New York Mets director of Major League operations Elizabeth Benn...

New York Mets director of Major League operations Elizabeth Benn in the new women's locker room at Citi Field last month. Credit: Jim McIsaac

After the Mets’ 2022 season ended, manager Buck Showalter had a list of 14 Citi Field projects he wanted to get done before the 2023 season. No. 1 was a new women’s locker room just off the players’ clubhouse.

Over in the Bronx, the Yankees had the same idea. Cindy Kamradt, the team’s executive director of stadium planning and special projects, dusted off some pre-pandemic blueprints for a women’s locker room near the players’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.

There were a lot of changes in baseball this season, from the pitch clock to the ban on defensive shifts.

But one of the most meaningful changes for the local teams was a continuation of a process that has been years in the making. As more women work in the industry, all 30 teams have been tasked by Major League Baseball with improving facilities for female employees.

So when the Yankees held Opening Day on March 30, they also opened their new four-locker women’s locker room. The Yankees have 14 full-time women employees in their baseball operations department, which is double the total of four years ago.

And when the Mets opened their home season on April 7, they introduced a new 10-locker women’s locker room. The Mets have 26 women in their baseball operations department.

The teams also redid their visiting women’s locker rooms, which was a priority for Major League Baseball in a sternly worded memo from May 2022 that called some of the facilities around the league “unacceptable.”

The new women's locker room is seen prior to a...

The new women's locker room is seen prior to a game between the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2023 in the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets installed the room near the entrance to the players locker room. Credit: Jim McIsaac

“We wanted to be ahead of it,” Showalter said. “That was a priority in the offseason, the No. 1 thing to get that done. And Steve and Alex [Cohen, the owners] — obviously, someone’s got to pay for it. We didn’t [just] want a women’s locker room. We wanted the best one in baseball.”

‘Welcomed and appreciated’

The Mets completely redid the entrance area to the players’ clubhouse. They built out into the existing hallway to accommodate the women’s space, turning what was a straight line from the door to the clubhouse into a series of turns.

Now, next to a giant orange Mets “NY” logo hangs a 7 inch-by-5-inch sign: “Women’s Locker Room.”

A small sign for a huge step forward.

A view of the women's locker room at Yankee Stadium.

A view of the women's locker room at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

“I was here before spring training,” Mets director of major-league operations Elizabeth Benn said, “and I don’t think it was done at all yet. And then when I got back, it was magically there. Just the fact that Steve and Alex wanted to engage in making it a really comfortable workspace for us and giving us great facilities that are honestly better than the men’s facilities, that’s just so nice to be welcomed and appreciated like that.”

At Yankee Stadium, the Yankees had planned to use an existing bathroom and blow out a storage area to create a locker room for women as early as 2019.

“I had a quote to do the work before COVID,” Kamradt said, “and we were ready to hit the jackhammer, and then everything got pushed back.”

Kamradt said Yankees brass from owner Hal Steinbrenner to general manager Brian Cashman to manager Aaron Boone all had input into the locker room. Boone picked the paint color — a nice shade of gray.

“They 100% had ideas,” Kamradt said. “I don’t think it was ever a question on budget. It was what it was to get the right look and feel and proper locker room for the personnel going to be using it. Hal would come down every time he would come to the city. He would stop in and see it.”

Rachel Balkovec worked as a minor-league hitting instructor for the Yankees in 2020 and 2021 before being promoted to manager of their Low-A affiliate in Tampa in 2022. Credit: New York Yankees/New York Yankees

‘Game-changer’

Who is using the locker rooms? The simple answer: Any woman who needs to.

The Mets and Yankees employ women front office executives, doctors, trainers, physical therapists, analysts, player development staffers, minor-league coaches, sports scientists, media-relations staffers and many more specialized roles that fit under the umbrellas of the front office or baseball operations.

It’s not quite an if-you-build-it-they-will-come situation, because many of these women started working in baseball before the facilities for them were up to snuff.

“It definitely makes a difference,” said Gillian Weir, 34, the Yankees’ senior biomechanist and an Australia native who spent a week working with players in the Bronx in April. “It’s nice to have your own space in the clubhouse. I appreciate it being there. I’ve worked in men’s sports since I was 19. I have been used to having to look for a bathroom in the stands or use an umpire’s facility to have a shower or something after a game once everyone’s left.

“In the Yankees’ circumstance, we obviously have this facility in New York, which it’s awesome to have a shower in the middle of the day when you’ve been outside in the field and it’s hot and gross. And then we have the facility in Tampa as well. I think the facilities that we do have for women at the Yankees are phenomenal and a game-changer because I think it could be a barrier for a lot of women working in the sport. To have a space where it’s just women is awesome.”

Kamradt said the Yankees still are installing finishing touches, such as mirrors, and that she wants to get Weir’s input on what other additions should be made.

The Yankees also constructed a locker room at their Tampa minor-league complex to accommodate a female staff that grew to 18 at times during spring training.

Will the Yankees expand the locker room in the Bronx if they need to?

“100%,” Kamradt said. “I hope we do. That would be a great problem for me.”

Players all for it

And how do the players feel? Remember, in baseball, the players’ locker room is more commonly known as a “clubhouse” — as in you have to be a member of the club to get in.

Decades ago, that meant men only. Now it doesn’t.

Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a 13-year veteran, said that when he was a young player with the Chicago Cubs, he came into contact with one woman staffer in the clubhouse — a massage therapist.

“But now there’s coaches, analysts, trainers, so it’s a good thing,” he said. “I don’t think you should ever sell yourself short as a kid whether you’re a boy or girl or in-between. Whatever your dream is, I think you should go after.

“I just think if you’re going to be in a clubhouse, you should have your own space to feel comfortable in. It’s not an easy environment to be kind of a pioneer in that space. For teams to acknowledge that and make accommodations for the females that are in the game, that are helping the game and moving the game forward, I think it’s something that’s definitely on the positive side.”

Brandon Nimmo, the longest-tenured Mets player, said: “I think we started to notice it as we were adding women to our staff and they needed a place to go and change into their stuff, just like us. I think it’s a great step forward.

“We work with a lot of women in sports and in baseball in particular. We deal with them on an everyday basis and they should have somewhere that they need to go change into their work attire. People don’t think of our uniform as work attire, but it is. I think it’s great that they have a space that they can do that in.”

The number of women who work in and around the clubhouse is growing around baseball.

According to data supplied to Newsday by MLB, approximately 22% of baseball’s workforce is composed of women, with the commissioner’s office more than 30% female.

At the start of this season, 43 women held coaching, strength and conditioning or mental health skills roles for major- and minor-league clubs (up from three in 2017).

A record 19 women are on-field coaches or are in player development roles (up from three in 2020 and none before that). The Mets have five female coaches in their minor-league system.

In their minor-league system, the Yankees have the first woman hired as a manager in Rachel Balkovec, who is in her second year with Class A Tampa.

This season, Arizona hired the second female minor-league manager, Ronnie Gajownik of Class A Hillsboro.

Former Yankees executive Kim Ng is the only female general manager. She was hired by then-Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter in 2020.

Assistant coach Alyssa Nakken of the San Francisco Giants is the only female major-league coach. Last season, she became the first woman to coach on-field (first base) in a major-league game.

More to come? It sure looks that way.

“During spring training,” Benn said, “we had five women coaches — so those are actual baseball coaches — and then add on top of that the strength coaches and the trainers and nutritionists. So we have dozens of women working in an organization who need access to these facilities.”

And those in MLB who design those facilities need to take into consideration multiple factors that male staffers never have to concern themselves with in this particular workplace.

“When I was on a road trip with the players,” the 29-year-old Benn said, “it’s like, OK, I had the conversation about how do I navigate this space? I’m over here. I want to get a water. The kitchen is through the locker room. So how do I kind of navigate that?

“I think that’s something that women in baseball and in sports are often kind of like told — not here, specifically — because the general air is just that you don’t ask for anything. Because you’re kind of the odd one out sometimes. The fact that it’s an incredible facility, that’s really special, it shows kind of both the culture and how the organization values our presence.”

Showalter said “I hope so” when asked if he expects the Mets to have a female major-league coach someday.

Benn, who was hired by the Mets in March 2022, is the highest-ranking female baseball operations executive in club history. The Toronto native also is an accomplished baseball pitcher and was the first woman to play in the New York City Metro Baseball League. So she knows from locker rooms.

“Our locker room, I believe, is the best in baseball,” Benn said. “There’s a lot of room to grow, which was really cool. Buck really kind of spearheaded this initiative, and he was like, ‘Is 10 lockers safe?’ And I was like, ‘I only think like three or four people are going to use it.’ He’s like, ‘OK, great, room to grow. Perfect.’  ”

Showalter declined to take credit for “spearheading” the project (though he admitted to — along with his wife, Angela — chipping in ideas about furniture and wall hangings and how to make sure the locker room users had maximum privacy).

“We all did,” Showalter said, citing the Cohens and general manager Billy Eppler. “It was important to everybody.

“Something that should have been done a long time ago. Just common sense. I wish my vocabulary allowed me . . . it’s what’s right. They’re very valuable to us. Sometimes you’ve got to show ’em.”

Women prominent in baseball

WITH THE METS

Name                                    Position

Elizabeth Benn                  Director of Major League Operations

Gretchen Aucoin              Reconditioning hitting coach

Breanne Nasti                    Development coach

Rachel Neugart                 Baseball Operation & Player Development spring training

Regan Saulnier                  Development coach

Maria Bogeart                   Mental Performance coach

Sara Ann Davidson           Ass’t. Sports Scientist

WITH THE YANKEES                                   

Name                                    Position

Jean Afterman                   Senior VP & Ass’t. GM

Rachel Balkovec                Minor League manager

Gillian Weir                         Senior biomechanist

Christina Williamson       Senior performance science analyst

IN MLB

Name                                    Team                     Position

Kim Ng                                  Marlins                 GM

Catie Griggs                        Mariners              President Business Operations

Caroline O’Connor           Marlins                 President Business Operations

Caroline Perry                    Padres                  Chief Operating Officer

Marti Wronski                   Brewers               Chief Operating Officer

Raquel Ferreira                 Red Sox                Executive VP & Asst. GM

Eve Rosenbaum                Orioles                  Ass’t. GM Baseball Operations

Sara Goodrum                   Astros                   Director Player Development

FOR THE RECORD

  • MLB says approximately 22% of baseball’s workforce is comprised of women, with roles covering all functions in the League Office and MLB clubs. In the Office of the Commissioner, approximately 30.1% of the workforce is female.
  •  “Take The Field,” one of MLB’s key gender diversity programs, has helped 30% of participants secure roles in baseball.
  • At the start of this season, there were 43 women holding coaching positions, strength & conditioning coach, or mental health skills roles at Draft the Major or Minor League Clubs, including a record 19 women who have held, or are holding, on-field coaching or player development roles.
  • Last season, Alyssa Nakken (Giants) became the first female to coach first base in a Major League game.
  • Approx. 20% of MLB club Vice Presidents are women.
  • There are at least seven women serving as MLB pro scouts, or scouting officials.

SOURCES: MLB; METS, YANKEES MEDIA GUIDES

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME