By: Evan Rogers
HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. — The week of July 24 marks the celebration of “Women in Baseball Week,” an annual observance where those across the globe commemorate and recognize female leaders in sports who continue to pave the path for women in the baseball industry.
The Holly Springs Salamanders’ front office consists of three individuals who have helped operate this year’s team. Let’s meet two women who have represented and led this season’s Salamanders.
Shari Massengill, General Manager
Shari Massengill took her first internship in baseball with the Kinston Indians, the then Cleveland Indians Single-A affiliate, while she was still in college.
At the time, Massengill had little desire to join the baseball world and saw her internship as a short-term job rather than a potential career builder. But Massengill soon began to fall in love with the operations side of baseball and joined Kinston’s head office shortly after she graduated college.
“It was actually by accident that I am in the business,” Massengill said, “I didn’t plan it this way, but I’m now thankful to have an opportunity to work in the game.”
Eventually, Massengill worked her way up from being an intern in charge of taking phone calls and typing up contracts on a typewriter, to replacing Kinston’s longtime general manager, North Johnston.
Johnston left the club to take a job offer in California, and Massengill was left to fill his shoes. With little notice and a large void to fill, Massengill used the teachings she learned from her mentor to guide her as the new general manager.
“I asked (Johnston) every question under the sun and I learned a lot from him,” Massengill said. “His philosophy was always to do the right thing, make sure the fans are happy and to always have an open door for your employees.”
Massengill’s hard work and dedication would pay off. In 2007, the Kinston, N.C. native was named the Executive of the Year for the Carolina League and earned Rawlings’ Female Executive of the Year honors. Due to her array of accomplishments, Massengill was featured in Forbes magazine the following year.
However, her time in Kinston soon ended as Massengill took an assistant general manager role with the Gwinnett Braves, the Atlanta Braves Triple-A squad.
Though leaving her hometown was bittersweet, Massengill stated the experience she gained from Kinston prepared her for the future.
“The biggest thing for me is that I learned a little bit of everything at those lower levels,” Massengill said.
After spending eight seasons in Gwinnett, Massengill wanted to return home to North Carolina. When the Salamanders’ general manager position opened up in May, the longtime Triple-A assistant general manager applied right away.
Massengill would receive the job, and joined the Salamanders less than a week before Holly Springs’ first contest. On her first day with the Salamanders, she was met with several questions and responsibilities needing to be filled.
Yet, Massengill remained calm and used her core values to guide her through both her early days and first season in Holly Springs.
“If I ask you to do something that means I’m doing the same thing,” she said. “Whatever it might be, we’re doing it together.”
Amanda Gillis, Director of Corporate Partnerships
Before being hired in the fall of 2021, Amanda Gillis interned with numerous baseball organizations and played collegiate softball at Guilford College.
The summer after her junior year of college Gillis took her first step into the baseball industry, accepting an internship with Ripken Baseball. For the next two years, Gillis would serve many roles, including the lead position for the collegiate summer league in 2021.
During her time with Ripken Baseball, Gillis traveled to the ESPN Worldwide Sports headquarters in Orlando, Fla. where she gained announcing experience and helped with the operational duties of a national tournament.
“I think Ripken prepared me the most for now because it introduced me to talking with coaches and the operations side,” Gillis said. “(Ripken) has helped me be successful here.”
As director of corporate partnerships, Gillis’ responsibilities vary depending on the time of the year.
In the offseason, Gillis focuses on renewing and signing new partnerships for the Salamanders and helps hire new staff and order equipment for Holly Springs.
However, during the summer season it’s an all-hands-on-deck operation. From preparing postgame meals to writing the in-game scripts, day-to-day operations require contributions from everyone according to Gillis.
“In the season you do everything,” she said. “You turn from doing your one role (in the offseason) to doing all tasks. It’s a team effort.”
To some people, game days may appear as just a nighttime job, but the Salamanders’ front office treats every day the same — arriving to work early in the morning, and not leaving until hours after each contest.
With the grueling commitment — that sometimes requires work weeks of upwards to 80 hours — seeing Ting Stadium come alive every game makes it all worthwhile.
“Watching the fans enjoy the games makes it all worth it,” Gillis said. “It’s great to see everyone happy.”
For Gillis, her path into the baseball industry is just beginning and one she hopes to build upon in the coming years. And for the next generation of female leaders in sports, Gillis left a powerful message.
“Since it is a male-dominated industry, don’t be afraid to step up in a room full of men,” she said. “You can’t be afraid to chase after your dreams. So always put your best foot forward, work hard and get all the experience you can.”