Brand Strategy

A league of her own: A Seattle Mariners exec’s path to her dream job

After holding leadership positions at sports agencies, media companies, and teams, Catie Griggs is now focused on making baseball more accessible to next-gen fans.
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Seattle Mariners

5 min read

This story is the sixth in a series on women leaders in sports and sports marketing. Read the rest of the profiles here and keep reading Marketing Brew for more profiles to come.

When she was a girl growing up in North Carolina, Catie Griggs used to run around Durham Athletic Park, the former home of minor league baseball team the Durham Bulls (and the setting of the 1988 sports rom-com Bull Durham). While she was “a complete junkie” for all things sports, she said, she never thought she’d make a career of it.

“When I thought about the world of sports, I thought about it from an athlete perspective,” said Griggs, now the president of business operations for the Seattle Mariners and one of the highest-ranking women executives in Major League Baseball. “What you actually see on the field of play during games, that was my association with sports. [I was] not really thinking about what went into the whole ecosystem behind it.”

But through a combination of patience, hundreds of interviews, and learning to wait for just the right pitch, Griggs eventually worked her way through sports agencies and media companies to the team side. As the Mariners and MLB kick off the 2024 season, we spoke to Griggs about how she’s focused on positioning the team for the next generation of fans.

Know your (media) rights

During her first year of grad school at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Griggs said she participated in more than 100 informational interviews to learn about getting a job in sports business. She had hopes of working for a team or a league, but after she graduated, she was hired as senior manager of strategy and business development at Turner Sports in 2010, where she worked on media rights negotiations and cross-platform content.

“It wasn’t, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is the dream job that I wanted,’ though it was amazing,” Griggs said. “I wanted to get my foot in the door in the industry, and based on the background and experience that I had, that was the most logical place for me to start, learn, see what I liked, and see where I wanted to go from there.”

Griggs spent almost five years with Turner before she joined Futures Sport + Entertainment as SVP and general manager as the IPG agency set up shop in the US. Simon Wardle, president of Futures and CSO of IPG’s Octagon sports agency, who Griggs reported to during her time at Futures, said that “from the moment I spoke to her, it was clear that she was super smart, super personable, and knew the media industry.” In other words, he said, Griggs was “exactly the right person” for the job.

Take one for the team

Griggs spent around two years at Futures, and just as she was getting comfortable, she says she got a call about a role at Atlanta United FC, and joined the MLS club as chief business officer in 2017, during the team’s inaugural season. It got her to her dream of working for a team, and Griggs found herself in charge of stadium operations, which was “definitely an aggressive learning curve,” she said.

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She spent four years with Atlanta United before she says a headhunter reached out about the Mariners job. “To be very frank, I assumed I had no chance,” Griggs said. “I was actually reasonably qualified, but I looked around the industry and no one looked like me. I’d be, if not the youngest, one of the youngest, and I’d never done baseball. Oh, and I’m not from Seattle.”

But she landed the job anyway, and started just in time for MLB to announce that Seattle would be hosting the 2023 MLB All-Star game.

When we were young

Transitioning from soccer to baseball was easier than going from the agency to team world, Griggs said, since both sports “have the same challenge, which is to grow, but they’re looking to do it from different directions” she said. MLS is known for a younger, more diverse fanbase, which is exactly the type of fan MLB is looking to gain ground with, Griggs said.

Heading into the season, Griggs said she’s focused on repositioning the Mariners for younger fans including through community engagement programs specifically around youth sports, as well as telling off-the-field stories about Mariners players—and “doing so authentically,” which Gen Z sports fans tend to appreciate.

“These are incredible athletes,” she said. “They do superhuman things. There’s plenty you can lean on there, but it’s not human. I think the opportunity for us is to continue to shine a spotlight on all of the incredible humans who play our sport, who, by the way, come from a lot of really diverse backgrounds, that are very relatable to a lot of the fans that we’re hoping to engage.”

Griggs is also hoping she can help increase representation in the upper echelon of the league’s business side. There are other women in front offices across MLB, but gender diversity is still somewhat lacking: Kim Ng, who was the first and only woman GM in the league, left her position with the Miami Marlins in the fall.

Griggs said the level of representation initially gave her some misgivings when she started with MLB. Now, she hopes she can help other women see themselves represented on the business side of the sport.

“Part of what I view as an opportunity for me is to be in a position where, when the next person is getting that opportunity, they’re not looking up and saying, ‘Hmm, there’s no one like me, maybe I shouldn’t do this,’” Griggs said.

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