MLB starts a diversity fellowship for women, people of color

As we’ve written about at length, baseball has a diversity problem in its front offices, which are overwhelmingly staffed with white men, many from wealthy backgrounds. The reasons for this are many, but it all boils down to a industry that sends women and people of color the message that they shouldn’t bother applying and a hiring process which results in baseball’s white, male Ivy League-educated senior executives hiring people that tend to look a lot like they did when they were entering the workforce.

Major League Baseball has launched a number of efforts to try to combat this, though none has really brought results. Now there is a new one: the league is launching a diversity fellowship program which will place 20 candidates with teams and three with MLB itself in New York.

Applications are limited to people of color and women, and can be submitted through Nov. 17.  The winners of the fellowship will be announced in April. Applicants have to have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or related advanced degree within the last two years. Those who win a club fellowship will commit to 18 months with the club, those who get a league office fellowship will receive a three-year commitment, split between baseball operations and business. The position will have a higher salary than the typical entry level MLB position as well.

Here’s MLB’s Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem:

“The fellowship program is a coordinated approach by MLB to recruit diverse graduating students at universities throughout the United States by offering them the opportunity to compete for a prestigious fellowship in the front office of an MLB club. The goal is to attract individuals who would not otherwise consider an MLB career without the structure and benefits offered by the fellowship program.”

I think his quote there diagnoses a part of the problem that gets less press than the basic hiring practices of MLB do: self-selection out of the job pool. I’ve spoken to a lot of young candidates for MLB jobs at the Winter Meetings each year. Many of them made a really hard choice to even apply for MLB jobs and were doing so with misgivings, knowing that (a) it may be a vain effort to even try; and (b) even if they get the job, they may be costing themselves money and opportunities presented by non-baseball jobs that pay better and offer a better chance of advancement. Many proceed because, hey, it’s baseball, but many find themselves in dead ends or leaving baseball before they can advance.

A fellowship will not solve this problem entirely, of course, but the commitment MLB is making here, both in terms of salary and job term, could draw in a lot of candidates who might otherwise not consider baseball careers and may allow those who do enter into the industry to be better recognized and stand a better chance of advancement.