The Corpus Christi Hooks officially began playing on the Texas coast in 2005, but well before the new Double-A team ever threw a pitch at Whataburger Field, Erin (O’Donnell) McCormick ’07 had already hooked her way into the wild world of Minor League Baseball (MiLB).
McCormick was a sophomore at Trinity University when she found out her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, was getting an MiLB franchise. Curious about working in sports, McCormick reached out to see what opportunities existed to help.
“I just asked to meet with them and see what the sports world was about to kind of try to figure out a career path, and they ended up offering me an internship,” McCormick says.
McCormick took on this summer internship an entire year ahead of the Hooks’ inaugural season. The Hooks didn’t even have a completed ballpark when McCormick began working with them, so one of her main tasks was selling merchandise from a kiosk at a mall that served as the team store. McCormick used every break from school as a chance to help the team, and she quickly fell in love with MiLB.
In October of 2021, 15 years after getting her start in a Corpus Christi mall, the Atlanta Braves named McCormick as the new vice president and general manager of the Gwinnett Stripers, the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate. With the move, McCormick became the first woman to be named general manager for a Braves affiliate.
“When I fell in love with this industry, this has always been the dream, and it's not a linear path,” McCormick says. “There have been a lot of ups and downs, and lateral moves, and moving backwards and forwards, so it was kind of like ‘Yay, I finally have the opportunity to accomplish this.’”
As she notes, McCormick’s road to Gwinnett certainly hasn’t been direct. After graduating from Trinity, McCormick was recommended for a job with another new MiLB franchise, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. From there, McCormick worked with the Memphis Redbirds, the Sacramento River Cats, and the Birmingham Barons before ending up with the Stripers.
At each stop, McCormick accepted more roles and responsibilities that played to her strengths. McCormick graduated from Trinity with degrees in business administration (marketing) and communication along with double minors in communication management and history.
She remembers classes with business administration professor Charlene Davis, Ph.D., and Professor Emeritus William Christ, Ph.D., as being especially helpful. According to McCormick, they forced her to work on semester-long campaigns such as in advertising where she had to create timelines, think about potential staffing, and work with a budget.
“It was really interesting to me because I'm a creative person, I can come up with this idea, but it made me put a strategy behind things. That was the real world experience that I needed,” McCormick says.
Davis remembers McCormick well despite it being 15 years after having her in class.
“Erin was always smiling, always definitely a high energy student,” Davis says. “To me she was that very classic Trinity student who was doing a number of things and found a good intersection for how those things fit together.”
As Davis recalls, she taught McCormick in “Principles of Marketing” and “Promotions Management,” two courses that have directly helped McCormick in her leadership positions.
“The biggest portion of the deliverables for that [promotions] class was coming up with a full campaign for an existing brand,” Davis says. “Instead of going back and recreating what this company did, they first had to come up with a product pitch. Once their product was approved, they then went about doing everything an agency would do to launch a new product, so, ‘Who's your target market? Where are you physically going to place it?’”
Clearly, McCormick paid attention. In 2019—McCormick’s first season as assistant general manager with the Stripers—the franchise earned a Golden Bobblehead Award for “Best In-Game Promotion” after their “Beat the Fridge Race” went viral.
“We’ve done a lot here to change the ballpark experience, to make it unique to Gwinnett and this community. I’m really proud of what my staff was able to accomplish in that race, and we’re constantly coming up with new ideas,” McCormick says.
As a Trinity student, Erin O’Donnell McCormick (second from left) was a recipient of the Thurman Adkins Unsung Hero Award.
McCormick was very active as a student outside of the classroom. She acquired internships in San Antonio with Taylor West Advertising and Alamo Beer Company, where she was the first ever employee helping the owner with marketing.
On campus, McCormick helped the Association of Student Representatives—Trinity’s student government at the time—with public relations. She was also a member of the Gamma Chi Delta sorority, which she looks back on fondly.
“I think [being in a sorority] helped me from the personal side of things. I encounter millions of different people at the ballpark, so it really made me socially stable where I can hold a conversation with someone I’ve never known because I have that background,” McCormick says.
McCormick’s plethora of experiences at Trinity prepared her to lead the Stripers as assistant general manager before her latest promotion. Over the past three years with Gwinnett, McCormick oversaw advertising, sponsorship implementation, ballpark entertainment, digital and social media, media relations, community relations, and merchandise.
Now as general manager, McCormick is in nearly daily contact with the Braves as she adds areas such as player development and operations to her duties. As the Triple-A affiliate, Gwinnett is often the final stop for future Braves before they reach the major leagues, so coordination is key.
“Obviously, being a Triple-A team for the reigning World Champions [the Braves] doesn’t hurt,” McCormick says. “We work extremely well together, they’re great people, and they're very supportive of us and what we're doing.”
Now, with Opening Day of her first season as general manager behind her, McCormick is continuing to prove why she’s reached the top of her organization.
“Coming up in the industry, I really didn't have anyone to look up to in that role, so I’m very honored and humbled to be one of the people that hopefully generations can look up to,” McCormick says. “At the end of the day, I don't just want to be a female leader, I want to be a successful leader as well.”