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Introducing: Elaine C. Weddington; first woman baseball executive

Introducing: Elaine C. Weddington; first woman baseball executive – Boston Red Sox’s assistant general manager

Renee D. Turner

INTRODUCING: Elaine C. Weddington First Woman Baseball Executive

ELAINE C. Weddington watches Boston Red Sox games with a keener eye and a more deliberate purpose than she did when she followed the New York Mets on TV as a child. No longer does she look at baseball for the pure enjoyment of the “national pastime.” Now, millions of dollars are riding on her knowledge of the game and its players. She is making history as the first woman and the second African-American named to an upper-echelon post in major league baseball.

As the Boston Red Sox’s assistant general manager, Weddington doesn’t let the weightiness of the job over-shadow her love of the game. The 26-year-old, New York-bred attorney, whose responsibilities include contract negotiations and league rule interpretation, says she’s got the best of both worlds.

“I’ve found a job I love,” she says, “And I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do – sports management and the negotiation of player contracts. But one of the best things about working in a ballpark is when you get through your normal work day, and if there’s a home game, you have something to look forward to.”

Weddington’s enthusiasm for the game and her work keep her upbeat in the face of a sometimes grueling schedule. There is no such thing as a “normal day” for the woman who negotiates with city officials over construction permits and ballpark licenses, and discusses major league prospects with Red Sox officials. During the off-season, she went to spring training camp, but flew back to New York for the Jackie Robinson Foundation dinner as a foundation board member. When she pops out of her Fenway Park office to see a game, she not only follows the plays, but she also keeps her eyes on Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Ellis Burks and other players to make mental notes as she prepares for the next year’s contract talks.

“There was one agent who I don’t think was too thrilled to deal with me,” says Weddington, who has no problem transforming her usually jovial tone to a more stern, lawyerly inflection. “The agents who have a problem will get used to me. They’ll just have to realize that I’m here, this is my job and if they want to sign a contract for their player they’ll have to accept that.”

Weddington picked up a few tricks of the trade from her father, the late Thomas Weddington Sr., who was a Howard University Law School graduate and New York labor relations specialist. But initially she was more interested in working in sports than in law. Although she did not participate in organized sports as a child, she and her brothers, Derek, 30, and Thomas Jr., 24, played whiffleball and other sports as youngsters in the parks near their Flushing, N.Y., neighborhood. It wasn’t until junior high school, while babysitting the children of former New York Mets second baseman Felix Millan, that Weddington developed a passion for baseball. However, much to the delight of her father, her seventh-grade teacher also piqued her interest in law with classroom discussions on desegregation mandates.

“With Brown v. Board of Education, something just clicked with me,” she says. “The legal process was fascinating, how the judge reached a decision and the legal reasoning.”

Her interest in baseball, combined with her fascination with law, led her to study sports management. A recipient of a Jackie Robinson Scholarship, Weddington worked with the Mets in a number of jobs – from public relations intern to Diamond Club hostess and elevator operator – while earning degrees in athletic administration and law at St. John’s University. Her diligence gained her the respect of baseball officials, including Lou Gorman, who was with the Mets at the time and is now the Red Sox’s general manager.

The baseball commissioner’s office chose Weddington for its executive development program after she completed law school in 1987. During her training, she assisted in the Red Sox’s main office and in 1988 became the ballclub’s associate general counsel. That same year, the Houston Astros named Bob Watson the first Black assistant general manager. Weddington became the second in January.

Gorman recalls how Weddington “always had her nose in a law book” while he was dealing with baseball matters at the New York Mets’ camp. But he says her thoroughness and understanding of American League Rules and the Basic Agreement governing player-management relations put her in a prime position for the job as his assistant with the Red Sox. Her skills are particularly crucial, he says, since baseball has become a game in which a misplaced comma can mean the difference between a $500,000 or a $5 million contract, and a missed deadline can spell the loss of a key player. Gorman, who concedes that he doesn’t pay close enough attention to such details, says he’s glad to have Weddington on his team. “She’ll help keep me straight,” he says.

A tough negotiator who, in warm weather, walks more than a mile to work from her Back Bay apartment, Weddington knows the importance of doing well in the precedent-setting position.

“The challenge for me is to have a working knowledge of the game and to get the rules down pat,” says the voracious reader who tries to study baseball rules at least 10 hours a week. “To be the first is something very special. But I try not to dwell on that and focus on doing my job. If I do well, maybe the doors will open to other females and minorities in upper-level management in all sports, not just in baseball.”

PHOTO : Elaine Weddington has risen to the highest ranks of major league baseball management. She’s in the middle of players’ contract negotiations and, she handles technical aspects of the Basic Agreement between players and management, waivers and options.

PHOTO : Discussing major league prospects with her boss, Red Sox General Manager Lou Gorman, Weddington says she has a lot to learn about the finer points of player selection. But Gorman says the young attorney is a quick study.

PHOTO : A true fan, Weddington holds a baseball while sitting at her desk at Fenway Park, where she says she’s got the best of both worlds – a job in sports management and a legitimate excuse to watch baseball, her favorite sport.

COPYRIGHT 1990 Johnson Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group