Jessica Aveyard is what one may call a creative omnivore. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, she tried a little bit of everything, including dance and graphic design. She was 16 years old when her choreographer, Sheri Williams, asked if she was interested in a unique summer job.
Williams also ran the in-game entertainment department for Dayton’s Minor League Baseball team, the Dragons. The Dragons needed a mascot. The job involved spending hours at a time in a head-to-toe dragon suit, often in sweltering summer heat.
Naturally, Aveyard said yes.
“Her name was Gem,” Aveyard says of her character. “She was an outgoing girl. I probably made her a little sassier than I should have, but I loved performing. I was always the kid in the show who wanted to be in front.”
Aveyard has since gone on to blaze her own trail in the predominantly male field of professional baseball. In Williams, Aveyard found a true mentor.
“She’s left professional baseball since we worked together in Dayton,” Aveyard says, “but she still checks in on me to this day.”
Aveyard spent almost nine years working for Williams in Dayton, earning a degree in sports management along the way. In 2016, Williams approached her about another job: Williams heard the Dash were looking for a new director of entertainment and encouraged Aveyard to go for it.
Not only did Aveyard get the job, she made the role even bigger.
For three seasons, she handled everything from choreographing routines for the team mascots and on-field entertainment crew to designing scoreboard graphics and producing live game feeds for television. In 2018, she received the Women in Baseball Leadership Event Scholarship through Minor League Baseball.
Now, as director of ballpark experience and branding, Aveyard is also in charge of the all the team’s merchandising for the ballpark store and online team shop.
“It’s been a year of, ‘Holy crap I don’t know what doing,’” she says. “But I think that’s the best way to learn and figure out what works best for your business.”
Aveyard has taken her own mentee, Rosanna Stewart, under wing. So what’s her advice for Stewart and other women moving up the ladder in pro sports? Learn to say no to new tasks and responsibilities once in a while.
“As women and young professionals, we can be afraid to say no because we think it makes us look lesser or weak,” Aveyard says. “But in order to be successful with what’s in front of you, you have to be able to focus and delegate some of your responsibilities. If I didn’t delegate, there’s no way I’d be able to grow within the organization.”