Game Changer

New York Yankees Assistant GM Jean Afterman ’91 talks baseball and the art of negotiation at USF event

Posted Tue, 09/11/2018 - 09:54

As the highest ranking woman in Major League Baseball operations, New York Yankees Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager Jean Afterman ’91 says that although she hasn’t faced gender discrimination from players or management in the Yankees organization, women nevertheless need an edge to get ahead. For her, a USF law degree helped set her apart.

"In 2018, it's still a man's world, not just in sports,” she said. “A woman has to be bigger, better, faster, smarter to get ahead. If you do have a law degree, it does give you that much more than if you don't."

Afterman was on campus Sept. 6 for “The Art of Negotiation,” a conversation with Interim Dean Susan Freiwald about Afterman’s path to the highest levels of MLB management and how USF, San Francisco, and skillful negotiation have impacted her life and work.

A San Francisco native who described herself as a Giants fan (except when they play the Yankees), Afterman is one of the most powerful women in Major League Baseball. Her time with the Yankees has included 11 playoff appearances, two pennants, and a World Series title.

Her path to the big leagues was unconventional. As a newly minted UC Berkeley graduate in 1979, she went to work for Paramount Pictures but after a couple years realized she “was going nowhere.” A colleague at the studio who had a law degree suggested she consider law school.

"I had absolutely never thought about going to law school. I took the LSAT and I applied to law school and it was a complete difference maker in my entire life and my career."

As baseball has become big business marked by multimillion dollar contracts, managers must have a deep understanding of the law in order to successfully negotiate contracts and acquire players, she said. She got her start in the business representing player agent Don Nomura in a dispute over baseball card licensing in Japan. She soon began working on rules governing the migration of Japanese baseball players to America, paving the way for players like Hideo Nomo and Ichiro Suzuki to get MLB contracts.

She had parting words for the USF students in the room: “Learn as much as you possibly can and recognize that you are in a special place that really does create great lawyers.”