MIAMI – Caroline O’Connor didn’t know what her ceiling was when she entered the world of sports business, simply because there were so few examples of women walking her path.
Turns out, there was no limit to it.
Miami Marlins O’Connor was promoted to president of business operations on Monday, making them the first US major sports franchise with women serving as president and general manager simultaneously. The Marlins made history in November 2020 by appointing Kim Ng as GM; Two years later, they have taken another important step.
“When I talk to young girls, I really like to see them in their roles because I didn’t feel like I had that role model,” O’Connor said. “And I want people to see themselves when they see me and know it’s a possibility.”
O’Connor is only the second woman to serve as chairman of the Major League Baseball team; Seattle’s Katie Griggs is second. O’Connor was brought to the Marlins in 2017 by then-CEO Derek Jeter as a senior vice president and chief of staff, then became the team’s chief operating officer in 2019.
Ng handles the on-field business, O’Connor runs the off-field business.
“We are fortunate to have led our day-to-day business operations with Carolyn’s business acumen and vision,” said Bruce Sherman, Marlins president and principal owner. “His passion and drive for success is unmatched in our sport and the South Florida market. His leadership leads the Marlins organization toward our goal of continued success while strategizing additional new ventures to grow our business and enhance our brand recognition. Will continue to guide.”
O’Connor’s way to this place was in some ways unintentional. She was a high school athlete in New Jersey—playing basketball, tennis, soccer, and softball—and went to college at Rutgers and New York University, studying first computers, then finance.
She worked for some powerful locations: IBM, UBS Investment Bank, Morgan Stanley. She was not thinking of a career in sports.
And then Jeter called.
“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” O’Connor said.
He has been with the Marlins ever since.
Miami has been trying to keep things on and off the field, for the better part of the past two decades. Jeter was part of the ownership group that took over in 2017; He’s gone, but two of his more important employees – Ng and O’Connor – are now tasked with finishing the job.
O’Connor has seen progress. Attendance this past season was 12% higher than in 2019, the last time baseball had a full season without pandemic interruptions or major restrictions – although there is still a long way to go before Miami gets that crowd.
O’Connor has overseen growth in season-ticket sales. With the 2023 World Baseball Classic coming to Miami in March for all three rounds, including the championship game, the Marlins know big crowds are coming. O’Connor has to decide how to get those people back as Marlins customers.
“I think it’s a really special place,” she said. “And I would say that if we don’t feel so strongly about this market and the opportunity that exists here, it won’t make us so excited to come every day. I think we have so many people in this market.” Those who love entertainment, love sports, love baseball, get together and go out. It’s just trying to create an experience that appeals to everyone.”
The growing role of women in baseball leadership is not lost on O’Connor. Griggs led the Mariners; Laura Day is Minnesota’s Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer; Kelly Fisher has a similar role in Texas, as EVP and Chief Financial Officer of the Rangers.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a lot of support from so many different people, regardless of gender, throughout my career,” Griggs told a panel at the University of Seattle earlier this year. “With that being said, I don’t see a lot of people who look like me for what I do. … I don’t have many role models.”
O’Connor feels the same way. He doesn’t mind the “trailblazer” description. She goes into just about all the details of her job – sitting with community groups and civic organizations, even having lunch with the Consul General of Japan last month at her Miami residence – knowing that her success Now it may be easier for women to follow.
“It’s a real community for me to follow,” O’Connor said. “The team I work with today, the team that supports me every day, I feel like it’s on all of them and what we’ve built together. I may have the title, but of course I I think about all the people who help me achieve this.”
Published at www.espn.com