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'It's the place I want to be and I made it happen' | Meet the River Bandits' Assistant GM and her advice for young girls in male-dominated industry

Julia McNeil is in her first season as an Assistant General Manager after four years working with the River Bandits in other positions.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Every day is different at Julia McNeil's job. However, one thing's for sure: she's going to get a lot of steps in.

"It is a lot of running around," she said pointing to her watch as she makes sure everything is in place before the start of the River Bandits' game. "I definitely get my steps in. I keep track of all my steps."

This is McNeil's first season as the Bandits' assistant general manager of baseball operations. In her four seasons prior, she worked in different roles having to do with ticketing and sales. Now, her role entails a little bit of everything.

"Every day is different which is what I really love about working in this industry," McNeil said. "Whenever I get asked, 'Oh, what's a typical day for you?' It's really hard to answer. But I oversee numerous things from the ticketing department to anything baseball operations related, the press box, I oversee staffing in many areas, I'm overseeing our internship program."

She's worked in the baseball industry for 10 years now, starting as an intern for the Nashua Silver Knights.

"I was a college athlete, I played softball," McNeil said. "I knew I wanted to stay within the world of sports, specifically baseball. I love minor league baseball. We can do some fun and crazy things, so it's definitely the place I want to be. And I made it happen."

She's far from the first woman in a leadership position with the Bandits. The Bandits hired their first female general manager in 2011, who at the time, was just one of four in the Midwest League's 65-year history.

Over the years, she's seen a representation of women working in the industry make strides from Alyssa Nakken working as the first female MLB coach and later, Kim Ng as the first MLB general manager.

"For me, that's inspiring," McNeil said. "So I guess I could be inspiring to others as well. But I just hope people know you can make it happen. Yes, this is a male-dominated industry. But if you put the time and the work in, you're certainly just as deserving as anyone else."

Despite this, there is still lots more work to be done to get more representation.

For the 2022 season, Major League Baseball earned a gender grade of C+ on the yearly report card issued by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. That means that only 29-31.4% of employees in pro-baseball are women.

In her ten years, McNeil said she's had to learn how to find her voice. There were times people would direct questions to her male colleagues instead of her assuming that he was the one in charge.

"For me early in my career, finding my voice was difficult," she said. "Sometimes I felt intimidated to speak up. I just felt like my voice was not as important or as heard as other people's in the office. But now that I've been in this industry for a decade, I feel confident I will speak up when I want to speak up and be listened to and heard."

McNeil was a member of the inaugural MiLB Leaders Inspiring Future Talent Program in 2018. The program matched women in the industry to help build relationships and the future careers of women in baseball.

Her advice to young girls wanting to break into the sports industry is to make connections and ask questions.

"Whether it's on the coaching side, the scouting, working in a front office, anything like that, just go for it," McNeil said. "Don't feel like anything is holding you back. If you're qualified and you have the knowledge and you have the drive to do it, I'd say just go out and do it. You can't win if you don't try."

Her goal is to one day be a General Manager.

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