Alumni Profiles, News

In a League of Her Own

MLB:Marlins ADT NYSE Stock Exchange Opening

Rutgers–Newark alumna is one of the highest-ranking women executives in Major League Baseball.

By Sam Starnes GSN’04

More than two decades before Caroline O’Connor became president of baseball operations for the Miami Marlins, she was a Rutgers University–Newark computer information systems major who attended a career fair on campus, landing a technology internship at Bloomberg in New York. As she was preparing to graduate in 2000, she returned to the campus career fair, this time making connections that landed her a full-time job with IBM. “I was really fortunate to get a job at IBM right out of school when the dot-com boom was happening,” O’Connor says. “Rutgers set me out into the world.”

Today, O’Connor is one of the top three highest ranking women executives in Major League Baseball. After starting her career in technology and finance, she was recruited in 2017 from a managing director role at Morgan Stanley to the Marlins to be chief operating officer. In November 2022, she was promoted to her current position, joining Marlins General Manager Kim Ng as the team’s two top managing executives. “We have a really diverse front office here at the Marlins,” O’Connor says. “We are the only professional sports team that is run by women in the day-to-day operations.”

MLB:Marlins ADT NYSE Stock Exchange Opening

Miami Marlins executives Caroline O’Connor NCAS’00, president of baseball operations, at right, and Kim Ng, general manager.

She says she is proud to be breaking ground in a sport that has been led exclusively by men. “It feels great,” O’Connor says. “I hope young women look at us and get ideas for careers in sports and entertainment, and realize there’s a really broad career path out there for them.”

A New Jersey Native with Rutgers Roots

O’Connor grew up in Freehold, New Jersey, where she played basketball, soccer, softball, and tennis. When it was time to attend college, she decided to focus on her studies, choosing to attend Rutgers–Newark because of its computer information systems program. The sixth of eight children, she is not the only one in her family to attend Rutgers. An older sister, Mary, graduated from Rutgers–New Brunswick, as her younger sister Margaret would do later. Today, a nephew, Michael O’Connor, is a junior and a long snapper on the Rutgers football team, and a niece, Caroline Fernandes, is a student in the Rutgers Business School.

O’Connor says the lessons she learned at Rutgers–Newark built a solid foundation for her career. “I learned so much about technology,” she says. “The school had great facilities and people who really wanted to learn and were curious. I developed my desire to understand how things work and solve problems by spending many late nights in the computer lab.”

Technology and time in the business of baseball

That understanding of technology serves her well in overseeing the off-the-field operations of the Marlins. “There is not much awareness of the roles on the business side of baseball,” she says. “Hundreds of people work on the business side and really help to deliver that great fan experience and do the things in the background that allow the team to play. I didn’t even know this career existed when I came out of college.”

MLB:Marlins Fanfest

While it’s well-known that technical analytics have transformed how baseball teams are managed on the field (see Moneyball), technology also plays a major role in the fan experience, O’Connor says. “Our tickets are digital, fans mobile order from the concessions, and they ask for help on their phones,” she says. “There’s the technology that keeps us safe. We have a very special ballpark here with a retractable roof, which has a lot of technology in it too. So everywhere we turn in the ballpark, there’s technology.”

Recent successes for the Miami Marlins franchise include hosting the World Baseball Classic, which saw more than half a million fans pass through loanDepot park, the Marlins stadium, over an 11-day period, and opening a 30th anniversary museum celebrating the Marlins’ franchise history.

In addition, O’Connor says the changes implemented in baseball this year have been well received. “Baseball is grabbing the headlines,” she says. “We’re very excited about the rule changes, which are getting overwhelmingly positive feedback.”

She says the new rules that have sped up the games have been particularly welcomed, and noted that a recent Marlins game clocked in at just under two hours long. “As a mom of two boys, being able to take the kids to a baseball game on a school night and still have them in bed in time for school the next day is great,” she says. “It opens up so many more opportunities for people to go to baseball games.”

Although O’Connor has been a South Florida resident for six years now, she hasn’t forgotten her home state and her time as a Rutgers undergraduate. “It was a really special time in my life,” she says. “I love being from New Jersey and representing Rutgers.”