WOMEN SPORT REPORT: Where were you born and raised?
ELLEN: I was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. My family immigrated to Toronto, Canada when I was a young child in the mid-sixties. Baseball was not something familiar to the Harrigan Clan. In fact, growing up a Torontonian, we did not talk baseball until 1977 when Toronto was awarded an expansion team. Even then,
baseball was a once a year school trip and that was it for me.
WSR: What College did you attend and what where your plans upon graduation?
ELLEN: I attended Senator O’Connor College School located in Don Mill, Ontario, Canada. As high school graduation approached, I knew with all my heart I wanted to be a policewoman. I wanted to follow in my dad’s steps. It was always something I thought would be rewarding, challenging and suited to my personality.
At seventeen, my father was concerned about my joining the Police Force at so young an age. He asked me to wait until I was twenty-one. If I still wanted to join,
He would support and help me. I did not want to pursue college and I thought I would bide my time and get a job until I reached the agreed upon age.
I took a summer job and then decided to look for something more permanent. I applied to several companies, some stating their company name and others simply a description of a job.
WSR: How did you wind up working for the Toronto Blue Jays? Did you know who they were and what they did?
ELLEN: The Toronto Blue Jays were one of those companies that just outlined a job so I did not know the company name or who they were or what they did until after I submitted my resume. I received a call to come in for an interview and was interviewed by several people and the following week they offered me a job.
I found out later that after interviewing many applicants, the fact that I was six feet tall had some influence, as I would be able to reach the top of the player board and change the player name as the rosters were juggled. Point for being young, naïve and tall. Thus began my baseball career in November of 1981.
WSR: Where you still interested in becoming a Police Officer?
ELLEN: Needless to say, the desire to become a policewoman was still strong.
Without my father’s knowledge, I went to Police Headquarters and made an application during y first few months with the Blue Jays. I was interviewed, tested and sent to their Police College for additional physical and psychological testing. I was at the point where a decision to join the Police Force was imminent.
The Blue Jays asked me to go to Spring Training in Dunedin, Florida for six weeks. You can guess which route I took and it has been a great ride ever since.
Tommy Lasorda (ex-Dodger Manager) always says that doing something you love is not work at all and I can honestly say I agree with Tommy. Many people go through life waiting for Friday, disliking their job. I have been fortunate to enjoy the roller-coaster ride for twenty-eight seasons now
WSR: What did you do for the Blue Jays?
ELLEN: I worked with Pat Gillick for over fourteen years with the Blue Jay
(and then another three with the Baltimore Orioles). The first seven years in the Toronto front office in Player Development and Scouting. We did not call it Baseball Operations then but basically, that is what it is called now.
We did not have computers then so we communicated with the Commissioner’s Office by Twix Machine and tracked scouts down in airports by paging them or leaving messages with the airlines, posing as family members with important news.
My next seven years were spent operating a minor league club (St. Catharine’s Blue Jays of the New York Penn League.) that was owned by the Toronto Blue Jays. After my first year there, I became the General Manager. At that time, there were very few women in that role.
That was the most fun and creative time in my career. This also gave me a true understanding of the player development system, scouting process and the importance of a solid teaching staff (managers, coaches and trainers)
Toronto decided to sell the Short Season Club and I assisted with the ownership transition. When Gillick assumed the GM role with the Baltimore Orioles, he asked me to join his staff in his Major League office.
I spent four seasons with the Orioles gaining great experience and widening my perspective on Baseball Operation. The greatest resources clubs have are the people that work for them. We can learn so much from all of the great personalities baseball has to offer.
When Pat retired and Kevin Malone moved over to the Los Angeles Dodgers to take the General Manager’s role, I headed to Los Angeles to work in Baseball Operations. In my early years with the Dodgers we had several changes in both Management and Ownership. In fact, Ned Colletti is the fifth GM I have worked with here. He is terrific to work with and is a keeper. I am in my eleventh season with the Dodgers and look forward to each game, and each season!
WSR: Should baseball use instant replay?
ELLEN: Perhaps that is the way of the future, to have an umpire in the press box reviewing plays that are in question. However, I’m not really comfortable with it and the effect if will have on the pace of game.
WSR: What do you do during the off- season?
ELLEN: Off-season is our busiest time of year, tendering contracts to staff and then players, roster management, preparing for spring training. Winters grow shorter and shorter in baseball!
WSR: Care to name a few of your favorite Dodgers?
ELLEN: Tommy Lasorda, Maury Wills, Roy Campanella, and Don Newcombe. There are so many great Dodgers and I look forward to learning more about the rich history of our Organization.
WSR: What is the most outstanding memory you have working for the Dodgers?
ELLEN: My most memorable time with the Dodgers would have to be a cumulative memory of the days spent at Dodgertown (a) during each spring training. Dodgertown was the most unique baseball venue I’ve ever seen. The compound consisted of numerous baseball diamonds, half diamonds, batting tunnels, pitching mounds and training facilities. It also had living quarters, dining room facilities, meeting rooms, and numerous recreational facilities. All specifically designed to meet the needs of housing, feeding, training and then playing baseball for roughly two hundred players and sixty staff members each spring. It was a village onto itself and promoted a “team” atmosphere that is unmatched in baseball.
WSR: What makes you successful at your job?
ELLEN: I thoroughly enjoy what I do. I know my limitations and I try to push myself to learn more. I thrive being part of a “team effort”.
WSR: What was the biggest obstacle you overcame to get into baseball? ELLEN: I fell into baseball by luck but there are obstacles in every job and persistence with focus on accuracy helped me to become good at what I do.
WSR: What are a few of your favorite movies?
ELLEN: Bull Durham, An Affair to Remember, 2001 and A Space Odyssey.
WSR: What is your favorite baseball book?
ELLEN: Branch Rickey’s Little Blue Book. It’s a collection of notes, letters and the philosophy of Branch Rickey. (b) His impact on the game is remarkable.
WSR: Some teams have gone green. Has your team done so?
ELLEN: The Dodgers are working towards creating a greener environment. We have a recycling program in place and we utilize green cleaning products. Our concessions use compostable containers and servicing items.
WSR: What is the most creative part of you?
ELLEN: Fortunately, with over twenty-eight years of experience in the game, I feel I can be creative by taking old ideas and making them fresh and relevant to today’s needs.
WSR: Are you married? Do you have any children?
ELLEN: I am divorced with one son, Justin Charles. Justin is now twenty-one years old and a College Student with zero interest in baseball. Where did I go wrong? Good thing he’s a great kid!
WSR: What do you do for relaxation after work?
ELLEN: I like to read, go to the movies, go to the beach and take my dog to the dog park. Spending time with family is always a favorite thing to do too.
WSR: Do you have a favorite quote or motto?
ELLEN: “Winners make things happen, losers let things happen”. I want to be a winner no matter what I do
WSR: What advice would you give a young woman considering a career in baseball?
ELLEN: Work hard by listening, reading, watching and learning as much about the business of baseball as you can absorb. Find a mentor to talk with and bounce ideas off. Challenge yourself to learn something new every day about the game.
(a) Dodgertown - Holman Stadium is a baseball stadium in Vero Beach, Florida built in 1953 to accommodate spring training for the Dodgers as part of a complex called Dodgertown.
In 2009, the Dodgers joined the Chicago White Sox sharing operations at a new facility in Glendale, Arizona. The Dodgers' last spring training game in Vero Beach was on March 17, 2008.
(b) Branch Rickey - Wesley Branch Rickey was an innovative Major League executive elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967. He was known for breaking Major League’s baseball color barrier by signing the first African/American ballplayer, Jackie Robinson in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
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Norm Coleman is a sports writer, actor and photographer. He lives in Half Moon Bay, California
photos Janos Schmidt