A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Washington Nationals Are In Good Hands
Carleen Martin (left) and Chartese Berry (right), two top executives with the Washington Nationals.
Photo by Victor Holt.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—A typical day begins around 8am in refurbished offices high atop RFK Stadium. It ends around 11pm, under a star-lit evening, with 30-or-so thousand fans having enjoyed the newest and hottest ticket in town, a Washington Nationals game. That is, if any day can be called typical for team executives Chartese Berry and Carleen Martin, two African American women whose success in a male-dominated profession elevate them to role-model status.
Chartese Berry is the Nationals Vice President of Communications, and is responsible for community relations initiatives, media relations, and public affairs. Carleen Martin, the Nationals Director of Marketing and Promotions, oversees outside marketing and in-stadium entertainment. It would not be an overstatement to say that Berry and Martin control the image, the access, and the entire presentation of the Washington Nationals. From the fans to the media, the imprint that this baseball team makes is in the hands of these two young African American women.
Berry, a graduate of Georgetown University, had initially planned on a career as a translator and interpreter, having studied foreign languages since the third grade. Realizing she had a strong desire to work with people, Berry’s talents eventually took her to the Georgetown Sports Information Office, where she progressed from her start as an administrative assistant to eventually becoming Director of Sports Information.
From there, Berry went on to the NBA’s league office in New York as assistant director for media relations, and finally to the NFL Players Association as assistant vice president of communications for the licensing and marketing division. After a brief stop at NASA, Berry joined the Nationals.
“This opportunity presented itself and it was intriguing to me because it was a chance to return to my hometown, and because of baseball returning to D.C. after thirty-four years. I grew up in this area in Ward Seven, five minutes away where my mom still lives”, says Berry.
“This was such a larger, big picture opportunity. I had never worked with a team. I’ve been with a league, I’ve been with the union, I’ve worked in football and basketball and what better way to round out my career than to be with a team, a new franchise which presented its own opportunities and challenges. To be on the ground floor of anything is an amazing opportunity”, says Berry.
Berry praised her staff for their hard work and their superior level of skill and expertise in making the communications and community relations functions run so smoothly.
Martin, a graduate of Penn State with a degree in advertising and public relations, is also a veteran of the NFL Players Association, where she remained for four years doing a variety of jobs from writing to graphic designing. Martin had two other career stops after leaving the NFLPA, where she and Berry became friends, before signing on with the Nationals.
“The challenge is the opportunity, I think”, says Martin.
“How many times do you get to start something fresh, and build something from the ground up? It’s exciting, it’s extremely rewarding, but it’s very challenging. We’re trying to integrate our team in the community and be good neighbors. We’re also trying to establish the brand and create an atmosphere in the stadium that builds those connections”, adds Martin.
Traditionally a sport with fewer blacks in top positions, and on the playing field, than both football and basketball, both women remain committed to making baseball an important part of the black community once again.
“We are focusing on what we can do to grow the sport of baseball in this community. We want to increase youth participation in baseball and softball. It’s important for us to find out what the needs are in this community and to do our best to address them”, says Berry.
“We have the opportunity to appeal to a lot of African Americans in this city. Baseball is a sport unlike any other. It’s a social sport. It’s a great chance to go out with your family and relax. If at the end of the day we can sit down and say that we did everything possible that we could do to introduce this team to the community and give the players, the organization and the community a chance to embrace one another, then I’ll feel we’ve met our goals”, says Martin.
Spiritual and grounded, both women consider themselves blessed. Berry, a six year survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, considers her health and recovery her biggest testimony in life.
“Having gone through that and being delivered from that gave me an amazing perspective on life. Being in this position gives me the opportunity to touch lives, and I hope people can be inspired by what I share with them”, says Berry.
What advice they would give young people seeking to follow in their footsteps?
“You need to be proactive. You need to stay focused and positive. When you do that, and you stay on track, you can always get where you want to be”, says Martin.
“You have to live your life with respect, honor, and integrity. You have to respect yourself, and you have to demand respect. You have to honor yourself and your opportunities, and you have to have integrity and maintain integrity”, says Berry.