The two-day event features 60 women with baseball or softball experiences and introduces them to MLB’s many career paths.
MLB Winter Meetings are being held this week in Las Vegas through Dec. 13. The league’s Diversity and Inclusion Team has used it as the perfect location to further initiatives of diversifying the game and creating a pipeline of minority talent to the front offices.
The inaugural “Take the Field” initiative is a two-day event featuring 60 women with on-field experience in baseball and softball, whether it be playing, coaching or scouting. It’s the latest groundbreaking initiative by MLB’s innovative and hardworking Diversity Inclusion team.
Take The Field
24-year-old Samantha Rodriguez was one of the 60 women selected to attend the workshop. 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.
“I also play professional softball, as well as coach and train athletes throughout the year,” Rodriguez told The Shadow League.
Take The Field offers women the opportunity to specialize in one of four tracks: coaching, scouting, training (athletic training and mental performance), and umpiring.
Rodriguez chose scouting, a field where women are almost nonexistent in the professional ranks.
“My ultimate career goal is to work for a professional sports team in operations,” said Rodriguez, who got her Master’s Degree in Sports Management from Brooklyn College in 2017. “Operations is a vast field of many different paths to go down. Take The Field really put that into perspective for me and has given me some insight into how to narrow down a path that fits me.”
Creating A Pipeline Of Diverse Talent
Under the leadership of Corey Smith, Rene Tirado and Tyrone Brooks, Director of The Diversity Pipeline Program, MLB’s Diversity & Inclusion team provided specialized workshops and professional development sessions for the women in attendance.
Rodriguez and other fortunate attendees were enlightened by professionals working in the four fields, independent groups and women in prominent front office positions with MLB clubs. They also forged friendships that could form strong business relationships.
“The experience I had was excellent,” said Rodriguez. “It exceeded everyone’s expectations and I think I can speak for all of the participants when I say expectations were definitely high. I learned so much about the inner workings of MLB and how women currently, and in the future, shape the league.
“Specifically I learned how MLB, MiLB, Independent baseball, and even collegiate athletics as well as all aspects of business, operations, analytics, and communications all intertwine to offer a tremendous amount of opportunities for women to work in baseball.”
Rodriguez’ passion for baseball runs deep and dates back as far as she can remember.
“I’ve been fortunate throughout my life and career to have been exposed to powerful women and men in the sports industry,” she said. “But to see women of all ages still working to better themselves, their experiences, and careers really motivated me. It made me proud to be a women, an athlete, and a professional. Baseball is such an amazing sport that women have been passionate about since the very beginning. So to see that same passion on display in the professional field was really exceptional.”
The Katy Feeney Leadership Symposium’ for woman executives in baseball is also going down at the Winter Meetings. The symposium supports existing female employees at MLB and is designed to accelerate their growth.
“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 Smith, MLB’s Senior Director of Supplier Diversity & Strategic Sourcing. “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.
“What stood out to me the most over the course of the two days was the amount of experienced, qualified, and capable women who already work in MLB, gathered all in one place to have their brains picked,” said Rodriguez. “I’ve known women who worked and held leadership positions at all levels of professional baseball. I’ve been privileged to have worked with some of these women. But to meet more in person and see women like Leslie Manning of the Seattle Mariners and listen to her story and being able to pick her brain really made this even exceptional.”
In 2017, the MLB announced a new Front Office Diversity Initiative through its Diversity Fellowship Program. The program selects college applicants from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, and develops and streamlines them for jobs in front offices.
The latest initiative is another bold effort to diversify the game and create a pipeline of talented women with a passion for baseball and introduce them to the many careers in coaching, scouting, training and umpiring that they are now encouraged to pursue.