Before the start of the 2011 MLB playoffs, espnW caught up with Philadelphia Phillies vice president of communications Bonnie Clark as part of our ongoing Power Play series highlighting women in the sports business. The mother of three has served in this capacity since she joined the organization in March 2008.
espnW: Before joining the Phillies, you were the vice president of public relations for QVC. Tell us why you decided to make the change and join the Phillies.
Bonnie Clark: I honestly loved working at QVC. I thought I would retire there. ... Sometimes fate has a way of intervening and taking your life down a different path and I think that's what happened with me. Having said what I just said, now I can't imagine working anywhere else but the Phillies. ... It was not an opportunity I sought out. They called me and every step of the way I kept thinking, Is this where I should be going? Is this the opportunity that is meant for me? Lo and behold it was and here I am.
One of the things I believe in so firmly is taking risks. Not having come from a sports background, I think some people could have looked at the opportunity and said "No, I don't know anything about managing a sports team from an image perspective, crisis communications" -- all of the components that I now oversee. I'm definitely a person who, over the course of the 25 years of my career, has absolutely felt like risk-taking is how you get ahead. This was another risk that I took and I'm so glad I did.
espnW: You're now in your fourth season with the team. What's the most surprising thing about your experience with the Phillies so far?
BC: The most surprising thing for me is how prominent the Phillies' brand is. I'll never forget my first day on the job. I was getting ready for work and they had the weather for the day. They said, "For today's Phillies game ... " and they had the Phillies logo up on the weather. ... To see your corporate logo or your client's logo up in a weather forecast was not something you ever expect to see. ... That was the "Aha!" moment for me.
espnW: The Phillies have been one of baseball's most successful franchises for the past several years, which usually means good news. What's the biggest communications crisis you've had to handle since you joined the team and how did you deal with it?
BC: It was probably the Taser incident [on May 3, 2010]. We had a fan who was a field-jumper and came onto the field and was tased by the Philadelphia police officer who happened to be at the game that night. It wasn't the crisis itself that was such a challenge, it was more about the reaction in terms of how the situation was handled. There was a very divisive opinion on whether or not they exerted force in terms of how they handled the situation. Should the Philadelphia police officer have inserted himself as quickly as he did into the situation and tased the fan who was on the field, or should they have allowed the [stadium] security personnel to handle the situation and allow the police officers to step in after our guys weren't able to contain the situation? ... The Taser situation lasted probably a good four or five days and it consumed a lot of my time. In the end, I think the situation ended appropriately. The fan apologized and he was given a sentence that we thought was appropriate for the situation.
espnW: You have two sons and a 7-year-old daughter. How do you establish a work-life balance as a working mother in a sports world that never stops?
BC: It comes from support from family members. ... Throughout the course of my career, my mom was always there and a great resource for me. ... "Yes you can" was her phrase to me. Whenever I would doubt myself or whenever I'd ever think I couldn't accomplish anything, she'd say, "Yes you can!"... She was one of my biggest supporters in terms of my career and encouraging me to take risks and was the one that gave me the drive to succeed in life. ... She would say, "You can take risks and look at ways to get ahead in life, but don't ever stray from being true to yourself." That's the one point -- don't ever stray from being true to yourself -- and those lifelong lessons have gotten me to where I am today.
espnW: What advice do you have for women who are interested in working in baseball?
BC: It's about having the ability and the willingness to take risks. I think if you stop taking risks or if you don't look at an opportunity and wonder whether or not it's right for you, then it's probably not something you should pursue. I think anybody who's willing to take a risk and willing to enter the door however they can -- whether it's through an internship or whether it's through working in the sales office or any way you can get your foot in the door -- is the best way to get in. ... Be willing to break down the barriers of getting into a position that might not necessarily at first be your ideal position. My advice would be to get your foot in the door and prove yourself.