MLB's top women speak at brunch

MLB's top women speak at brunch

DETROIT -- On Saturday, local businesswomen met some of Major League Baseball's top female executives when the Women's Economic Club in Detroit co-hosted a brunch with FanFest title sponsor John Hancock Financial Services.

Senior vice president of advertising and marketing Jacqueline Parkes, senior vice president of special events Marla Miller and vice president of recruitment Wendy Lewis spoke to a group made up of Economic Club members and their families, as well as the club's corporate investors and board members.

The MLB executives spoke about their roles in baseball, how they reached their current positions and the important positions women hold in the marketing efforts of MLB. Parkes said women account for almost half of baseball's fan base, and that one-third of the 74 million fans attending games and watching games on TV are women.

"The impact of women in the game of Major League Baseball is tremendous, both on and off the field," said Parkes. "Women are the gatekeeper of the house ... we control the entertainment dollar. ... Marketers are increasingly trying to figure out a way of how to leverage the power of the woman, and we at Major League Baseball are doing the same thing."

The guests asked Miller about the economic impact of the All-Star Game on the city of Detroit.

"There is an indirect and a direct economic impact number. We do rely on the city for the formula -- it usually comes forth from the [city's] convention and visitors' bureau," said Miller. "The range in that number here in Detroit is between 50 and 60 million dollars."

Lewis said she is looking forward to working with the Economic Club. MLB's Diverse Business Partners program, headed up by Lewis, continues to be on the forefront of the industry in terms of its development with women's businesses and professional organizations.

"We're really are very excited to be here," Lewis said. "I congratulate you all for what you have accomplished."

Attendees, including Economic Club president/CEO Terry Barclay, said it was inspiring to see women in these roles in sports.

All-Star Game 2005

"That's an important message from today -- the role models," she said. "There were young women in the room today, but there were [also] young men in the room seeing women in leadership roles."

Another special attendee at the reception was Orioles third baseman and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. He spoke to the group about his playing days and the dedication it took to get to the Majors.

"I loved every minute of [playing baseball]. I never wanted to do anything in my whole life except put on a uniform and be a baseball player," Robinson said. "I remember in the eighth grade I had to write a book called 'My Vocation,' about what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I wrote on being a big-league baseball player -- that was really my dream, and my dream came true."

Robinson answered guests' questions and, after the brunch, took photos with them. Each guest also received an autographed baseball from Robinson.

Kim Stine, an Economic Club member and John Hancock's director of marketing, said she was impressed by Robinson's determination.

"If you can see it in your head and you commit to it, there's nothing that you can't do," Stine said. "There's really not a lot that you can't achieve if you have the passion for it."

The Economic Club is the largest professional women's forum in the Detroit area, and it has over 2,000 members nationwide. According to Barclay, the goal is "to strengthen the environment by creating opportunities for women to lead and succeed."

"We work with a really broad cross section of business and industry people," Barclay said. "When [people] think of Detroit, they think of autos and manufacturing, but there's really much more to the economy than that here. There are 24 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state of Michigan, so we have members from all of those different companies."

After the reception, the guests were invited to check out the John Hancock All-Star FanFest in the Cobo Center's main arena.

Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.