NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Shari Massengill sort of just stumbled into the world of Minor League Baseball. She had no aspirations to run the front office in Kinston when she joined the franchise more than a dozen years ago, and certainly never dreamed that someday she'd be recognized as one of the top people in her profession.
Yet there was Massengill accepting the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award Monday afternoon at the Opryland Hotel. And now, entrenched in her position and replete with a reputation as having one of the game's brightest minds, the thought of being involved with any business other than baseball is as foreign to her as the game itself once was.
Massengill, who was also recently received the Calvin Falwell Award emblematic of the top executive in the Carolina League, is the general manager of the Kinston Indians and is the first person in league history to be honored with the Rawlings award. Rawlings has been giving out the award annually since 1976 to the female executive "who made an outstanding contribution to her club, league or to baseball."
"This comes as a pretty big surprise," Massengill said. "The first Winter Meetings I attended was in 2000 and when I attended the banquet I didn't realize they gave away a Female Executive Award. I remember it, but I never thought I would be a nominee, let alone a recipient.
"People have asked me, 'How am I going to top this?' I won the executive of the year award for my league and then this. I tell people I should retire. But it's not all about winning awards. It's great to be recognized. That's awesome. But I'm just going to keep doing what I do."
This season was Massengill's second as Kinston general manager (she was also the interim GM in 2004). The Kinston native has worked in a number of roles with the team, including director of sales, group sales and assistant general manager. During renovations at Grainger Stadium, she played an integral role in designing the new picnic area.
Kinston drew 115,195 fans this season under Massengill's stewardship. It was the greatest attendance at Grainger Stadium since 2001 and an increase of more than 5,000 fans over 2006, despite the fact that there were twice as many rainouts this year. The K-Tribe also saw increases in ticket sales, concessions and sponsorships this season.
Massengill also helped implement the Tribe Tales reading program in local public schools and joined forces with the Lenoir County Boys and Girls Club to help raise money and awareness.
"I had no aspirations to do this," Massengill said. "I never thought of myself as getting to this point. For me, this is so different because a lot of people I knew wanted to be in sports. But this is a good spot for me because I was born and raised in Kinston and don't have any plans on leaving the area.
"I like what I do. I like the Minor League Baseball part of it. It's a small community and there are lots of fans and support. I still get to do a lot of things like working in the ticket booth or doing concessions. I'm sure it's a lot more departmentalized in larger markets, but I'm still pulling the tarp like the rest of the staff. It's fun."
Massengill said she was hoping to become a radiologist upon graduating high school, and she even took some courses in the field. But it turned out not to be to her liking, so she set out to find something that was. She eventually got involved with American Express travel and lived for a while in Utah, booking corporate travel.
She eventually returned to Kinston and went to work for team owner Cam McRae in the corporate office of his restaurant chain. It was while working there that she learned about the Indians.
"I never saw this coming," she said. "I got the baseball bug and I can't get out of it. I love baseball now and I'm a major Indians fan."
Massengill and her husband, Chris, have two children, Reagan, 12, and Miles, 3. She says her daughter is always at the ballpark and knows more about running the team than most of the interns do when they are first hired.
"She grew up at the park, and when school is out, she's there all the time," Massengill said. "She's even training the interns, at times."
Whether the younger Massengill will ever join her mother up on the dais at the Winter Meetings remains to be seen. Her mom never thought she'd be there, so anything is possible.