operation, I can’t help but take on the challenge. That’s just how I’m wired. But nearly anyone in a similar position as myself also struggles with the same thing.
I have developed two key ways of helping myself to breathe:
- Get out of town, with no cell service. This still gives you anxiety, but at least you can’t do anything about it, so it’s a little easier to disconnect for a day or two.
- If I can’t get out of town, I’ll schedule a coffee or lunch with a business friend who struggles with the same balance issues that I do, and we help each other draw the line. I surround myself with positive and supportive people, who also help offer a perspective that I don’t always see. That hour together is always refreshing and helps keep a good eye on what really matters.”
CC: In your career with the Rawhide, you’ve been involved in the rebranding process. What was the process like and how has it improved the ball club’s relationship with its fans?
“What a cool thing to be a part of. I have always felt so privileged to have been a part of that process because I know how rare it is. I was very new to the organization, so I relied on our ownership’s vision of what they wanted to see the brand become. That short list included: masculine name that players could be proud to wear, something that represented the community’s agriculture industry and country roots, be a unique name that was not duplicated in the sports industry already, and something that could help us bring a personality to life.
I helped organize several focus groups and tracked all of that data, sat in on countless conference calls with the designer making tweaks and changes until everything was perfect, and assisted with the implementation of the new brand across the board – website, merchandise, promotional materials, email signatures, business cards, uniforms, and the list goes on.
It was such an awesome project to be a part of, and I truly feel that we did it the right way. We unveiled the new name in October and got some knee-jerk reaction flack from some nay-sayers. But by the middle of the season, fans “got it” and we’ve heard nothing but compliments ever since. We went from the “Oaks,” which was the worst-selling brand in Minor League Baseball, and have taken the “Rawhide” brand into the top-selling brand in the California League. We went from a dead and lifeless ballpark atmosphere, to one of the most charming and full-of-personality ballparks in the country. I’m extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish, and how the community embraces us now.”
CC: Your favorite baseball team was the Barry Zito Era Oakland Athletics. What made that team stand out to you?
“Oh, I’m an old soul. Hahaha. That reference is a flashback to the last team I actually followed. I feel like “back then” players stuck with the same team for longer than just a couple of years, so it was easier to be a fan of a particular team. Now, and it’s partially due to the nature of my job, I cheer for individual players – all Visalia alumni of course.”
CC: You’re in your 10th year working in Minor League Baseball with the same organization. What have been some of your most memorable moments?
“This probably sounds cheesy, but I have a tendency to not remember moments. I remember people and the memories that surround those people. So for me, it’s all about the people I’ve worked with or had the opportunity to meet through this experience.
I can’t even begin to describe all of the characters who have come through Visalia the past 10 years, but many of us still keep in touch.
I love the fact that I get to meet people from all different backgrounds, states, countries, and experiences in this industry, and its baseball that brings us all together. It’s a beautiful combination of history and modern era. It’s a commonality that is timeless. Visalia is a special place in the baseball world because it’s been in the game for over 70 years. It’s next to impossible to go to a baseball event and not run into someone who has been through Visalia for one reason or another. It’s something that bonds us all together.”
CC: You’re involved in multiple community organizations and support charities such as the United Way. Tell us about the organizations and charities that you support and how they’ve impacted your life.
“I was raised in a family who really valued giving back, so I’ve always seemed to have a volunteer spirit. Being involved in the community is also a must here in Visalia. It’s a small-town mentality, which I understand well, so I fit in quite nicely. Organizations that I’ve been a part of include Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Elks, Happy Trials Riding Academy (equine therapy), the Creative Center (school for special needs adults), Miracle League (baseball league for special needs), Convention & Visitors Bureau, United Way Women’s Leadership Council, Networking for Women of Tulare County, and my personal favorite, the Visalia Flat Track Roller Derby Team: the Derby Dames.
Each one of these are near and dear to my heart, but I will touch on a couple of the ones that are closest to my heart and I’ll be involved with for many years to come. I grew up with a friend who was severely autistic, and she is a joy and inspiration to be around. Because of her, I gravitate towards organizations who offer options for those with special needs. I love to get our players involved with these organizations as well because it’s good for them to stay grounded and know how lucky they are.
I’m not really a huge fan of groups who are not all-inclusive, but I figure I’m around guys enough, it’s ok for me to get a little girl time now and again. The women’s groups that I am involved with here in Visalia are really important to me because I’m constantly in awe of the things the women in the community accomplish. At one point we had a female Mayor, Police Chief, and several other prominent figureheads in town who were all female. I’ve got a lot of great role models here, and I love learning from each of them.
Lastly, I tried to take up roller derby after several years of being recruited. Making practice three nights a week, from 8:30-10:30 pm, plus traveling to bouts on the weekends, just never could work itself into my busy schedule. It’s an awesomely empowering sport for women out of college. Someday I hope to be able to dedicate more time to it. However, I’m still as involved as I can be. The girls on the team are fantastic and close friends of mine. We have girls with a variety of backgrounds including nursing, teaching, accounting and social work. They are all so thoughtful and caring….and kick butt on the track. Our team is a non-profit, so all of the money we raise at bouts goes to local charities. There could not be a cooler group of girls. I’m so proud that they accept me as an honorary member!”
CC: Do you have any advice that you would like to share for those that would like to work in the industry and become a general manager?
“The best advice I can give anyone, in any career path, is don’t let anyone outwork you. There is a lot to say about talent. But work ethic is a gift that cannot be taught, and it’s incredibly valuable. If you can work yourself to the bone, there will always be a spot for you.”
*Photo Credit: Visalia Rawhide