Sarasota, Fla. — Vi Ripken, matriarch of the legendary local baseball family, was behind the backstop of Cal Ripken Sr.’s summer baseball camp on family day in 1996. Eve Rosenbaum, precocious at age 6 and there to see her older brother, also saw an opening, her father, Greg, recalls fondly.
“Mrs. Ripken, I’m going to come to this camp,” Rosenbaum told her, though she was still two years too young.
“Eve, we’ve never had a girl at this camp,” Ripken told her.
“So, I’ll be the first,” said the future Orioles director of baseball development.
That prescient response was an early indication of the assurance, drive and love of the game that have led the Bethesda native to a career in baseball. She’s now one of a small but growing number of high-ranking female executives in an industry where those roles were long limited to men.
The Harvard-educated Rosenbaum, 30, was hired in the fall for a newly created role as a conduit of ideas and information among the Orioles’ burgeoning research and development department, the amateur and international scouting wings and the player development staff.
Her familiarity with top Orioles front office members Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal from their time together with the Houston Astros helped. So, too, did a lifetime of playing the game, scouting it and analyzing it.
“This job I have now is an amalgamation of all those things,” she said. “I get to do a little bit of everything.”
Elias, the Orioles’ executive vice president/general manager, praised Rosenbaum’s baseball acumen.
“I think her biggest strengths, other than intelligence and work ethic, are that she has a lot of feel for the game,” he said.
SABR membership for bat mitzvah
That’s not developed overnight, but it certainly helps to start early. Rosenbaum went to her first Orioles game in 1990. She was 9 weeks old.
Opening Day meant skipping school, her father recalled.
Her older brother, Eli, was a camper at the Ripken camp six summers later when Rosenbaum declared she’d soon be a camper. Greg Rosenbaum called the camp on his daughter’s eighth birthday to enroll her. It took him agreeing to chaperone the camp and a separate dormitory at Mount St. Mary’s College to make it happen, but Eve was there with the rest of the campers as promised.
By this point, baseball was in her blood. Her father says they’d teach her how to calculate ERA in her head at games. When she was bat mitzvahed, Greg Rosenbaum’s gift to Eve was a membership to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), whose name was lent to and has stuck with the sweeping analytical and data revolution that has taken over baseball — sabermetrics.
“I don’t know how many SABR members out there started when they were 13 — but Eve did,” he said.
When she lost her petition to play on the baseball team instead of the softball team in middle school, she joined the Montgomery BarnCats of the Eastern Women’s Baseball Conference.
She was, again, at the low age of the league that ranged from 14 to 64. But she was a catcher for a coach who had high minor league experience and ran his team like a professional one.
So, it was softball during the spring, but summers playing hardball in a unique setting. Her mother, Marti, would sit with teammates’ grandchildren during games. Rosenbaum‘s older teammates would ask about prom during warmups.
Rosenbaum grew skilled behind the plate, and when Harvard softball coach Jenny Allard got a look at her in a camp, she thought there could be a place for her on the team.
‘She really understands how organizations work’
Allard was clear about expectations when Rosenbaum wanted to join the team, promising to work with her behind the plate and train her as a pinch runner. Rosenbaum believes she was fortunate her first-year class was full of pitchers, and they needed catchers around.
However it came to be, Rosenbaum believes making the team was a “little bit of a butterfly effect” that led to her career in baseball.
The coach recalled a preseason group exercise in which the players went around and shared assessments of their personal strengths and got feedback from the team. The rest of the freshman class was quick to point out that whenever they met someone on campus who found out they played softball, Rosenbaum always came up.
“She would connect with others in a way that was memorable,” Allard said. “She wasn’t the boisterous star of the team or anything, but she had such influence."
“Eve’s brilliance is that she really understands how organizations work and what organizations need. She was a tremendous teammate. That’s what people talk about — who she really was and her impact.”
‘A really good cross-section of all of my interests’
An internship with the Boston Red Sox after her junior year at Harvard made it clear to those around she’d pursue a career in baseball, even if she’s not the goal-setting type.
She worked for Major League Baseball and the NFL after graduating. Then Oz Ocampo, whom she worked with at MLB, brought her to Houston in their international scouting department.
Eventually, she worked under Elias. First, Rosenbaum said, she was tasked with modernizing the department and bringing some of the latest practices the Astros were developing to that facet of the organization.
“That’s what I spent a lot of my time over there doing, and in some ways, that’s almost exactly what I’m doing here — taking all this information from our really smart analysts and making sure it’s applied throughout the rest of baseball operations,” she said. “I’m just doing it on a different scale here.”
That scale, it turns out, is a significant one. On the research and development side, she said, Mejdal and his team are “turning out tons of good research and tons of interesting ideas every day.
“My job is making sure those ideas are then implemented and used when we make decisions that actually affect the team on the field,” she said. “When we make decisions in the draft, in international and with major league transactions, with trades, with waiver claims, that we’re actually making sure that we’re incorporating these ideas from the R&D team so the ideas aren’t just sitting there in a room and never get outside the walls of the analyst room.”
On the player-development side, she’s assessing what does and doesn’t work as the team forms strategies around nurturing talent and making sure that the examples they have within the system are taken into account. Elias has also touted her scouting ability, and said that Rosenbaum has already had input on offseason roster decisions and will have a voice in the June amateur draft.
It’s a new job for the Orioles, but one that a lifetime of baseball prepared her for. She loved the game and knew it as a player, but didn’t want to coach. She knows what questions to ask, but knows she isn’t an analyst. She loves scouting and projecting players, but didn’t want to spend 200 nights a year on the road.
“On the one hand, I never could have seen this coming, because who knows?" said Rosenbaum, who in person is quiet, disarming and curious. "Ten years ago, I never could have predicted this would actually happen. But at the same time, I knew where my interests laid, and this seems like a really good cross-section of all of my interests.”
‘I just want to be good at my job’
Put Rosenbaum’s background on the resume of an Ivy League-educated man, and a prominent position in a major league front office would seem fated. Yet the highest reaches of the game are still slowly being opened to women.
Allard, the Harvard softball coach of 26 years, believes a lot has gone into Rosenbaum being accepted in a job like this.
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She believes there’s an acceptance of the value of data and analytics and an understanding of where to find some of the bright minds who work well with such data. Allard said this generation of women is starting to finally reap the benefits of Title IX, which was put in place in 1972, but she believes didn’t start to deliver high-level sporting opportunities until the 1990s in terms of NCAA and Olympic sports.
“Just to get off that level where women as athletes are competing and to be able to have now this field to draw upon, this level of experience to draw upon and then combined with their training intellectually, you’ve seen it on the men’s side for a while,” Allard said. “Now, you’re seeing with women having more opportunities, making the most of those opportunities, and being able to bring to the table their analysis, their insight, their work on the level of men. It’s more of an equity thing than anything else. Now, we’re starting to see it little by little get into professional sports on the men’s side.”
Last year with the Astros, Rosenbaum worked with former Orioles director of analytics and major league contracts Sarah Gelles, who left after the 2018 season. Rosenbaum noted she’s not the first woman in a director role for the Orioles, and said much of Gelles’ work is still in place now.
But in a changing front office structure here, Rosenbaum has been given a prominent role, and, if she wants it, a platform to lead more change.
Rosenbaum said: “On the one hand, I like to feel like if I do a good job, I can open up opportunities for other women if they want to work in baseball, if they want to be a coach, if they want to be a player — just seeing someone else go through it, there’s definitely an element where I kind of feel like I kind of have the weight of the world on my shoulders. But then, on the other hand, sometimes I never think about that at all, because I grew up playing baseball on a boys team, and I played soccer on a boys team. I was always the only girl, and I just never thought about it because that’s just who I was. It’s just what I was doing on a daily basis, and that’s still pretty much who I am today.
“I just want to be good at my job. I just want to be contributing. I want to be a good person helping out the Orioles community, and I don’t like to frame it like I’m the only woman who’s doing it or the highest-ranking woman who’s doing it. I just want to do it, and that’s always been who I am, just focused on the task and contributing. I try not to think of the unique aspects of me being here, because that’s just always been who I am — the woman who’s there, participating.”
She told Vi Ripken as much, and hasn’t stopped since.