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  • InsideTrack
  • April 05, 2023

    Transactional Law Series
    A League of Her Own: Brewers Elevate Wronski to COO

    The Brewers' Marti Wronski, one of a handful of women executives in Major League Baseball, moves from general counsel to chief operating officer.

    Jeff M. Brown

    Marti Wronski

    “To be a good lawyer, you’ve got to ask a lot of questions. Through that process, you learn so much about the business and the ‘Why?’ of things.”

    April 5, 2023 – The Milwaukee Brewers made news this off-season by trading starting outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Los Angeles Angels and elevating general manager Matt Arnold to the president’s role.

    Arnold’s ascension wasn’t the only front office move made by the Brew Crew over the winter. Last December, the club elevated general counsel Marti Wronski to chief operating officer (COO).

    Wronski, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, is one of a handful of women executives among Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 30 clubs.

    Wronski is the only woman COO among MLB’s 30 clubs (women serve as president of business operations for the Seattle Mariners and the Miami Marlins).

    She’s the highest-ranking woman executive for the Brewers since Wendy Selig-Prieb, who served as president from 1998 to 2002.

    In this interview, Wronski discusses her new role and her groundbreaking climb up the Brewers’ org chart.

    The Connector

    Wronski became the Brewers’ general counsel in 2003, after stints as a corporate lawyer at Foley & Lardner LLP and a professor at Marquette University Law School.

    Wronski said her experience as the team’s top lawyer has helped her in her new role. As general counsel, Wronski by necessity had her hand in a lot of pies.

    “All those legal matters – whether it was a contract for sponsorship, a contract for an HVAC system, a player contract – were going through me,” Wronski said.

    “To be a good lawyer, you’ve got to ask a lot of questions. Through that process, you learn so much about the business and the ‘Why?’ of things.”

    Wronski also learned a lot about the ‘Who?’ of things.

    “I’d find myself saying, ‘Wait a minute, are you talking to this guy because he’s going to do this because we just did this agreement,’ so sometimes I ended up being the person who connected all the dots,” Wronski said.

    Which Hat?

    Four years ago, the team added several briefs to Wronski’s portfolio – human resources, organizational culture, and information technology.

    Jeff M. BrownJeff M. Brown is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6126.

    As a result, Wronski said, her role as COO is less about new duties than it is a higher-level approach to her old duties. Taking that approach, Wronski said, means she spends less time on legal details – something she said she misses.

    “There are days now where I’m trying to put together the pieces in so many new areas that when a contract comes in front of me and I can really review it, to get back to that comfort zone of pure legal analysis really is a joy.”

    Wronski said she still relies on the experience she gained while serving as general counsel.

    “The benefit to my legal background is I see issues and solutions through that lens, in addition to the business lens.”

    She’s careful to weigh the benefits of looking at issues through a legal lens with the costs.

    “I often have to ask myself, ‘Am I in this room as a lawyer or am I in this room as a businessperson,’” Wronski said. “The ethical rules are really salient.”


    Wronski’s new remit includes all the team’s operations.

    Those operations stretch from Milwaukee to Phoenix, where the Brewers hold spring training, to Zebulon, North Carolina, where they own the Carolina Mudcats, a Class A minor-league affiliate, to the Dominican Republic, where the team recently opened a baseball academy.

    Launching the academy entailed multiple building projects, obtaining work permits for employees, and coordinating the arrival of players from Venezuela, where ongoing political unrest makes it difficult for the players to concentrate on honing their skills.

    The Brewers had been renting facilities in the Dominican Republic. But those facilities were subpar, and as a result the Brewers couldn’t offer prospects the same experience as other teams.

    That meant the Brewers were at risk of falling behind the other 29 teams in the race to attract top foreign talent – in 2022, 28.5% of MLB players were Latino or Hispanic.

    “You need to be able to take care of the athletes that we find there,” Wronski said. “We need a place for them to rest well and work on their nutrition and talk about training.”

    ‘What Does the Fan Want?’

    Closer to home, Wronski is part of an organization-wide effort to bone up on business analytics.

    “We’re really looking to take the club to the next level and make sure we’re cutting edge in everything we’re doing,” Wronski said.

    It’s an endeavor made necessary by changes in employee and consumer behavior driven by the pandemic, Wronski said.

    “We’re in a crunch to find staff, especially when you’re talking about game day and you’re hiring hundreds of people,” Wronski said. “The service industry needs to take a different look at how they do things.”

    Wronski said that business analytics will also help the Brewers’ brass assess whether they’re meeting fan expectations.

    That’s a feat made more difficult by an age-diverse fanbase, made up of older fans who carry dewy-eyed memories of County Stadium and the 1982 World Series and younger fans who grew up inside the amenity-rich confines of American Family Field.

    “What does the fan want?” Wronski said. “There’s this whole segment of our fans who are looking for the social engagement – fans who, frankly, think the game is too long.”

    Tweaking the Product

    That reality is reflected in recent MLB rule changes designed to speed up the game and create more offense – rule changes that Wronski had a hand in shaping and implementing.

    The changes include a pitch clock, larger bases (to boost the number of steal attempts), and a ban on shifting infielders to shallow outfield positions in an effort to deny hitters cheap singles.

    According to Wronski, keeping multiple segments of fans happy is essential to filling the stands throughout the seven-months-long MLB season.

    “Without losing that fan who still wants that pure baseball experience, how do you draw in 40,000 people, 81 times a season?” Wronski said.

    There’s one part of the gameday experience, Wronski said, that needs no business analysis.

    “The one thing that is shared universally is tailgating.”

    ‘Ought to Be a Given’

    Wronski doesn’t dwell on the fact that she’s one of only a few baseball executives who are women. She’s never been comfortable in the spotlight.

    “But at the same time, I get why it needs to be important and I’ve embraced that in the last couple of months because the goal is for that not to be as big a deal,” Wronski said.

    “I know that it matters because of the number of young women I’ve never met who have sent me random letters and notes and texts and emails.”

    “It should be about, ‘He or she or they is really good at what they’re doing and I think they contribute,’ and take out this whole ‘female piece’ – that ought to just be a given,” Wronski said.

    But it’s not yet a given, and Wronski is keenly aware that she and other women sports executives are standard bearers – a role that sometimes demands more work of them than it does their male counterparts.

    “If I let down or become insincere or don’t keep working hard or just really stink at it, that’s a detriment to where we’re ultimately trying to go with this,” Wronski said.

    Wronski is quick to point out that her career has been defined less by causes, however, and more by hard work and supportive coworkers.

    “I was paying attention to those causes through my actions, through what I kept doing. I was really fortunate to work with men who didn’t see those obstacles, didn’t see those distractions.”

    ‘Dig In’

    Wronski said that she hopes she’s a role model – not only for other women looking to break into the sports industry, but to her husband and her four sons.

    “I hope the way I’ve gone about my life and my career and how I treat people inside and outside the business make me a role model,” Wronski said.

    Wronski’s advice for young women looking to break into the sports industry is simple.

    “Work really hard to make sure you’re bringing your best to the table every day. Don’t get distracted by things that don’t matter. If someplace isn’t serving you, look around and find someplace that does and dig in.”

    The Brewers close out their home opening series today against the New York Mets.

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