It’s not every day that you encounter a woman like Lisa Sopko. Lisa is the wife of Andrew Sopko (a pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays organization) and mama to Remi. She calls herself a digital storyteller who tells the stories of the brands she has worked with. The brand that means the most though is the one she has built called Babes Who Ball.
Babes Who Ball is a site that tells stories and talks about sports from the point of view of a woman who not only loves the game but lives it. It is so much more than that though, it is a social media presence that is filled with sparkle and light while promoting lots of wisdom and encouragement.
One thing that drew me immediately to Lisa and her site Babes Who Ball was how empowering she was for women especially those who love sports. In the time I’ve gotten to talk to her, I realized she is really is that way with nearly everyone she encounters.
Without any further ado, meet the amazing Lisa Sopko!
1. How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I like to joke that I’m somewhere in between Leslie Knope and Olivia Pope. So much of me is silly and sweet and insanely caring but so much of me is like this human who wants everyone and everything to be just. It’s a complicated balance, but it ultimately makes me who I am. If you ask people, I think they’d say the fun, outgoing, passionate girl overplays any of the serious stuff, but I always honor who I am and what makes me me. I call myself a “digital storyteller” which traditionally is a social media manager for me. I was unfortunately laid off due to COVID and have been job searching ever since, which is pretty much a dumpster fire. I’ve worked for digital marketing agencies, in real estate, sports, and health and wellness and really enjoy being a part of the process of telling a brand’s story online.
2. Who or what inspired you to start your site Babes Who Ball?
When I think back to the day I decided to start BWB, not one person really inspired me to do it. I guess you could say my dad and our relationship had a lot to do with it because so much of my love of baseball and sports and that tomboy inside me came from him. He’s the reason I ever felt confident enough to work in sports and always supported my journey through it. But really, it came from my first full-time job in sports media. I was the marketing coordinator for a sports and entertainment media company working with editors and writers all day long. I realized I liked to write after I was tasked with interviewing and putting together pieces about professional athletes. I also realized that being a female in a traditionally male industry left me with a lot to say and that I definitely wasn’t alone. I also just felt this need to start telling stories about my life experiences and things I’ve seen and learned through my connection to sports, like growing up with Mets season tickets to Shea Stadium and working in professional sports, and what I’ve seen so far from living some-what of a minor league life with my now husband. I just sat down one night, it was a Thursday, and started writing.
3. What does an average day for you look like during the baseball season vs the off season?
They’re really not all that different for me because I’ve never traveled full time with my husband ever. I’ve always been working and trying to get my career off and going the same way he is. It was something he supported in me from the start. He knows what makes me who I am and we both knew that long-distance was hard, but it was what was best for us. I had lived in New York City since I was newly 21 and I really was used to that lifestyle and that’s what made me happy and I was lucky enough to be with someone who was selfless enough to put my happiness first, even while they’re trying to get through a minor league season. It is fairly common, but sometimes you are the odd man out just coming for visits here and there.
The off-season is different mostly because we can do whatever we want. That sounds so silly, but you really sell your soul to the seams, if you know what I mean. There’s something so nice about getting to cook dinner together every night and just relax and do whatever we want. I guess the biggest difference is that in the off-season our life is our own and during the season, baseball makes the rules. The thing that I’ve learned about baseball is that it really isn’t real life. There aren’t any sick days or family issues, and if there are – it’s not guaranteed your relationship with your organization will be the same when you return. Not having that pressure and just letting life happen is really enjoyable in the off-season.
4. What has been your favorite baseball memory with Andrew?
Oh gosh, there have been a few but I have to say I’m forever grateful to have been with him during his time with the Dodgers. They are an amazing organization! In 2018, Andrew was demoted to High A from being in AA the whole year before. It was a really odd and upsetting time, but it was more political than it was really anything else and he understood that. Shortly into the season, he was promoted back to AA and started off really well. After a little bit, he ended up having a blister that they were sure was going to end his season, I mean this thing was scary. Layers and layers of skin peeled off to the point where all that was left was just raw wet new skin. It was one of the worst blisters they’d ever seen and it was especially frustrating for my husband because it wasn’t like a shoulder injury or his elbow was bothering him, it was a stupid blister! But the thing about the Dodgers is that they’re the best of the best and they have the best of the best and they worked with him every single day to get his finger healed so he could end the season pitching, and they did. At the same time he was coming back from that, so was one of their top prospects (he didn’t have an injury and he’s also no longer with the team). Andrew was forced to go to the bullpen instead of starting, which was upsetting when all you’ve ever done was be a starting pitcher, but just like his demotion- he embraced it fully. After about a month in the bullpen, he was asked to spot start and crushed it. Then again, and he crushed it even more. He faced a lot of setbacks that year beyond losing his starting spot, going to the bullpen, and getting demoted, but whatever opportunity he had, he did exactly what he had to do and it ended up rewarding him with a start in the first round of the Texas League Championship, over the guy who took his spot in the first place. He kept his head high, he continued to be a good teammate, and he left it all on the field. He pitched in a win or go home game in the playoffs which allowed them to go on and win the Texas League Championship where he was slated to pitch Game 4. He suffered in silence that entire year. It was horrible to watch and to be a part of. It seemed like when something went right, three things were about to go wrong. It was so helpless and frustrating and to have it end the way it did, was the closest I’ve ever seen to rewarding. He had this new confidence in himself that I had not seen before. And the Dodgers saw it too. They respected the shit out of him and most of all who he was as a person in how he handled that entire year. Baseball does not always make sense, and it is far more complicated than just a game but I was so proud of him and who he is was as a person when all was said and done.
5. Covid has affected the sports world a lot – seasons have been changed, shortened, or canceled while some leagues have been moved to bubbles and hub cities. How has it affected you and your husband this year?
Andrew did not play this year. He was hoping to be on the 60-man after spending last season in AAA, but they went in another direction. It was upsetting for about 5 minutes until we realized that being together as a family and there for our daughter who was 5 months old at the time during a pandemic was what was most important. It sucked not playing and he missed competing, but he’s gotten to spend every single day with her since she’s been born, and no sport or game will ever be more important than that. He’s also been able to go back to school which has helped him see the bigger picture of life and I think is okay with the idea that baseball isn’t everything and there are different paths in life for him.
6. What’s been your favorite part about being a baseball wife so far? What’s your least favorite?
The best part hands down is watching him live out his dream, I mean there really isn’t anything better than seeing the person you love the most in the world work towards something as special as this. A lot of people don’t really understand baseball in its entirety, even fans. They don’t understand that these guys were handpicked to play this game and there aren’t that many people in the world who can do what they do. So, the fact that he gets to go back and play each year is really an accomplishment in itself. I also like finding little pieces of home everywhere we go. Andrew played in Oklahoma for a lot of his career and as a New Yorker I never thought I’d find anything to like about Tulsa, but I did. We had our coffee shop and brunch spot, our dive bar for late nights after games, pizza place and all. And when they played in Missouri, we found the cutest little French breakfast place where I still think about the crepes and coffee. You get to see a lot of the country you never thought you would, and you start to relate to different ways of life, which is so important. My least favorite is how my love of the game itself has completely changed. It’s deflating more and more as time goes by. When you see what these guys go through and the ropes they have to climb and the lengths they have to go, it just breaks your heart and really has tarnished my relationship with baseball. I grew up as a little girl watching the Mets play in Queens, you wouldn’t call me soft or naïve, but it definitely didn’t prepare me for what happens on the other side of those stands. There’s a lot of things that baseball needs to change, and I know a lot of people want to see those changes, but I still am not hopeful for any of it to happen.
7. How has becoming a mother to Remie changed you? What is the most challenging aspect of that when it comes to baseball?
First of all, she is my best freaking friend and it is the most selfless I have ever felt in my life. Everything and I mean everything, is for her, about her, and with her in mind, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The love that you have for this little human is indescribable. I cried every single day for the first 3 months of her life because I just wanted to be able to give her more, and I think that’s the most challenging aspect of baseball. You know, it’s not a glamourous life and it’s very risky. Since getting married and starting our family, I’ve chosen to take jobs that allow me to be flexible, and because of that the pay isn’t exactly what I’ve made in the past and we all know how much minor leaguers get paid. I just want consistency for her, and I want a foundation where we can grow. Oftentimes baseball can put a hold on that, no matter how good you are or how much you plan. On the other hand, I think with a year like 2020, all bets are off in how people plan their lives, so I have learned to give myself and my family so much grace and not blame baseball for anything. I know that this isn’t permanent. I know there will be a time very soon where we plant our roots and create that consistency for our daughter, but it is really hard. Even if you’re an established big leaguer, I think if you ask any baseball mom, they’d say it’s hard.
8. What is the best advice you have been given when it comes to your site and brand?
I haven’t really been given too much advice other than to keep going with it and see where it goes, which is really all I needed to hear. But what I tell myself every day is to be authentic. Be as authentic as possible because phony is phony is phony and it’s easy to tell when someone or a brand isn’t being authentic. Pick what you want to be, what your story will tell, and figure out a way to use that to relate to people. Be purposeful and take a stand and stick up for people and be the voice that others don’t feel they have. And that’s what I try to do with Babes Who Ball. I try to create a space where girls who are sporty but girly, like reality tv but also are very involved with politics feel safe and seen. My goal is to speak for and let others speak on what it means to be a woman and how you can’t define us by our gender.
9. What’s next for you and Babes Who Ball?
In the last few months, I realized that writing isn’t really my passion as much as creating a brand with a powerful purpose is. Right now, I am currently working on a business plan to hopefully monetize BWB in a few ways. I’m also trying to spice up the Instagram and Twitter accounts so that they reflect the story that I’m trying to tell. I’ve been speaking with a few successful female-run online communities on possible ways to collaborate as well, which I’m really excited about. I think just starting small with a goal in mind is how I have to approach this right now. That being said, I am always looking to onboard new writers and people who want to get involved so that’s part of the process too. If you’re reading this and want to get involved, do not be shy to reach out!
10. What are five things you are currently loving?
Okay so I made these pumpkin cheesecake muffins the other day and they were beyond delicious, I can send anyone the recipe if they’re interested! I’m really into this band called The Band Camino, they’re like indie rock-ish and my go-to driving music right now, and Maggie Rogers, so basic I know. We watched this animated movie called Home the other day with Remie and it’s about these aliens that occupy earth and put all the humans in Australia except this little girl who enlists one of them to try to find her mom and it was seriously the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s on FXNow if you have littles or are a little child inside like me and just love animated movies! I pretty much eat an avocado with everything but the bagel seasoning every day and it’s the BEST combo ever. And last but certainly not least – if you are a wine lover RUN do not walk to Costco to find this $6 (often on sale for $4) Portuguese red wine blend. My mother in law and I go through them like water. It’s the best cheap wine you’ll ever have I swear it!
11.Where can we find you online? Any social media handles or any initiatives you would like to support / promote?
You can find me personally at @lisaandiesopko and follow @babeswhoball_ on Instagram. You can head to babeswhoball.com to read some of our former pieces and get to know some of the guest writers.
And if you’re feeling extra loving, you can donate to either The Players Alliance or the Loveland Foundation. The Loveland Foundation offers free therapy sessions to women of color and The Players Alliance is a compilation of black baseball players fighting for real racial change in the sport.