MESA, Arizona — Out of the armies of fresh-faced job-seekers who annually descend upon any gathering of baseball executives, holding prestige-school degrees and seeking to become the next Brian Cashman or Theo Epstein — preferably in a matter of months — came one who was different. This one was smart and eager, like the rest, but also humble and curious and insatiable of mind, perfectly splitting the difference between being knowledgeable and knowing there was everything still to learn.
This one, who came out of the University of Virginia already fluent in the language of spin rates, release points and launch angles, was up for any task, from the menial to the clerical to the analytical, and had by that point, in the spring of 2015, already completed a series of internships in baseball, doing everything from selling tickets to analyzing draft prospects.
This one, this Haley Alvarez, is also a woman.
In the realm of baseball, which until very recently had been essentially a males-only domain, that above all else made this one stand out.
But now, three years after departing Charlottesville to make her mark in the game she loves, Alvarez, the Oakland Athletics’ scouting coordinator, is less a curiosity than a force, someone who has advanced steadily through the sport via talent and effort, and who, when the time comes for baseball to see its first female general manager, just might be the one.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor, who gave Alvarez her start in baseball as a student manager for the Cavaliers for all four years she was there. “She certainly has the qualities and the knowledge and intelligence.”
At 24, Alvarez already has a résumé that rivals those of Cashman and Epstein — wunderkinds of previous generations who now run the New York Yankees’ and Chicago Cubs’ baseball operations, respectively — at a similar age. She has worked for the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds, as well as Major League Baseball’s central offices, and has extensive experience in both scouting and analytics, the divergent disciplines that form the foundation of a well-rounded front office.
“Every experience I’ve had in baseball has just reinforced” the decision to pursue a career in it, Alvarez said. “There hasn’t been a time yet when I’ve doubted wanting to work in this industry. Every step has made me more involved, and that’s just made me want to work harder and learn more.”
Asked if she aspires to be the game’s first female GM, she said, “Ultimately, yeah. I’d love to be GM or an assistant GM. But right now, I’m just trying to become a well-rounded executive within the industry. ... There are not too many females who have crossed into this area.”
Baseball, of course, has never seen a female GM and has produced only a handful who have come close. Elaine Weddington Steward was the game’s first female assistant GM, with the Red Sox in the early 1990s, and Jean Afterman serves as Cashman’s assistant GM with the Yankees. Kim Ng, a former assistant GM for the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, now serves as MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations.
In all, MLB counts 113 women currently working in baseball operations — defined as front-office or on-field jobs — among its 30 teams, though the majority are in non-executive administrative or medical/training staff roles, as opposed to talent evaluation.