You spoke at the Baseball Winter Meeting in Indianapolis last year and Las Vegas in 2008. You also said you were not comfortable as a public speaker. Do you still have a fear of public speaking?
I do have a fear of public speaking, but I am getting better at it. The practice helps and I have made a conscience decision to embrace my fear and do it anyway. The thing about PR is that I am completely comfortable writing speaking points or telling anyone else what to say, but as soon as you put a microphone or, even worse, a TV camera in front of me and I am lucky if I can even remember my name. Anyone who is close to me can’t believe I am scared to speak in front of a group because I am very outgoing and can talk to anyone one on one, but public speaking is just not my forte.
What did you speak about?
I spoke to over 600 job applicants attending the Business of Baseball workshop at the Minor League Winter Meetings. My speech was about Making a Career out of Curveballs. I take them through my experiences and how I fell into baseball and encourage them to take advantage of every opportunity. I really do enjoy sharing my story with people, I truly love my job.
For a young person, male or female, would you recommend they attend the Baseball Winter Meeting?
I would definitely recommend attending the Winter Meetings. One of the major advantages of attending is to network and meet people from both Major and Minor League teams. I think the best way to get into Minor League Baseball is taking an internship with a team. You gain so much experience as an intern and you really get to see the various aspects that go into running a franchise. Our current General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Mark Wilson started as an intern over twenty- six years ago and last year was named the California League Executive of the Year. The majority of our staff started as an intern and have worked their way up in the organization.
What college did you attend?
I went to the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. I majored in sociology, and although I can’t exactly say that my classes prepared me for what I do today, I did take advantage of several opportunities that came my way. One of my favorite things I did in college was working with the athletic department and helping recruit athletes. I did a lot of different things in school, including working for a Washington State Representative and teaching Music and Drama at a preschool. College really showed me that I could do anything that I wanted to do.
How did you get your start in baseball?
My story is far from typical. Throughout my career, I have been given opportunities that I didn’t necessarily have proper training or qualification for. I took advantage of the opportunity, jumped in and gave it my all. I was thrown into baseball and I actually started at the top. My first job in baseball was as the General Manager of the independent San Diego Surf Dawgs. I fell into this opportunity through my boss, Jim Weyermann because we had worked together before the Golden Baseball League.
What was your first job?
I started my career right out of college. A childhood friend of mine worked for Ronny Lott, the San Francisco 49er’s Hall of Fame football star. She introduced me to my first boss and I was offered an assistant position at Jill Peterson Management (JPM) a Sports Marketing, Public Relations and Event Planning firm in San Francisco.
Right when I started at JPM we landed a huge client VERITAS Software and they needed their first event to be in Seattle. I had just moved from Seattle so I was given the opportunity to take the lead on the event and build the relationship with the client. I didn’t have the proper training but I followed my instincts and was able to help grow the company from three events to seventy-five and quickly became Vice President.
In the process, I learned the Event, PR and Sports Marketing business from my incredible boss and had the opportunity to work with high-level national companies like Stub Hub, MARSH and many others.
Did you ever own your own company?
Yes, I opened my own business in 2004 when I moved from San Francisco to San Diego. I mainly concentrated on the event side of the business and worked with many athletes coordinating their charity events, such as Barry Zito, Nick Swisher, CC Sabathia, Mark Kotsay, Eric Chavez and many others.
Within a few months, an opportunity came at me from left field. It was a curve ball
I didn’t see coming. Not even in my wildest dreams.
Can you tell us about that?
A longtime friend and colleague of mine, Jim Weyermann, was the Chief Marketing Officer of an independent baseball league. He brought me on originally to help with the PR and marketing for the launch of the league. Soon I was asked to become General Manager of the San Diego Surf Dawgs and at first I thought they were crazy. I had never worked on the team-side of baseball. The first Minor League Baseball game I attended was my opening day. After a few moments of doubt, I said, yes, I can do this, and I did. That was the beginning of my career in baseball.
Most people have heard of the Surf Dawgs because our roster included the Hall of Famer Ricky Henderson, the former Oakland Athletic and New York Yankee. There was never a dull moment working with Rickey. I was lucky to coordinate national stories with Dateline and The New Yorker Magazine. One of my favorite parts of the job was walking him out to his car after the game. Rickey was one of the most incredible athletes I have ever watched despite his age.
This was a new team, what else did you do?
I did everything that goes with starting a new team including picking a name, a logo, designing sales materials, creating advertising and a PR campaign, inventing a game day show and implementing the team’s brand story. It was exciting and after a great year, it was time to move on to my next adventure.
How and when did you connect with the San Jose Giants?
About four years ago, my colleague and mentor Jim Weyermann became President and CEO of the San Jose Giants. He called me and said he needed my help. I remember the first time I visited San Jose Municipal Stadium, it was the middle of winter, and it was incredibly difficult to imagine baseball being played there. I was intrigued though because the team had a long history in the community. The San Jose Giants have been affiliated with the San Francisco Giants for twenty-three seasons and I believed the prospect of reorganizing something that already had a historic place in the hearts of the community would be a promising undertaking.
As Chief Marketing Officer for the San Jose Giants, what do you do?
In Minor League Baseball we wear many hats. I am in charge of marketing the team, advertising, public relations, community affairs, creating wacky promotions, buying merchandise and running the front of house staff.
My first season with the Giants consisted of creating many new templates involving everything from proposals and contracts to press releases, advertising, merchandise
and the community affairs department.
I have been incredibly fortunate to watch all of our changes and hard work pay off. We have broken the all-time attendance and revenue records for the past four years in a row.
Can you tell me about some of the wacky promotions?
Our most famous is the Beer Batter. We take a select player on the opposing team and when he strikes out, beer is sold two for one for the next fifteen minutes. The fans get very excited about this promotion and we even sell Beer Batter t-shirts.
Another popular promotion is Smash for Cash. We drive out an old milk truck onto the field. Three players are teamed up with three contestants. The player is given two balls and throws for the contestant. If he shatters the headlights on the truck, the player wins cash and the contestant wins a gift certificate in our merchandise store.
Have you promoted theme nights?
I would have to say that the theme nights are one of the things I am most proud of over the last four years. We have introduced cultural heritage nights including Italian Night, Hawaiian Night, Japanese Heritage Night and others. I love these nights because they are truly authentic and definitely not the typical theme night. The events are intended to create a festive environment where fans have a new experience and get to enjoy the enhanced feel of the ballpark. They are a perfect opportunity for local businesses and organizations to come out to the ballpark and celebrate their traditions and customs. We transform Municipal Stadium and even the players wear special jerseys. Each evening is a celebration of the culture and a perfect way for people to attend a game that wouldn't otherwise come to a San Jose Giants game
What is it about your work you love?
The majority of people have no idea of what goes on behind the scenes. It is the hardest work of my life but it is so rewarding. Fans bring me scrapbook pages and email me photos of their kids. The job is challenging at times but it is also part of the fun. I didn’t realize how much I would benefit from how much of a family the front office has become for me.
We get to create fun, affordable entertainment for the entire family. Lifetime memories are created at the ballpark and we become part of people’s traditions. I love watching a child say play ball or watch their faces light up when they get a players autograph. How many people get to see that every day? This is why I love what I do.
I still get excited when we have a big story in the paper or we have a sellout crowd.
I work extremely hard and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. I love my job and I appreciate the opportunities I have been given. I love sharing my experiences with other people.
Each year is better than the last and that is a thrill for me.
What are you most proud of since becoming part of the Giants?
I would definitely say this past season. It was incredible, truly a magical year both on and off the field. We won the California League Championship for the second time in my four years here and managed to break the 200,000 attendance mark for the first time in history. This is an incredible accomplishment considering the economy. The team had six first round draft picks, we had a media circus and fan frenzy over a fabulous and future star named Buster Posey, a catcher sure to make it to San Francisco Giants sometime soon.
Of all the amazing highlights, there are two accomplishments that stand out. Our organization winning the Minor League Baseball coveted John H. Johnson President’s trophy for the first time in club history. The second was winning Baseball America’s Bob Freitas Award making us the only Class A team to win the award twice. These two awards honor the hard work our entire staff has done.
Are you married? Have any children?
I am not married and I don’t have any children yet. I am the favorite aunt to my two beautiful nieces. I do hope to get married and have a family one day but for now I enjoy holding the babies at the ballpark and giving them back at the end of the night.
Aside from Rickey Henderson, have you met any celebrities?
I have been extremely lucky in my career to meet many professional athletes and I have had the pleasure to lend my talents in helping them raise money for several worthy causes. I appreciate each opportunity and try to take care of people as I have been taken care of.
Do the Giants have a team mascot?
Yes, we introduced the first team mascot four years ago, Gigante. He is a giant orange gorilla and has become a rock star in our community.
Who was your mentor in baseball?
Outside of baseball, it would be my mom, Marilyn Lewis. My father died when I was only four. My mom was 33 with two kids and really persevered. She became one of the top State Farm Insurance agents and still travels the country giving speeches. She has an amazingly strong work ethic and taught me to put my all into whatever I did. She told my sister and I we could accomplish whatever we wanted to do.
In baseball I would have to say my good friend and longtime colleague, Kathy Jacobson. She worked with the Oakland A’s for a long time and then opened her own business. She really helped guide me and advised me on what to expect as a woman in this business. Kathy really opened many doors for me, she knows everyone in baseball and is always an amazing help.
What’s it like being a woman in the male dominated world of baseball?
When I first started, my title was General Manager which seemed to evoke a certain reaction from people. People would try to stump me by asking me baseball trivia questions, to see if I knew facts. My job was much more about what happened off the field, but I can say I definitely know many more answers then I knew back then. I was used to being the only woman in the room but it what I didn’t realize was when I was the Event Coordinator it was a much more accepted role.
In baseball, sitting at a table in a press conference, people questioned why I was there. Change is hard, people resist change. I had to show by my actions, that given the opportunity, I knew what I was doing. People would see what I wanted to do would work, so, as they say, action speaks louder than words.
Do you think a time will come when a woman could be General Manager of a Major League club?
I hope a woman could be General Manager. If there is someone qualified, I hope she will be given the opportunity.
What advice would you give a young woman considering a career in baseball?
I would definitely say that doing an internship would be the way to start. Take every opportunity that you are given and give it 100%. You never know where it might take you. Who cares if you don’t have the training, Minor League Baseball is on the job training. I tell the interns that work with me, you’re going to learn more than IS can tell you and you will run programs you didn’t think you could. You’ll deal with crisis and learn how to multitask.
You have to wear many hats. You never know what job you might get.
Juliana Paoli is Chief Marketing Officer of the San Jose Giants located in San Jose, California. They are an Affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
Norm Coleman is an actor, writer and professional photographer living in Half Moon Bay, California. He has been writing for WSR since February this year.
Photo by Barry Colla.