As Major League Baseball continues to be a leader in finding creative ways to promote diversity and inclusion, the league has announced a new Front Office Diversity Initiative through a masterfully constructed MLB Diversity Fellowship Program.  

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blacktwitter MLB's New Front Office Diversity Initiative: The 'MLB Diversity Fellowship Program' https://t.co/NXHXio5sCU

MLB has invested a pretty penny and made diversifying the game at the grassroots level and internationally - making it more accessible to underserved communities and identifying African-American talent - a priority mission in recent years. Baseball, particularly at the minor league levels, has seen a spike in impactful and celebrated black talent over the last half decade. 

In response to criticisms and a June LA Times article, Major League Baseball is 'failing' in its attempt to increase front-office diversity and the issue could get worse, the long overdue initiative was put into motion. 

“Because MLB has this long standing commitment to diversity, we continue to invest a lot of our time, efforts and money to make sure that we're moving the needle in regard to this agenda,” Renée Tirado, MLB’s Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Head of Diversity & Inclusion told The Shadow League in an exclusive interview. 

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RBI Programming and Support Opportunities; Jessica Dunn, Renee Tirado, and Melanie LeGrande @MLBRBI

“Baseball’s the first league to ever have a diversity and inclusion department. This is a priority for the commissioner. He’s encouraged us to think outside the box and be creative. He only asks that we bring back the best and brightest candidates.”

“It's important for us to make sure that leadership and people in positions to make decisions and influence the game -- namely baseball operations and the front office -- reflect the diversity that we know is necessary and not just diversity for diversity's sake, but the fact is that diversity brings diversity of thought and diversity of thought brings innovation. That's how we'll continue to keep the game alive, allow it to grow globally.”

This new front office diversity initiative is the most prominent action taken by MLB's Diversity and Inclusion department to support its Front Office & Field Diversity initiative. The program is open exclusively to women and people of color who are recent graduates, no more than two years removed from school. 

It is a multi-million dollar investment by Major League Baseball and its clubs to proactively recruit the best young minds for positions in baseball operations, front office and league economics areas.  The Office of the Commissioner will place 23 candidates in coveted roles as a means to put them on a pathway to long careers in Baseball. 

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Dope @MLB diversity fellowship program put together by my awesome friend Renée Tirado. https://t.co/311gjy0PT2

Tirado spearheads this initiative and eloquently and perfectly explains MLB’s objectives with this program and how it came to fruition. 

“It was a collaborative effort," Tirado tells TSL, “but really took off with Tyrone Brooks, Director of The Diversity Pipeline Program and myself. I thought, ‘What can we do that is going to legitimately get people jobs in baseball operations?’ And knowing that we had to start from an entry level point, get new talent and really tap into different disciplines and audiences that had not thought about baseball as an option to them.” 

“The goal is to create a legitimate pipeline of talent to be the faces of baseball operations for all of major league baseball,” said Tirado. “Baseball is not easy and it's not an easy career to have. There will be some attrition and I accept that, but if I can get a solid pool of candidates at the end of three or four years who are still in this game and really passionate and we are starting to track them and develop them professionally to be our future GMs and future heads of scouting - the next Kim Ng and Joe Torre -  then that’s my goal.” 

Tirado is a reformed attorney and always had a passion for sports. She enjoyed it as a kid growing up, practiced for many years and got tired of it. 

“It wasn't for me any longer," Tirado recalls, “but the universe aligned and I got my first job with the National Basketball Retired Players Association and that transitioned me to the United States Tennis Association, where I first got involved in this diversity and inclusion agenda. Did some global diversity in the corporate world and serendipitously this opportunity in the baseball world came about and I’m excited to be here.” 

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Tirado broke down the program and its offerings. It’s the kind of groundbreaking, socially uplifting initiative that can change the face of baseball. Its possibilities are exciting and invigorating. 

“Were going to start entry level,” Tirado told TSL. “ We're going to start young. We’re going to provide the candidates we select with developmental opportunities and put them in positions of professional growth and support them. It’s a two-way street and if they do their job and deliver and are focused and diligent, I fully anticipate that somebody out of this class will hold a prominent position of leadership in Major League Baseball and you'll be interviewing them.” 

Some MLB clubs have similar programs and fellowships or internships, not as focused and a bit more casual, but Tirado and her five-person staff did an inventory. “A little mini audit,” as she describes it, “to see what was working and who was doing what...the positive and negatives and then what we could build off of that to make it something more league wide and a little bit more robust." 

Two fellowships were secured to drive this front office initiative along with MLB’s commitment to make this a legitimate, professional development opportunity. Tirado's experience, drive, business mind and determination did the rest. 

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It is a two-track program.  

The first track is a Club Focused Fellowship offering 20 slots that require an 18-24 month rotation at any location that MLB recruiters determine is the best fit for that candidate and club. So the candidates have to be flexible, available and willing to relocate and go wherever they are placed. Tirado says that’s a huge part of the commitment. 

The second track is The Office of The Commissioner Fellowship. This is a longer commitment with a three-year rotational period based in New York City and it’s only offered to three candidates who must study two years in baseball operations and a third year in labor economics. 

Several major criteria must be met to qualify to apply for the position.  

“We are looking for smart people, looking for innovative people and people that ideally have some affinity for baseball but there are certain majors and academic backgrounds that do lend themselves to our sport,” Tirado revealed.  

“Like analytics, computer science, economics, business degrees, JD's, those mesh well with our business but it doesn't mean that if there's a psych major or literature major out there who is super smart and has a real passion for the game and really understands how our business runs and has a feel for sabermetrics and statistics... it doesn't mean that they can't be a fellow as well.” 

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There’s a GPA requirement of 3.2 or higher and Tirado says you just “have to be open-minded to stepping out your comfort zone for an opportunity that I promise would be an opportunity of a lifetime.” 

Tirado’s team is just beginning the application process. They have reached out to 1,000 colleges and universities around the country. They hope to get several thousands of applications.  

“Best case scenario,” said Tirado, “ this will be an extremely arduous and competitive process because we will have so many candidates to choose from.” 

The final pool will be selected by an executive team from the Commissioner's office and Tirado, who is surely doing her part to make MLB’s front offices more indicative of the diverse faces that watch and love the game and a changing society. 

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Sharing best practices on how to grow your Diverse Talent Pipeline. #GrandSlamDiversity

“I don’t necessarily know if enough of our diverse communities are considering baseball as a career options," Tirado assessed. “It's more a lack of understanding our business and all of the opportunities we provide. Its trying to figure out this conundrum of how do you really create an inclusive environment and move the diversity and inclusion agenda along. Wall Street has been working on it for 35 years. None has cracked the code on it, but baseball is willing to put itself out there to lead the charge and provide an example for others that it can be done if you really want to do it.”

Embarking on this mission of creating a pipeline of diverse candidates that will eventually influence the future of baseball is a watershed moment for the sport which has always been vital to sustaining the racial health of our country.