Major League Baseball launches new multi-million dollar Diversity Fellowship

Major League Baseball (MLB) has unveiled its inaugural Diversity Fellowship Program, a multi-million dollar investment designed to recruit talented young, diverse professionals.

The MLB Diversity Fellowship Program will place 23 candidates in coveted roles, with the aim of creating a pathway to long careers in baseball. The Club-based program will be an 18-24 month commitment in a front office or baseball operations role at one of the participating MLB Clubs around the country. In addition, MLB will offer three entry-level fellowships with a rotating three-year phase including two years in baseball operations and one year working within the League Economics Department.

We spoke to Renée Tirado, MLB’s Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Diversity & Inclusion, to learn more about the Diversity Fellowship Program.

How was the MLB Diversity Fellowship Program conceived and what are your goals?
When I first joined MLB I started working with Tyrone Brooks, who leads our Diversity Pipeline Program. We started to brainstorm how we could get more entry level, diverse talent and women into baseball operations and the front office roles.

We completed an audit to see what was going on around the league. Some of the Clubs were already producing their own internships and their own fellowships, but there were also some gaps. We took all of that information and said, “okay, this is what we would want in an ideal situation,” and put some structure around it. We then worked with senior leadership and the Clubs to make sure it was structured the right way and everyone was vested in it. We then shared it with the Commissioner, who was 110% supportive and said “go for it!” That’s how we got started.

We know there are talented people across the board. Our goal is to cast a wider net to make sure that baseball is an employer choice for all candidates. We have 23 spots available and my vision is this pool will eventually become the future GMs, the future heads of scouting, or the future heads of analytics for our game. Now they’re in the pipeline, they will get the support and the development that they need to be successful in our industry.

Can you tell us more about the application process? What do prospective candidates need to prepare?
We want a resume, we want your transcript, we want letters of recommendation, but we also want to get a little bit of insight on you and your relationship to our sport. The application asks for essays, two are required, one is optional. The first essay is a personal statement about who you are, why you want to apply for this fellowship, etc. The second essay is specific to baseball. It’s not too heavy, we’re not asking a deep analytical deep dive or anything like that, but we just want to get a feel of your affinity to baseball.

The applications will be reviewed by the diversity and inclusion team and the talent acquisition team at MLB. After the initial screening we will set up phone interviews and then first round in person interviews at the Office of the Commissioner with a group of executives. The goal is to be able to identify anywhere from two to six candidates per participating Club. Those candidates will then be interviewed by the Clubs themselves, and the Clubs will make their final decision on the fellow that’s most appropriate for them.

What excites you the most about this new initiative?
You know, there’s a couple of things. Number one, I’m very proud of baseball. The Commissioner, all the senior leadership and all the people in our organization that have supported this. I’m excited that we got the buy-in and people are comfortable with us coloring outside the lines a little bit and taking a little bit of risk. So, that’s the most exciting part about it for me.

The second thing is the fact that we will be so high touch with this program, to make sure that these fellows can be successful. I think that makes us very unique. I don’t think any other league or organization has been this deliberate, at least in sports, to really bring in these target audiences. I’m proud that we’re the first to do it.

I think this is legitimately going to be a game changer. These are not ten week internships. We’re talking about multi-year opportunities for super talented people to establish themselves within our industry, create their own brand, build relationships that can change their entire lives. We want to put them on a track for a career that could be remarkably fulfilling. And, you know, hopefully, in a couple of years, you’ll be interviewing one of those candidates, because they’re on the fast track to lead our organization.

So the opportunity to be a part of conceiving this and being able to deliver this is, personally and professionally, probably one of the best things I’ve been able to accomplish in my career.

What advice would you give to anyone reading who is interested in pursuing a career in baseball?
First and foremost, don’t doubt yourself. You have nothing to lose in trying, so give it a shot. You know, one of the best things I can say to young women, especially young women of color, is even if you’re not a baseball fan, even if you’re not a sports fan, this is the opportunity to stretch yourself.

If you have a core skill set that you think will work for baseball, there’s room for you here. For example, women who are in STEM, please don’t think this is not for you. This is exactly for you, give this a shot. With the direction our sport is going in, there’s so much opportunity in that space, that I would love to women in STEM participate in baseball, especially on the technical side.

And lastly, please apply. If you’re thinking about it, you’re qualified. So, please apply. Give us a shot. You’ll be developed. You’ll be invested in. So, take this chance. It’s not as scary as it seems, and I promise you, it will be super fulfilling.

The MLB Diversity Fellowship Program eligibility criteria is as follows:

  • Open to people of color and female candidates.
  • Candidates must be recent graduates (no more than 24 months post-graduation) with either a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s Degrees or related advanced degree.
  • For those candidates interested in the Club Fellowship Program, a commitment of at least 18 months of employment is required at any participating Club in which you are placed.
  • Exact locations are up to the discretion of Major League Baseball and participating Clubs.
  • For those candidates interested in the Office of the Commissioner Fellowship Program, you must commit to at least three years of employment located in New York City.
  • The deadline to apply is November 17, 2017, by 11:59 p.m. EST.

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Interview by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema

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