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How Mariners president Catie Griggs is breaking barriers

The last time the Seattle Mariners were in the playoffs—that would be 2001— we were all still renting movies from Blockbuster or seeing Harry Potter, the movie, for the first time.

That drought, the longest post-season one in North American professional sports history, ended this fall. The team is now battling the Houston Astros in the American League Divisional Series.

But that’s not the only history the franchise has made over the past year or so. In July 2021, Catie Griggs became Seattle’s president of baseball operations. She’s not only the first ever female president in Mariners history, she’s also the only female with the “president” title in Major League Baseball.

Griggs, 40, recently talked to Yahoo Finance about her journey—and her innovative work with the Mariners over the past 15 months or so.

She is impressive by any measure. The abridged version of her CV: Griggs enrolled at North Carolina State University at 14. (Editor’s note: that’s not a typo.) After getting an MBA at Dartmouth, she eventually landed at Turner Sports in Atlanta. Griggs then moved on to soccer’s Atlanta United FC where she became chief business officer.

Catie Griggs is introduced as the Seattle Mariners new president of business operations by John Stanton, the team's chairman and managing partner, during a baseball a press conference on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)
Catie Griggs is introduced as the Seattle Mariners new president of business operations by John Stanton, the team's chairman and managing partner, during a baseball a press conference on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

Baseball however has always been a part of Griggs’ life, dating back to her Little League days and rooting for the Durham Bulls minor league team in Raleigh, NC.

The common thread in all those experiences? “For me it’s about the fans,” she explained. “It’s about how we use sports to bring our communities together—and in baseball we have 81 opportunities to do that throughout the year.”

Griggs has taken those opportunities and has made her mark in a big way.

The Mariners, for one thing, provide ticket holders one of the most innovative and fan-friendly experiences in baseball.

T-Mobile Park is the first to use both Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” cashierless technology—and Amazon One palm-scanning tech in the Mariners “Walk-Off Market.”

“Fans can swipe their credit card,” said Griggs, “walk in, get food, concessions, tchotchkes and walk out, avoiding the line altogether and we’ve seen tremendous returns so far.”

“Fan-friendly” also means friendly prices. If you have ever been to a game at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park—where beer and chicken tenders for four can be a bank-account breaker—you know this is a big deal.

Griggs has clearly taken note. She implemented 28 “Value Games” at T-Mobile park including tickets as low as $10 and snacks starting at $3. “We realize our community represents a lot of different people with a lot of different economic abilities,” she explained. “We believe we have an opportunity and an obligation to make the ballpark a place where everyone can come together.”

The Mariners even took a swing at the work-from-home revolution. Griggs’ “Work From The Ballpark” promotion last month included a ticket, a five-course lunch, and space for your laptop for a day game vs. the White Sox. And of course, a strong wifi signal was part of the package as well.

“We know for day games a lot of folks have to work,” said Griggs. “So if you have to work, we can give you a pretty cool backdrop to do it.” The bottom line? “It really is about how… we leverage the incredible asset we have at T-Mobile Park to (make sure) we’re creating an experience that works for everyone.”

Griggs, meanwhile, is just getting started— and Seattle’s fans can expect more such innovations down the road.

As for making history, Griggs told MLB.com last year that gender was less important to her than being judged by her accomplishments. But she did have some advice for young women hoping to break into the sports business with the goal of becoming, like her, a game-changer.

“You don’t have to be anything unique,” said Griggs. “It is really important to be yourself. But with that being said, it’s helpful to see someone like you and know that there are people that can do it—and therefore, you can do it.”

Dave Briggs is an anchor for Yahoo Finance Live. Follow him on Twitter at @davebriggstv.

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