Minor League Baseball, for many players, is the launching pad to the majors, fame and fortune. In a male dominated sport, there are many powerful women who assist these players reach their dreams. Lori Webb, the only female president of a baseball league, is no exception. As President of the Southern League, Lori oversees the league that has 10 teams and hundreds of players. She has held this position since 2012 and hopes to continue to strengthen one of the most exciting leagues in minor league baseball.
Where did your passion for baseball come from?
Probably from when I was a kid watching my younger brother play little league baseball for years and at that time I thought my parents were just kind of dragging me to his games but it really did start then. My whole family were big Yankee fans because I lived in upstate New York and so every year when the World Series came around, it was party time in our house. So it started then and I guess as I got older and got married, then two of my children play baseball too so it’s always been a passion I guess.
You are the first female president of a baseball league which is a huge honor so congratulations on that. I know your predecessor Don Mincher had a lot of great ideas and paved the way for you, I’m sure, as well. How did he shape how you work in this business today?
I cannot say enough about him because when he took over as president in 2000, we kind of came to an agreement. He said, “Do you want to move to Huntsville and work for me?” And I said, “No, do you want to move to Marietta and work at the league office?” And he said no so we split time; he worked out of his home in Huntsville and I worked with him for 11 years. He was my mentor. We bounced things off of each other. He was always the boss but we were a good team and he taught me patience and to sleep on it because I tend to want to make a snap decision. He said to take my time and that nobody needs an answer that quick, sleep on it and see how you feel in the morning. That helped me a lot. But he had such a vast knowledge of baseball being a player. I just loved sitting with him and his buddies when they get together and listen to old baseball stories. Now I know his whole family and their just a bunch of really sweet people. I owe him a lot.
How do you feel that being a female in baseball has brought new ideas to the Southern League and minor leagues or do you think that ideas are ideas no matter what gender you are?
I think women bring a little bit of a different slant on things and that’s a good thing. I never forget that I’m in a man’s world but that’s ok with me. I’ve been in it for 21 years at this point and I don’t really think of myself as “that woman over there”, I’m just one of the guys and that’s the way I like it. I wish they did more nice jewelry and apparel for women. I think the young gals that are coming up today are so smart and I think the generations coming up, they don’t care if you’re a guy or a gal. I think that’s a good thing for baseball.
So would you say that it’s easier, harder or about the same to break into baseball as a woman as opposed to being a man?
I think it’s easy if you get into the right field and the right branch of baseball. I think if you learn how to sell and do some marketing and sales, you’ll probably go further than if you’re just determined to be the best media person you can be because so many people want to do that. I know it’s a hard job but I don’t know if it’s looked on as something that is long term. A lot of people break in at that area but then they have to prove themselves at something else. Like, ok we know you can do that wonderfully now what else can you do? So it’s best to wear a lot of hats and learn as much as you can when you’re at a baseball stadium. Try to do everything.
What are the goals for the Southern League in the future?
We would like to get our 10 teams all settled. We’ve had a little change in ownership this year with our Chattanooga club and our Jacksonville club. Obviously our Biloxi club changed hands and opened a new stadium. We just want to keep growing. Keep our stadiums as nice as we can keep them. Keep fans coming in. Do everything we can to make our stadiums warm and welcoming to fans and keep growing the attendance.
Do you have any advice for females working in baseball right now or that want to break into the field?
Have some thick skin, don’t take anything personally because it’s really not personal. A lot of times you will say something off the cuff and you may take it personally and you think about it later and it really isn’t. I think women are more welcomed in baseball today that ever. We want women in baseball. Pat O’Connor (President of Minor League Baseball) is very much into diversity, minorities including women.
Do you have any plans or aspirations to jump over to Major League Baseball?
No. (Laughs). Definitely not. This will be the cap on my career. I’ll retire Southern League President and that will be good for me.
What’s your biggest accomplishment as Southern League President so far?
I don’t know if there is one thing that stands out. I think I’m proud of the fact that we’ve recently revised our bylaws. We just revealed a new logo this year; we had the same logo for 20 years. We’ve tried to bring all of our clubs together so they all know each other better. I do a lot of committee work and I try to involve everybody in our organization in committees so most of our General Managers serve on one of our committees. There is a family feeling that helps us in bad times. I just want to continue to grow our attendance. That’s the bottom line.