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COMMENTARY: Baseball growing more diverse off the field, if not on

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred’s office has in recent years implemented a number of diversity initiatives: Each MLB club is required to provide a plan for increasing the diversity of its staff as part of the Diversity Pipeline Program, and the Diversity Fellowship Program was started in October 2017 to provide opportunity for young professionals to train and gain experience in traditionally influential baseball operations front office jobs.

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Women employees make up almost 32 percent of the total front office staff, and there has been a 2.2 percent growth in team vice-presidents of color (11.7 to 13.9) from 2016 to 2017.   People of color also make up around 24 percent of senior executive-level personnel, with the same percentage for women.

By Charles Hallman, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Conclusion a two-part column

Despite its overall paucity of Blacks on the field, baseball has shown a significant increase in racial hiring off the field.

According to the 2018 MLB Racial and Gender Report Card by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), nearly 34 percent of MLB Central Office professional staff are people of color (10 percent Black, 14.9 percent Latino, 5.7 percent Asian and 3.1 percent other).

Women employees make up almost 32 percent of the total front office staff, and there has been a 2.2 percent growth in team vice-presidents of color (11.7 to 13.9) from 2016 to 2017.   People of color also make up around 24 percent of senior executive-level personnel, with the same percentage for women.

Rene Tirando / Photo by Charles Hallman

Rene Tirando / Photo by Charles Hallman

MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred’s office has in recent years implemented a number of diversity initiatives: Each MLB club is required to provide a plan for increasing the diversity of its staff as part of the Diversity Pipeline Program, and the Diversity Fellowship Program was started in October 2017 to provide opportunity for young professionals to train and gain experience in traditionally influential baseball operations front office jobs.

Manfred told Pohlad Family Foundation Vice-President and Executive Director Susan Bass Roberts in their “diversity conversation” at the August 23 Minnesota Twins Diversity Celebration that these initiatives and others designed to improve diversity aren’t talked about enough. His office got an A-plus for racial hiring on the TIDES report, an improvement from the A-minus in 2017.

Renee Tirado has been MLB’s first-ever diversity and inclusion officer since 2017 and is mainly responsible for MLB’s diversity programs. She is among the 25 women vice-presidents in the Commissioner’s office.

She told the MSR, “The Commissioner is 100 percent [supportive].”

Also in town for the Twins event, Tirado said of MLB’s diversity efforts to date, “It’s been a huge success. At a minimum, we have a pool of people who are committed to our game. We are doing this in a strategic way.  [But] we are not going to flood MLB all at one time.”

Manfred also supports the “Selig rule,” named for his predecessor Bud Selig, that mandates Blacks and other people of color must be interviewed for club openings. But he stressed that ultimately, what he wants to see created are “opportunities that will turn into job opportunities” in order to achieve sustained diversity.

MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred’ / Photo by charles Hallman

MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred’ / Photo by charles Hallman

The commissioner also bemoaned a possible sticking point in this endeavor: Many of baseball’s “high quality” entry-level jobs don’t always attract recent college grads looking for work that not only pays a decent or better wage, but helps them pay off college debts as well.

“I have been impressed with the candidates we’ve placed,” Tirado said of the Diversity Pipeline Program and the Diversity Fellowship Program. TIDES reported that out of 64 “assisted hires,” 24 are full-time, 33 are interns and seven are part-time. “We have over 1,000 applicants,” she added.

“We have invested over $2 million in the last three years with minority-, women-, LGBT- and veteran-owned businesses,” Tirado said about the Diverse Business Partners program that is designed to cultivate new and existing partnerships with such underrepresented small businesses. “We are very proud of that and continue to aggressively [see] those numbers increase.”

Baseball diversity is similar to the sport itself — slow-paced, but ultimately it will get there, stated Manfred and Tirado. “I think it is too soon to access long-term devotion [to diversity efforts],” Tirado said. “The game is slow and [diversity] is not a race. But I promise you, we will win this.”

This post originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

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