A’s executive Haley Alvarez began career journey at Hall

Written by: Bill Francis

Haley Alvarez is a rising star as a big league front office executive. But her career started at the home of baseball – as an intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Currently the assistant director of scouting and baseball operations for the Oakland Athletics, Alvarez has blazed an amazing path to success, having already worked for three big league teams and being profiled in both The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal in the last few years. And in spite of any slights endured as a woman in a male-dominated industry, she admits to using them as motivation in her ascent up the industry ladder.

During a recent telephone interview from Mesa, Ariz., where the A’s hold Spring Training camp, the 27-year-old Alvarez talked about a baseball journey that first began with keeping score while attending San Francisco Giants games with her father.

“I think my primary interest in baseball was the bonding experience with my family, particularly with my dad. He traveled a lot for work so it was really the opportunity for me to sit down with him for three hours without any distractions,” she said. “And then I just continued to learn. I saw how many intricacies there were in the game. I loved that there were so many different ways to approach the roster building.

“You never really know what’s around the corner. It’s something that’s really special to baseball, especially with the long season. Things change so quickly in the game and I think that’s really kind of cool. And it kept my attention. I’m also a math-based person. I grew up loving math. A lot of the numbers were brought to my attention early with keeping score and I think that also hooked me, that side of my brain, really engaging with the stats side of baseball.”

In explaining the wide ranging duties of being Oakland’s assistant director of scouting and baseball operations, a position she has held since October 2019, Alvarez said the primary responsibility is to help support the international, amateur and pro scouting departments.

“Making sure our scouts have everything they need to do their jobs on the ground, whether it be technology or player reports online or scheduling,” she said. “And then also going out and scouting in those three different departments as well. I’ll travel to the A’s complex in the Dominican Republic, I do pro scouting of the minor league teams in the summer, and also amateur scouting some of the bigger events such as the Area Code showcase as well as the Cape Cod League or going to games locally in Berkeley or big tournaments during Spring Training.”

Alvarez also works with the A’s finance team to oversee the team’s scouting budgets as well as managing expenses throughout the calendar year.

Oakland Scouting Director Eric Kubota praised Alvarez’s work, saying: “Haley is truly the glue that holds our scouting department together. Not only is she intelligent and incredibly organized, she has a passion for scouting and baseball that will carry her very far in this game.”

Mirroring the back of a well-traveled player’s baseball card, Alvarez has made many stops along the way. Beginning with the University of Virginia, where she served as the baseball’s team’s student manager for all of her four years in Charlottesville (2011-15), she had a summer internship with the independent San Rafael (Cal.) Pacifics (2012), a summer Membership internship with the Baseball Hall of Fame (2013), summer baseball operations internships with Major League Baseball (2014) and the A’s (2015), and a year-long baseball operations internship with the Boston Red Sox (2016).

Calling her 10 weeks between her collegiate sophomore and junior years in Cooperstown “amazing,” Alvarez said one of her biggest highlights was watching visitors come into the Hall of Fame every day and how much joy the game of baseball brought them.

“I think what was really just exciting was to see how much joy people got from a sport like baseball and I guess I hadn’t truly seen that before,” Alvarez said. “That really made me want to do more in the game and continue my engagement with it and with the fans as well.

“It was one of my first – I guess – real jobs in baseball aside from working with the University of Virginia’s baseball team. But this was a really good experience because I felt like I was able to get a different perspective on the game as well. The history behind baseball wasn’t something I was especially focused on prior to interning at the Hall of Fame.”

Alvarez’s Hall of Fame Membership manager was Jason Schiellack, the Museum’s Director of Development and Sponsorship, who remembers his former intern fondly.

“Her drive for excellence was evident throughout her time in Cooperstown – even from my initial interview with her for the position,” Schiellack said. “There was no doubt she loved baseball and had a strong desire to work in it. Her time in Cooperstown was marked by hard work, a willingness to always be learning and a strong desire to be great at whatever she was doing. It is clear that those trends have continued throughout each endeavor she has had since, including her work with the A’s.

“I still have files from past interns, including my initial interview notes. When I asked Haley the question: ‘What are your career goals? How about in 10 years?’ I scribbled, ‘Work in the business of sports (preferably MLB) in a management position that works closely with players.’ I think she can say mission accomplished.”

As Alvarez tells it, her introduction to the Hall of Fame’s internship program came as a result of her love of the game. While making a college tour with her mother in the fall of 2010, the pair decided to make a side trip to Cooperstown. A chance meeting with then-Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson proved fruitful.

“The Museum was empty other than Haley and her mom and I engaged them and learned from Haley about her love of baseball and her hope to make a career out of it. I told her that she should intern for us once she chose a college and became an upper classman,” Idelson said. “My impression of her at that time was that she reminded me of me – she could not get enough baseball and had a thirst to make a living out of it and knew this while in high school. I could see the twinkle in her eye that meant she was motivated and serious about baseball as a career.”

In the summer of 2013, Alvarez was one of 15 college and university students from around the country in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development to work in a variety of disciplines at the Museum. Starting a new chapter in their professional lives, undergraduate and graduate students gain hands-on professional training in a field that closely matches their major.

The Steele Internship Program began in 2001 and has since welcomed 386 interns in an experience made possible by Peggy Steele, who endowed the program in honor of her late husband, Frank, and his commitment to fostering education and leadership development. Alvarez is just one example of a former intern who has taken their immersive summer in Cooperstown into the real world.

By 2017, Alvarez had a job with the Cincinnati Reds as a baseball operations assistant, but after nearly a year on the job, was lured back to Bay Area by the Athletics with the position of scouting coordinator, making her the first woman in their front office to be hired as a talent evaluator.

“Ending up back in Oakland is kind of an amazing story,” Alvarez said. “I thought I’d be with the Cincinnati Reds for a couple of years, that was the plan, and to get a call to come back home to a hometown baseball team is one of the biggest highlights for me.”

Looking back on her career, Alvarez, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce from the McIntire School, attributes her time with University of Virginia baseball team as an important springboard. The impact can be, in part, traced to the squad’s use of technology, most importantly the TrackMan software.

Another turning point was when the A’s, soon after her internship with the franchise ended, sponsored her for scout school, one of only two women among the 60 attendees.

“Definitely, that was exciting for me when (A’s GM) David Forst gave me the opportunity because after my internship I was a little in shock that there wouldn’t be a fulltime role for me at that time. I think that was the first understanding that I had that it wasn’t necessarily me but just the timing within the sport that allowed to get those opportunities,” Alvarez said. “For them to sponsor me took a lot and kind of lifted me back up bit.

“I also made so many connections there that are valuable; people across the game that you interact with still and it continues to grow. It all started in scout school. People working in different areas of the game and you learn a lot from them, no matter how much time they spent in big league baseball.”

Perseverance has allowed Alvarez to succeed in a male-dominated field, with the A’s considered among the most progressive franchises in pursuing diverse hires. Frequently, while on a scouting assignment, she’ll be the only woman among the fraternity.

“I think from a front office standpoint I’ve always been surrounded by supportive people. That’s been really great for me, especially my time with the A’s. It’s been great that they’ve offered me the ability to go out and scout games right away and take on that responsibility,” Alvarez aid. “We’re also a big team about representing yourself in the right way, so the fact that they want to represent themselves with a woman at these games is really exciting.

“I’m no different than a lot of the other guys in the office. A lot of them didn’t play past high school baseball, or any baseball. I think the funny thing is that we all pretty much have the same knowledge and background – the difference is just the looks. I just think all the actions for women are definitely looked at. People are waiting for you to make a wrong move, like when you’re out scouting games and someone thinks you are wearing the wrong thing.

“People might be quicker to doubt your skills, which is a little bit hard and I think it puts a lot more stress on us to be perfect. But it also kind of lights a fire under me to do better and to work harder to kind of prove myself in the industry.”

Though stories of misogyny and sexual harassment of women in the game sometimes make headlines, Alvarez said she hasn’t been discouraged.

“I think that the support from my family as well as from people surrounding me in the front office really makes a difference. Also connecting with other women that are in the game, not necessarily the same position, but that are dealing with similar issues,” Alvarez said. “Some of the issues in baseball are similar to issues in other industries as well. I think it’s a male/female issue in the workplace versus a baseball/female issue.”

As for being a role model, Alvarez hopes to pave a path for women to be able to come into the game easier.

“I was in touch with Kim Ng when I was working at the commissioner’s office and we’ve stayed in touch, but it’s really hard to find a female mentor in the game right now,” Alvarez said. “I hope to be a role model for women trying to get in and someone that they can lean on as they try to pave their way in the industry.”

In November 2020, Ng became big league baseball’s first female general manager when she was hired by the Miami Marlins.

According to Alvarez, being named a major league team’s general manager would be a dream come true.

“I won’t really know exactly where my path leads me to get there in baseball – there’s no straight line to the position – but I’m just enjoying right now getting all the experience I can in the game,” Alvarez said. “I hope that helps me reach that goal ultimately of becoming a female general manager.”

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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