Kristen Zimmerman ’05 wasn’t quite prepared for her first visit to a Major League Baseball clubhouse.
“I was expecting a little more clothes,” she says.
Her red face aside that day, Zimmerman has rarely been taken off her game while working in a sport that is predominantly male. The 28-year-old is an executive editor at MLB Advanced Media in New York, managing the editorial content of the American League and National League East coverage on MLB.com. The website has one or two writers covering each major league team, and Zimmerman, a former two-time All-New Jersey Athletic Conference right fielder for TCNJ’s softball team, essentially is like a sports editor, guiding her two divisional staffs.
“I think playing softball actually helped a lot,” said Zimmerman. “That developed my leadership skills, and I think that’s more of what I do now than journalism. Obviously, I got that journalistic mindset from when I was at TCNJ—I was a journalism major, and I worked for The Signal, and I honed all those skills doing that—but I think playing softball really helped my management skills.
“I came into this role young and a woman,” Zimmerman continued. “Most of my reporters are much older than me, and I don’t have any reporting experience (on the MLB level). It was a little bit daunting at first. But I kind of harkened back to softball, where people are looking back to you, but you also have to let them kind of have their say, (like), ‘Hey, you might know better than me about this, I’m going to let you do that. But here’s what I have to say.’”
Zimmerman, who was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and graduated cum laude from TCNJ, is now working toward an MBA from Indiana University. It was Kim Pearson, an associate professor in TCNJ’s English department, who planted the idea of adding business classes with the journalism while she helped Zimmerman find her way as an undergraduate.
“I feel like I appreciate it more now than I did then,” Zimmerman said. “I remember one of the classes was online journalism, and [Prof. Pearson] had us learn HTML code, which at the time, I was like, ‘Why will I ever need to know this?’ And sure enough, two or three years after college, I needed to know how to code for MiLB.com, the minor league operation” at MLB.
TCNJ softball coach Sally Miller, for whom Zimmerman hit .413 as a junior and .342 over her four-year career, also was influential. Miller’s ability to adjust to different personalities has played right into Zimmerman’s managerial style. “I’m not shocked in the least how well she’s done since graduating here,” Miller said, “and how much she has worked herself up into Major League Baseball.”
Born on the Fourth of July—what’s more baseball than that?—Zimmerman began to work at MLB within a year of graduation, initially on the video side. Her style is more down the middle of the plate than curveball.
She helps her writers see the big picture while they are immersed in the daily grind of the season. Each individual team page on MLB.com—such as Phillies.com or Yankees.com—is covered from that team’s angle, including breaking news, game stories, and features. The website is editorially independent from the major league clubs to help ensure the coverage’s integrity. Zimmerman usually works out of MLB’s Manhattan headquarters, but during the postseason she will manage a series on site with 10 to 15 reporters.
“Twice daily we have editorial meetings—noon and 4—that usually have about 10 to 12 people in them. I’m the only woman,” Zimmerman said. “I’m quite used to it at this point and I don’t think it even affects how I do my job.
“We like to be editorially sound. It needs to be someone with a good nose for news that also has good judgment. I think that’s most important because people look at the team sites like, ‘All right, this is on Yankees.com, so it must be true.’”