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, 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.
Baseball, of course, has never seen a female general manager and has produced only a handful who have come close.
Asked if she aspires to be the game’s first female GM, Alvarez 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.”
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.
Even the A’s, considered among the most progressive franchises in pursuing diverse hires — in 2015, Justine Siegal became the first woman to serve as a coach in a big league organization when she worked with A’s prospects at their instructional league — had never had a woman working as a talent evaluator in their front office before hiring Alvarez away from the Reds in November.
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. Here’s her stats:
- Graduated from University of Virginia
- Became the Cavaliers’ first female student manager
- Worked for the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds
- Worked for Major League Baseball’s central offices
- Has extensive experience in both scouting and analytics, the divergent disciplines that form the foundation of a well-rounded front office
By the time she graduated in 2015, the A’s were quick to snatch her up as an intern, and the organization was impressed enough with her performance there to sponsor her for scout school, an annual clinic where select candidates learn the intricacies of the art of scouting. Of the 60 students there, two from each team, Alvarez was one of only two females; her roommate, Amanda Hopkins, is now a full-time area scout for the Seattle Mariners.
But at the end of her internship, the A’s didn’t have an open position for her, so Alvarez went to work for the Red Sox as a baseball operations assistant.
In the spring of 2016, A’s GM David Forst ran into her there in the stands behind home plate at a Boston College game. Forst was there scouting a University of Louisville outfielder for the draft, and Alvarez was tasked with videotaping players for the Red Sox. Other days, however, she would go to the stadium on her own time and sharpen her scouting skills.
“It was obvious how much drive she had,” Forst said. “As soon as we had an opening, I knew she was someone we’d keep our eyes on. And it worked out great to bring her back home.”
As the A’s scouting coordinator, some of Alvarez’s duties are administrative, such as taking reports from the team’s amateur scouts in the field and logging them into a database, which will inform the A’s decisions ahead of the June draft. But this summer, she will get her first experience in pro scouting, having been assigned two teams to cover in the short-season Class A Northwest League.
She expects to be the only female scout at pretty much every game she covers, just as she has been for most of her career. It makes for the occasional awkward moment, as when an unsuspecting usher tries to shoo her out of the scout seats. But for the most part, she said, she hasn’t had to face any incidents of outright sexism in the job. She isn’t looking to be treated any better than anyone else — just to be treated the same.
“People mostly see me the same as anyone else in my job,” she said. “Of course, there’s people out there wondering why a woman would want to be in a man’s sphere, but I’ve never been directly confronted with it. Knowing that’s out there and hearing it makes me want to work harder, and kind of lights a fire in me to prove to people that I can do it.”