Yankees assistant general manager Jean Afterman
After Thursday’s International Woman’s Day, I decided to see if there were any notable women in the Yankees organization. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Brian Cashman’s right-hand man is a woman.
Jean Afterman joined the Yankees in December of 2001 as the second female assistant to the general manager, succeeding the first, Kim Ng. Ng left for the same position with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
Afterman, a native of San Francisco, Calif., is an attorney by trade and actress by heart. It turns out she landed in Major League baseball by accident.
Following graduation in 1979 from the University of Cal-Berkeley with a degree in art history, Afterman became assistant to the head of feature film production at Paramount Studios.
There it was suggested that she pursue a degree in law. Afterman then graduated from the University of San Francisco School of Law.
Afterman accepted an opportunity to represent MLB player representative Don Nomura in a dispute regarding baseball card licensing rights.
Nomura and Afterman began focusing on reviewing rules regarding the allowance of Japanese players of the Nippon Professional Baseball League to come to the United States.
Afterman discovered loopholes in the rules that would allow a Japanese player to “voluntarily retire” which would then make them eligible to be posted in the U.S.
The first Japanese player to be brought to the States via that system was Hideo Nomo in 1995.
Of the importation of Nomo, Afterman said to BizJournals:
"“I really think Hideo Nomo saved baseball. You think about where the sport was then, coming off the strike of 1994 and all that ugliness. This gave people a reason to be excited again.”"
She and Nomura represented Hideki Irabu, of which a very funny story Afterman related about the Boss, George Steinbrenner, calling her and not being happy about his performance.
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Afterman refused to be bullied by the angry Steinbrenner, telling him to put Irabu on a plane and send him back — but to make sure he had the check for Irabu’s signing bonus in hand when he did.
I am woman — hear me roar!
She was also instrumental in bringing Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees who signed in September of 1998.
With the Yanks, she is known as Cashman’s ‘compliance officer,’ making sure contracts are correct. Cashman describes her as “tenacious, tough and a pit bull.”
Her first assignment procuring a player for the Yankees’ organization was Hideki Matsui. Before she left for Japan to negotiate, George Steinbrenner told her, “You go East, but if you don’t come back with him, you keep heading East. Don’t ever turn around.”
Afterman was allowed to come back and in tow was the superstar, Matsui. Roar, Jean!
Another role Afterman readily accepts is being a role model for young women who wish to pursue careers in professional sports. She encourages women to apply for low-level positions and progress as they learn and grow.
Afterman has been asked many times if she would like to become the first female GM in MLB, to which Afterman says she is happy where she is; and no.
Of being employed by the Yankees’ organization Afterman states, “It is just such an honor to be a Yankee.”
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I’m quite glad you are a Yankee and represent women so admirably. You roar, Jean Afterman!