(photo courtesy of Radford News Journal)
When I spoke to Betsy Haugh, General Manager of the Pulaski Yankees, she was standing on the warning track in historic Calfee Park as a crew worked to replace the last remaining seats from the park inherited by the Shelor Motor Mile Group when they purchased the team from the town of Pulaski, Virginia in 2015. Along with the New York Yankees taking over the affiliation that same year, the change in ownership has sparked a bit of a renaissance for baseball in Pulaski. Betsy has been a part of the continuation in improving Calfee Park and the Pulaski Yankees since February 2018.
Betsy grew 9 miles North of Charlottesville, Virginia in the small town of Earlysville. She was a soccer player, and her brother was a baseball player. So, her family spent a lot of time at soccer fields as well as ballparks. After high school, Betsy played soccer for Marshall University. Shoulder surgery following her freshman season led to her sophomore campaign being her last as a player. Betsy then began working in the sports information office at Marshall, and that is when she decided to pursue a career in sports off the field. After completing her bachelor’s in sports management and marketing, Betsy went to Virginia Tech for her graduate studies, gaining a master’s degree in communication. It was during this time when Betsy fell back in love with the game of baseball. She loved the Baltimore Orioles rebrand that reincorporated the “cartoon bird” logo and watched a lot of O’s games during her time in college.
From there, Betsy took an internship with the Appalachian League’s Danville Braves. After her internship Summer with the team, she was promoted to Sales and Marketing Manager and was taken on by the league as a publicist, assisting with social media, the league website and media guide, and press releases. Career growth is very important to Betsy, and after her second season in Danville, she saw an opportunity to take the next step in the form of Assistant General Manager for the Pulaski Yankees. Betsy says she is fortunate to have moved up the ladder, so to speak, each year of her career at that point. That did not change at the end of the 2018 season, when Betsy was promoted to General Manager in Pulaski.
Betsy also considers herself lucky to not have any horror stories from being a woman in a male-dominated industry. She commends Minor League Baseball and the work they have done to build a family of hard-working, capable women within the sport. She says that they are fully aware of the fact that baseball is dominated by men, and they embrace that rather than deny it. While the presence of women in baseball front offices is becoming commonplace, Betsy believes one of the largest areas of opportunity for women in the game is in player development, as we’ve seen more and more women hired as coaches and scouts in recent years. Her hope is that we are heading down a road that leads to a world where a woman taking a position within baseball is no longer a story. Betsy also commented that she appreciates how organic inclusion is in baseball. It’s one of the things that makes working in baseball so enjoyable for her.
The fact that Pulaski is the only Appalachian League team that is not on the list of 42 teams rumored to be eliminated from affiliated baseball has left Betsy in what she refers to as a “fortunately awkward position.” However, she feels strongly about the presence of the game in the other small towns that are facing the looming contraction.
“That’s something that just cannot be highlighted enough. Baseball in small communities is what helps grow the game. To be able to keep baseball in those communities would just be so important for baseball as a sport, as an industry in America, and as a sport around the world.”
Betsy believes that Pulaski has avoided being on the alleged chopping block by first focusing on facilities for players, then turning their attention to the fan experience. The club has made leaps and bounds in both areas as they prepare for the possibility of becoming a full season team. Beyond that, and more importantly in my opinion, the Pulaski Yankees have reignited a passion for baseball in their community.
The reality that COVID-19 will prevent the 2020 season from happening has saddened the town of Pulaski. Betsy calls Pulaski a “small town with a big baseball heart” and believes that the lack of a season this year would be a blow to the culture of the small community. More than anything, Betsy Haugh is trying to remain upbeat and positive when talking to fans around town, and she is utilizing the unexpected free time to strengthen her relationships with other executives around Minor League Baseball and prepare the ballpark for upcoming special events other than games. Calfee Park will still be busy this Summer, as Betsy and the Pulaski Yankees refocus and concoct new ideas that they otherwise would not have thought to attempt. Make no mistake, Betsy will still miss the hustle and bustle of gamedays. She looks forward to being able to engage with every aspect of operating a Minor League Baseball team all in one day. Along with the tight knit bond built with others working in the game, this is what Betsy enjoys the most about her job. It’s not difficult to see why the Pulaski Yankees are thriving the way they are.
You can follow Betsy on Twitter @betsy_haugh and the Pulaski Yankees @PulaskiYanks. I have more profiles of great women in baseball coming up, so be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to be the first to know when new articles are posted!