Sarah Steinberg grew up in a baseball-loving family.
So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the 2011 Sandia High School grad finds herself as one of the growing number of women pioneers sprinkled throughout Major League Baseball front offices.
After holding several other jobs in pro baseball, just about a year ago Steinberg landed a gig as the Pittsburgh Pirates business manager of baseball operations. She also serves on the Alliance for Gender Equity in Baseball.
“What I do is act as a liaison between baseball operations, the business department and the compliance department,” Steinberg said.
And even though her sport is embroiled in bitter contract negotiations between owners and players, Steinberg anticipates being quite busy no matter the outcome.
“We’re getting ready to go down to Florida,” where minor leaguers who are not on contracts will be getting ready for their seasons, she said. “I’m still busy during the lockout managing our department’s budgets, strategy, hiring and on-boarding new, full-time and part-time staff and other administrative duties. While in Florida, I’ll get to get to know new hires in person, watch minor league camp, attend meetings and manage my daily tasks.”
Should a baseball apocalypse occur and the situation continues to drag on, Steinberg will return to Pittsburgh “and continue to manage our budgets — adjusting the forecasts and manage projects for strategy, staffing, and other administrative tasks,” she said. “I also take part in the (diversity, equity and inclusion) efforts and cultural initiatives for the baseball side and I’ll continue to do so even if there’s no baseball at PNC.”
As for what she does each day, well, it varies.
“A typical day, well there’s not really one,” she said. “Lots of meetings. Coordination meetings, coordinating with what’s going on with player development and with the Major League side. I have meetings with HR to make sure we’re all on board. Lots of different meetings during the day. Catching up on email. Working on tracking budgets or different projects I’m working on.”
What Steinberg is more focused on is trying to help turn around the Pirates’ fortunes as the small-market franchise struggles to compete against high-budget competitors.
“The nature of baseball is cyclical,” she said. “We’re coming back up around. With all of our leadership, we’re treading down that path. I’m here for leadership development, so making our leaders better leaders. We’re all striving to be a championship-caliber team.”
That, of course, is the fundamental goal.
“I think everyone’s is in it to win a World Series, right?” she said. “That’s the ultimate goal, but for myself, right now, I’m growing in the role that I am in and making the best out of what I have right now. There are a lot of things at work, learning, growing within the Pirates administrative side of the process. There’s a lot of work to do, so hopefully in the next couple of years, I become more efficient and not only continue to make it a great place to work but also a place where we can win.”
Although Steinberg did not attend New Mexico, she still bleeds UNM cherry and silver, having grown up in the stands at Lobo Field, and developed a close relationship with the family of former (now deceased) coach Rich Alday.
“We would go to Lobos baseball games all the time,” she said. “My brother (Nate) was a bat boy, so just being around the game all the time. … It’s where I learned how to keep score, where I learned the players’ names and the positions and really fell in love with the game there.”
Steinberg credits her dad, David Steinberg, with instilling a love of baseball early on in her life. David Steinberg is a Journal contributor who worked for the newspaper in Albuquerque and Santa Fe in various capacities for nearly 50 years.
“I was definitely influenced by my dad,” she said. “And growing up, our family vacations we would go on spring break, go to spring training games or during the summer, we would go to wherever to go see a baseball game. Our vacations were centered around baseball.”
Like her dad, who grew up in New Jersey, Sarah Steinberg rooted for the New York Yankees, although that all changed when she got into baseball herself.
“I root for whatever team I work for, so I haven’t been a true Yankees fan in a while,” she said. “That’s the best thing about growing up in New Mexico — you can pick whatever team you want because there’s no team there.”
As one can imagine, her job is perfect for a baseball fan.
“I’m very fortunate to work out of PNC Park,” Steinberg said. “For home games, I’m definitely able to watch the game from the Baseball Ops suite. Aside from the relationships I mentioned earlier, this is the best part of the job, getting to watch professional baseball for free every night throughout the summer.”
And like any good baseball person, she has her superstitions.
“Whenever I left the game early, they came back and won,” Steinberg said. “The Pirates had a lot of comebacks this past year, which was really exciting. And I started to think that I was a jinx. Every time I was in the booth, they were losing, but if I left, they ended up winning, so I started to leave just a little bit early.”
As for her role as a woman working in baseball, Steinberg said it is not something she takes lightly.
“Helping women get into management, help out at colleges, answer questions, I have gone through a lot of different experiences in the game so I am always happy to share so people don’t make the same mistakes I did,” she said. “I know I have just as much to learn from people trying to get in the game as they do from me. So I wouldn’t say I’m a full role model, but it’s there.”
Joining the Pirates organization made a lot of sense because it has been on the forefront in terms of its progressive hiring practices.
“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to join the Pirates,” she said. “They’re commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in all its forms, but particularly to sourcing, it makes me feel great. The more women in baseball ops, the better. To be the only women in a meeting, to be the only woman in the room, well, it always feels better when there’s more.”
Steve Williams, Pirates senior director of player personnel, said bringing in Steinberg, other women and people of color is beneficial to the organization as a whole and baseball in general.
“It’s had a huge impact within the organization,” he said. “The statistics show that when you have a well-diversified work force, you function better, sharing different experiences. If we all have the same experience, you don’t grow. So it’s had a huge impact, within the organization and outside the organization. When people walk into the ballpark, they’re going to look at us differently because of how we’re represented.”