Forget the usual barriers of age, gender and experience — for Angela Batinovich, owner of the Portland LumberJax of the National Lacrosse League, her biggest hurdles have been security guards.
"Almost every time I go check on my team before games I get hassled by the security," said Batinovich, a San Francisco native. "They always think I’m one of the player’s wives. One time, in Buffalo, I had to show a guard an article written in the paper about me just to prove who I was."
For Batinovich, daughter of San Francisco real estate investor Robert Batinovich, it wasn’t the first time she had to overcome the skeptics.
When she took over the LumberJax in May 2005, Batinovich, then 24, was the youngest owner in professional sports history in the U.S., and the only female owner in the NLL, obstacles that have not prevented her from turning Portland into one of the league’s most successful franchises.
After graduating from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angles, Batinovich originally ran a clothing line, but was drawn into the NLL after witnessing a Colorado Mammoth game in early 2005.
"I was shocked by how easily entertaining the game was," said Batinovich, who was a novice lacrosse fan at the time. "I immediately began to think about investing in the league."
The search led her to the expansion franchise Portland LumberJax, and after consulting with family members and retaining financing from her father, Batinovich became the majority shareholder of the LumberJax when her bid for the team was approved in May 2005.
"We chose Portland because, other than the basketball team, there really was no other competing sports market there," Batinovich said. "We thought we could be a real successful draw."
Batinovich’s presence in the founding franchise was immediate, as the 2006 LumberJax became the first expansion team in the NLL’s history to win its division in its initial year of operation.
The accolades soon poured in for Batinovich, who was named the NLL’s Executive of the Year for 2006, and then the announcement that Portland had secured the league’s All-Star game for 2007.
Still not satisfied, Batinovich has continued to promote her team tirelessly in the Portland community by securing corporate sponsorship for the franchise and setting up numerous lacrosse clinics for the city’s youths, with the aim of improving upon the LumberJax’s already healthy attendance average of 9,000 fans a game.
"Lacrosse is continuing to grow," Batinovich said. "And there is a great environment for the sport here in Portland."