Saturday, February 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Most influential women in Tampa Bay sports: Sandy Dengler, Tampa Bay Rays

Sandy Dengler had no plans for a career in baseball, nor in any sport.

Unable to put her master's degree in industrial labor relations or her undergraduate expertise in American literature to any use, she took classes to learn secretary skills to better her chances to find some kind of work in or around New York City.

"One of the girls I had gone to secretarial school with was commuting on the train and said, 'One of my neighbors is looking for someone because his secretary just quit.' So I interviewed with John Gaherin, who was the head of the (MLB owners) Player Relations Committee, and he hired me," Dengler said.

That was 1975.

And — save for a let's get out of the heat, oops, we hate the snow 18-month stint with the Vermont Department of Corrections as a compliance monitor — Dengler has worked in baseball ever since, going from the Player Relations Committee to running the Pirates' Bradenton base to spending the past nearly 20 years in the Rays' front office.

"Purely accidental," Dengler said.

As administrator, baseball operations, Dengler has a hand in pretty much every move the Rays make. And have made, having worked for all three of the team's top baseball decision-makers — Chuck LaMar, Andrew Friedman and Matt Silverman.

While not giving advice on what decisions to make, Dengler is charged with making sure that everything that has to get done a specific way or by a certain deadline does, advising what rules might impact the team's plans, what other issues could surface. (And, for the past year, she has done so remotely, as the Rays allowed her to move to New York so she could help raise her 9-month-old grandson).

As a result, Dengler often knows more about what moves the Rays are making — or even contemplating, given potential waiver claims, contract negotiations and medical records she handles and processes — before anyone, the players, coaches, and certainly the media and fans.

"I do have to keep secrets, and I'm quite good at it," she said. "Nobody ever tries to get anything out of me. I think they know it was a lost cause."

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