Natalie Winters has experienced a variety of roles within sports as a student-athlete, writer and currently as the Public Relations Manager for the Modesto Nuts. We were joined by Winters for a Q&A session about her sports experiences, career in baseball and her advice for others.
CC: You were a student athlete and Captain of the CSU Stanislaus softball team for the 2013-2014 season. What did that honor mean to you?
“Being a student-athlete was all I’d ever known. My entire life I played three sports (basketball, softball, volleyball) so it was always one sport to the next. When I graduated from high-school, Linden High (fun fact: Aaron Judge and I grew up together), I went on to play basketball at CSU Monterey Bay. We won the NCAA CCAA tournament and went to the big dance. It was an awesome experience. However, I wanted an opportunity where I would have more of an impact on the team so I transferred to CSU Stanislaus and played basketball there where I did, in fact, have an immediate impact.
After my sophomore year, the two years of playing only basketball felt odd for me as I had always played so many different sports, I wasn’t used to just one.
When I accepted that my heart was no longer in the game of basketball I tried out for the softball team, walked on, and was the captain. I was honored and humbled and excited to be back on the diamond. To have the team look to me for guidance not only as a newcomer on the team but also knowing that I hadn’t played softball in two years was a huge honor for me, one that I don’t take for granted and am very proud of.”
CC: How did your experiences as a student-athlete prepare you for your career?
“Being a student-athlete prepared me for my career and life in general so many ways. I learned how to balance my time without having a choice. Between early morning weights, classes, practice, and a part time job all in one day called for a demanding schedule. Now that I work in baseball, a 15-hour day is something I had already grown accustomed to.
I played for three different coaches during my time as a student athlete, all having three different personalities. They taught me not only the game itself, but how to be professional on and off the field or court.”
CC: You’ve worked in a variety of roles from being a staff writer to public relations. How has each role helped mold you into who you are?
“After I received my degree in Communication Studies from Stanislaus I was thrown into the work force. A few months of job searching later, I was hired as a sports reporter for the Turlock Journal. I covered Friday Night high school football and also local events in the area. When a position opened up at the Modesto Nuts I couldn’t have jumped on it any faster. I was hired as the Public Relations Manager.
The opportunity allowed me to continue to be in the sports world and since I had interned on the Modesto Nuts production team in college the connections in the front office assisted with getting my foot in the door.
The different roles that I’ve had have shaped me into who I am because I’ve learned so much about the other end of the sports industry, what goes on when you’re not a player, the behind-the-scenes. I’ve gained valuable experience in the workforce and learned about a variety of different MiLB front office positions by being able to contribute in different departments.”
CC: Working in Minor League Baseball requires working long hours. How difficult has it been to balance your personal and professional life?
“It’s not easy. The good news is you know where you’ll be for the next 5 months so if there is a weekend open (no home games) it’s likely that you’ll plan a trip for that day. The bottom line is you’ll always find a way to make time for the things/people that matter to you. Whether it’s a phone call or a day trip, no job could be too demanding where you’re unable to have a personal life.”
CC: What part of your career in baseball has brought you the most satisfaction?
“I have the opportunity (as the on-field host) to make people smile every game. I love being able to connect with the fans and build relationships with regulars and season ticket holders. That, by far, is the most rewarding part of my job. Minor League Baseball is a place where people can make memories whether it’s watching their favorite player go on to the big leagues or just remembering the time they were on the video board; it’s a special place to be.”
CC: Do you have any advice for people looking to break into Minor League Baseball or media?
“It’s okay to start small. I thought when I graduated college I should instantly be the on-field host for the San Francisco Giants and work alongside Amy Gutierrez. It doesn’t always work like that.
Internships are so valuable. An internship at the ballpark could teach you that maybe you don’t want to work in Minor League Baseball, or maybe it teaches you to find it’s exactly what you want to do and you’ve built relationships and grown your network with people who are working where you want to be. Networking is huge.
Photo courtesy of Natalie Winters