Major League Baseball builds ‘diversity pipeline’

Fourth in an occasional series

Longtime columnist William C. Rhoden has written on The Undefeated.com about the “blinding Whiteness in virtually every sector” of college sport, including key leadership and other essential positions, calling it the “diversity conundrum.” MSR’s multi-part series expands on Rhoden’s observation. This week…WANTED: male or female of color looking to break into sport management from the bottom up.

 

Major League Baseball (MLB) is ramping up their diversity efforts, actively seeking women, Blacks and other people of color for entry-level league and team front-office jobs.

“We’ll get some pushback on this,” admits MLB Vice President Renee Tirado (for talent acquisition and diversity and inclusion) on pushing for more Blacks and other people of color.   Since her promotion in January, Tirado’s responsibilities include overseeing MLB’s Diversity Pipeline Program and advising senior leadership on all matters related to diversity and inclusion.

Renee Tirado (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

“You need to be a person [of color] or a woman to participate” in three specifically designed MLB programs to bring more diversity to baseball, Tirado told the MSR at this year’s NABJ convention in New Orleans in August:

  • an 18-to-24-month entry-level program;
  • a three-year program consisting of two years in baseball operations and a third year in labor economics; and
  • scholarships available for men and women of color to attend MLB Scouting School.

After he retired from baseball and up to his death in the early 1970s, Jackie Robinson consistently challenged baseball to hire more Blacks in managerial and front-office jobs.  Tirado’s promotion and others like it “reflect our commitment to have strong, innovative leadership in place that aligns our industry objectives,” said Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred in a press release that announced her promotion.

“Yes, there is some onus on us as an organization and a business,” Tirado stressed. “Maybe we haven’t done this as well as we could of. But so are a lot of companies trying to figure out this diversity and inclusion agenda. It is a hot topic across the board.

“I want to take it from a ground-up approach,” continued Tirado. “I want to find young adults who really want to commit to a career in baseball…, [who] have the stamina to keep up with the pace of baseball. It is not an easy industry.

“We have to be more deliberate” in establishing a lasting diversity pipeline, Tirado pointed out.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), led by its director Richard Lapchick, annually tracks diversity efforts in pro and college sport through its Racial and Gender Report Cards.  “I think the leagues generally overall at the top understand the value of diversity as a business imperative,” he told us last month.

Lisa Borders MSR file photo

Now-retired WNBA players Tamika Catchings and Swin Cash were hired earlier this year for newly created franchise development positions at Indiana and New York respectively. “We are in a new space and time,” WNBA President Lisa Borders proudly points out.

She told the MSR that since many W players also play overseas during the off-season, they are “uniquely” prepared for future front office jobs when they retire from playing.

“Our players learn to navigate a different language, a different currency, a different culture. When you’re talking about moving from the [court] to the front office, you’re talking about navigating change. Our women are uniquely prepared to make the transitions…, are much more well-rounded than a traditional athlete might be,” said the league president.

Tirado said she’s reaching out to HBCUs and other colleges, even hitting high schools and youth baseball groups. “We have to start somewhere…to cultivate” future baseball front-office jobs.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.