MLB Winter Meetings began on December 8 in San Diego and concludes today. All 30 MLB teams are wheeling and dealing, trying to prepare for the upcoming season.
The league’s Diversity and Inclusion Team has once again used the meetings as the perfect location to prepare for the league’s future by hosting a variety of scheduled activities that are designed for growth in the areas of diversity & inclusion within the sport. They work meticulously, year-round to make progress in these areas, from the grassroots level of player participation to the administrative and front offices.
At #SABR49 in San Diego, @MLB VP Del Matthews spoke about baseball's efforts to increase diversity and participation among youth players around the globe. Listen to highlights here: https://t.co/kdpDAcZ2u3 @MLBDiversity pic.twitter.com/Pu6CQUWlXe
— SABR (@sabr) August 2, 2019
The Winter Meetings, however, is a rare opportunity and flagship event, because all 30 MLB teams are in one place at one time.
Activities include an initiative to elevate women into the pipeline of a number of on-field operations roles, panel sessions of diverse baseball leadership, the annual business supplier summit that has accelerated spending between MLB & MLB Clubs with diverse-owned businesses.
Additional programs scheduled during the Winter Meetings included the annual leadership program designed to foster the development of existing women baseball employees, a new program focusing on workforce diversity best practices, and the orientation of a new internship program for former MLB & MiLB players.
Also, MiLB held its inaugural Diversity in Sport Forum.
“Take The Field” Program
The second year of the “Take the Field” initiative is a two-day event featuring 50 women with on-field experience in baseball and softball, whether it be playing, coaching or scouting. It’s another impactful initiative by MLB’s innovative and hardworking Diversity Inclusion team.
Take The Field offers women the opportunity to specialize in one of four tracks: coaching, scouting, training (athletic training and mental performance), and umpiring.
Under the leadership of Corey Smith, MLB’s Sr. Director of Supplier Diversity and Tyrone Brooks, Director of The Diversity Pipeline Program, MLB’s Diversity & Inclusion team provides the opportunity for education and engagement with Club personnel through panels, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities.
What a night! @PattiPhillips10 spoke with the women of baseball at the @MLB's #TakeTheField2019 event in San Diego! Thank you Liz Benn, Corey Smith, and the entire MLB Diversity & Inclusion Department for hosting this important event for women interested in careers in baseball! pic.twitter.com/EHVVnvD50U
— Women Leaders (@WomenLeadersCS) December 7, 2019
The event, intended for those who have an existing connection through baseball or softball, is led by coaches, scouts, and front office personnel (League & Clubs) who will facilitate sessions, provide insight, and be accessible for questions and conversations with participants.
Opening Doors, Feeding Passions
Samantha Rodriguez from New York was invited to the inaugural event last season and returned this year. The Brighton Beach, Brooklyn native is currently an administrator and assistant athletic director at a private school in New York City.
She’s also the Director of Operations and Softball Development at 33Rodz Baseball, a youth travel organization founded by retired MLB pitcher Frank Rodriguez.
The program has already provided tremendous direction and confidence for Rodriguez.
Additionally, attendees participated in professional development sessions, including mock interviews. Notable baseball representatives leading discussions and breakout sessions include the recently promoted Rachel Balkovec (Minor League Hitting Instructor, New York Yankees), Rachel Folden (AZL Lead Lab Tech & 4th/Hitting Coach, Chicago Cubs) and Eve Rosenbaum (Director of Baseball Development, Baltimore Orioles), among many others.
“These women executives that are already in the game and doing incredible things… it’s important for them to get together and share best practices and experiences. The newer employees that are here should hear from the veterans who have been part of this infrastructure for some time and have elevated,” said Corey Smith. “So some of the newer folks can be put onto those same exact paths and follow those successful business models. Building comradery is also a goal.”
With a cornucopia of women executives and front office workers at her disposal, Rodriguez was able to gain valuable information and direction. The nurturing doesn’t stop there. Going forward, participants will be provided with guidance and feedback periodically in order to assist in their pursuits of careers in baseball.
Here’s a list of the diversity and inclusion events MLB orchestrated this week at MLB’s baseball meetings.
Women in Baseball Panel
This panel features some of the superstar front office women in the industry who share advice with participants who are looking to begin their careers in baseball.
Jean Afterman (SVP & Asst. GM, New York Yankees), Kim Ng (SVP, Baseball & Softball Development, MLB), Kate Townley (Director, Baseball Administration, Minnesota Twins), Stephanie Wilka (Associate General Counsel, San Diego Padres).
The event is wrapped up with a mock interview. Participants will engage in 5-10 minute one-on-one mock interviews with baseball professionals who work in their area of interest.
For the third consecutive year, MLB’s Diversity & Inclusion department also hosted the UNFILTERED SERIES, which provides general Winter Meetings attendees with opportunities to learn from diverse representation within Baseball.
MLB Network’s Fran Charles led the ‘Diversity at the Top’ conversation, which featured diverse and high-ranking Baseball executives, including Raquel Ferreira (Senior Vice President, Major and Minor League Operations, Boston Red Sox), Billy Owens (Assistant General Manager/Director of Player Personnel, Oakland Athletics), Jean Afterman (Senior Vice President, Assistant General Manager, New York Yankees) and Shiraz Rehman ( Assistant General Manager, Texas Rangers),
ESPN’s Eduardo Perez, son of Hall of Fame Cuban star Tony Perez, led the ‘GM Chronicles” with Farhan Zaidi (San Francisco Giants)’ and shared his journey and insights from his career in baseball
In addition to expanding the front office pool, MLB’s Diversity & Inclusion team uses the Winter Meetings as a conversion center for diverse companies looking to get a piece of the MLB pie.
Supplier Diversity Summit & Diversity Pipeline Program
The 4th annual Supplier Diversity Summit includes a one-hour panel discussion followed by speed networking rounds providing diverse-owned businesses (inclusive of those owned by people of color, women, veterans, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and disabled persons) the opportunity to pitch their businesses to representatives from MLB and MLB Clubs.
Created in 1998, it’s the longest-running Diversity Supplier Program in major sports. To date, MLB has spent nearly $2 billion with diverse businesses since this initiative began.
Another area of concentration deals with the ever-evolving human resources culture, and how those departments can use diversity to improve overall effectiveness.
Workforce Diversity Best Practices
On Saturday, MLB debuted its new ‘Workforce Diversity Best Practices’ program, which hosted Human Resource representatives from all 30 Clubs.
Participants had sessions geared toward promoting and supporting an inclusive environment that proactively supports the diversity of its workforce to enhance MLB’s businesses and brand around the world. The sessions focused on topics such as Unconscious Bias, Relationship Building, and Recruiting Best Practices.
‘Katy Feeney Leadership Symposium’
Heading into its third consecutive year, the Katy Feeney Leadership Symposium focuses on career advancement for existing women executives in baseball. Held in honor of Katy Feeney, who was an influential baseball executive throughout her 40-year career, the invitation-only guest list includes women from all 30 MLB Clubs, MLB’s Central Office and MLB Network.
Reaching back and utilizing the expertise of former players is the latest groundbreaking initiative by MLB’s Diversity and Inclusion Dream Team.
Diversity Pipeline Program: ‘Former Player Internship Orientation’
The MLB Player Programs and the Diversity Pipeline Program departments are jointly sponsoring the new “Former Player Internship Program,” a six-month program designed to provide former Major & Minor League players from diverse backgrounds with a foundation for transitioning from the playing field to the front office and on-field roles, including managing and coaching.
MLB was represented by:
Malcolm Holland (Baltimore Orioles) – former Dodgers minor league infielder; current football player at the University of Arizona; former MLB scholarship attendee of the SABR Analytics Conference
- Juan Hernandez (Boston Red Sox) – former Red Sox minor league outfielder
- Eric Patterson (Chicago Cubs) – former Cubs infielder/outfielder
- Juan Silva (Cincinnati Reds) – former Reds minor league outfielder
- Derrick Robinson (Kansas City Royals) – former Major League outfielder
However, behind the scenes, MLB continues to have a team of innovative, diligent, and forward-thinking foot soldiers who are slowly improving the culture of the league from the front office to the hiring practices involving anything from coaches to small business contracts. A change is a-coming.