When Ashley Brown started her fashion career at Missouri State University, she had no idea where it would lead her.
Her work ethic and taste for trying new things paid off in a big way. Now, she has combined two of her passions that make for an unlikely match—fashion and baseball.
After years of working in retail and merchandising, she now works in the heart of her hometown for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I say it all the time, I went from selling Chanel sunglasses and dressing mannequins in designer clothing to selling dirty baseballs and smelly jerseys,” she said.
Working her way up
Brown graduated from Missouri State University in December 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in clothing, textiles and merchandising. She recalled that finding a job after finishing school wasn’t easy.
“It was basically in the middle of the recession,” she said. “I’d done an internship that summer in New York City, but then I came back home and graduated with no job.”
She ended up finding a sales job with Nordstrom in St. Louis, where she quickly worked her way up to a management position.
After four years, she went on to help a local family open a boutique in St. Louis. It was there she met the woman who sparked her interest in working with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I had met this woman, and we got to talking. She was an usher at Busch Stadium, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so cool. Baseball is my second passion. I go to at least 10 games per summer,’” Brown said. “And she said, ‘Well, when you come to a game, stop by and see me.’ And we just started this relationship.”
Soon after, Brown ended up working as a merchandise and motor clothes manager and buyer for a locally owned Harley Davidson dealership.
“I knew that wasn’t where I was supposed to be,” Brown said. “My career had been on a roller coaster the past year, and I just wanted to do something fun.”
Stepping up to the plate
Brown decided to reach out to the woman she met in the boutique to see if she could become an usher at Busch Stadium.
“And then she told me that they were hiring a retail manager,” Brown said. “And I just thought, ‘No way.’”
She interviewed for the job, and soon after, she attended spring training in Florida.
While she was at spring training, Brown found herself in a broadcast booth with well-known professional sports broadcaster, Dan McLaughlin.
“Suddenly, these two worlds collided: my background with fashion design and retail, and my love of baseball,” she said. “In that moment when I was standing there, I got chills. I thought, ‘This is a dream I didn’t even know I had.’”
Brown started with the St. Louis Cardinals in March 2014 as the supervisor of retail operations. She later was promoted to the manager of retail operations in May 2014.
She manages all aspects of the Cardinals Authentics retail operation, including the two brick and mortar stores, the online shop and the auction site.
Brown also is responsible for developing marketing strategies and collateral, and doing interviews with local media. She also helps procure items for historical purposes for the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum.
A big part of her job involves working with current and past players. She has cultivated relationships with players like Yadier Molina, Bob Gibson and more.
The last few seasons, Brown worked with Jason Motte and the Jason Motte Foundation to create exclusive, limited edition shirts and products to promote the foundation’s mission.
“This business is unlike any other retail business I’ve ever been involved in,” she said. “No day is ever the same here, and there are constantly new challenges and hurdles to overcome.”
Brown’s journey hasn’t come without struggles.
In addition to the hurdles the COVID-19 pandemic created, Brown suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm in November 2020. She took time off to rest and recover, and then returned to work on her seven-year anniversary in March 2021.
“I’m easing myself back into work, but I don’t know what the year is going to look like,” Brown said. “Given the circumstances, I’m so grateful for the business we were able to do last year. I hope people are excited to get back to the stadium and return to normal St. Louis baseball.”