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.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.