Introducing: Elaine C. Weddington; First Woman Baseball Executive

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INTRODUCING: Elaine C. Weddington First Woman Baseball Executive

ELAINE C. Weddington watches Boston Red Sox games with a keener eye and a more deliberate purpose than she did when she followed the New York Mets on TV as a child. No longer does she look at baseball for the pure enjoyment of the "national pastime." Now, millions of dollars are riding on her knowledge of the game and its players. She is making history as the first woman and the second African-American named to an upper-echelon post in major league baseball.

As the Boston Red Sox's assistant general manager, Weddington doesn't let the weightiness of the job over-shadow her love of the game. The 26-year-old, New York-bred attorney, whose responsibilities include contract negotiations and league rule interpretation, says she's got the best of both worlds.

"I've found a job I love," she says, "And I'm doing what I've always wanted to do - sports management and the negotiation of player contracts. But one of the best things about working in a ballpark is when you get through your normal work day, and if there's a home game, you have something to look forward to."

Weddington's enthusiasm for the game and her work keep her upbeat in the face of a sometimes grueling schedule. There is no such thing as a "normal day" for the woman who negotiates with city officials over construction permits and ballpark licenses, and discusses major league prospects with Red Sox officials. During the off-season, she went to spring training camp, but flew back to New York for the Jackie Robinson Foundation dinner as a foundation board member. When she pops out of her Fenway Park office to see a game, she not only follows the plays, but she also keeps her eyes on Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Ellis Burks and other players to make mental notes as she prepares for the next year's contract talks.

"There was one agent who I don't think was too thrilled to deal with me," says Weddington, who has no problem transforming her usually jovial tone to a more stern, lawyerly inflection. "The agents who have a problem will get used to me. They'll just have to realize that I'm here, this is my job and if they want to sign a contract for their player they'll have to accept that."

Weddington picked up a few tricks of the trade from her father, the late Thomas Weddington Sr., who was a Howard University Law School graduate and New York labor relations specialist. But initially she was more interested in working in sports than in law. Although she did not participate in organized sports as a child, she and her brothers, Derek, 30, and Thomas Jr., 24, played whiffleball and other sports as youngsters in the parks near their Flushing, N.Y., neighborhood. It wasn't until junior high school, while babysitting the children of former New York Mets second baseman Felix Millan, that Weddington developed a passion for baseball. However, much to the delight of her father, her seventh-grade teacher also piqued her interest in law with classroom discussions on desegregation mandates.

"With Brown v. Board of Education, something just clicked with me," she says. …