MLB execs help inspire NY youth about baseball careers

February 7th, 2023

NEW YORK -- The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, the Mets, the YMCA of Greater New York and Major League Baseball hosted a career panel at the Rockaway YMCA in honor of Black History Month for approximately 50 Saturday Night Lights youth from across the city.

The event was an opportunity for middle- and high school-aged students, including those from other surrounding DYCD-funded programs, to meet members of the Mets’ Black Professionals (Donovan Mitchell Sr., Austin Lockett and Howard Cole Jr.) and MLB Black Employee Resource Group (Brody Cook, Cameron Scott and Jalen Burks) and learn about various career opportunities in baseball. This event was one of two career panels the groups will be hosting for SNL students this month. The second will take place this Saturday in Queens.

“From an MLB perspective, especially with our ERGs, we want to make sure we are making an impact in the community,” said Catalina Villegas, director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “Also we want to talk to the underrepresented communities and let them know that MLB has opportunities for them. If they want to be in baseball, they could be here. Representation is important -- if they can see it, they can be it.”

Scott, who is in baseball and softball development for MLB, wanted the kids to leave Saturday’s affair with one important thing to keep in mind: It’s not impossible to have a dream job.

“If I wanted the kids to walk away with one thing, it would be ... we were once them and everything that we are doing is all possible and attainable,” Scott said. “They have to set their minds to something and make sure that they build relationships. They can do it.”

Every member of the panel acknowledged that they grew up wanting to play professional sports, but they realized they had to go in a different direction for various reasons. Some didn’t have the talent to play sports, while others were injured and had to think about getting a job somewhere else.

Take Mitchell. He probably had the best story to tell. Mitchell has been involved in professional baseball since 1992. He was a seven-year Minor League infielder/outfielder in the Astros organization before becoming a Minor League coach in the Mets organization. After 10 years on the job, Mitchell started working in the team’s front office. He became the Mets’ director of diversity, equity and inclusion. The team started focusing on diversity within the organization. While he is currently at that role, Mitchell is also the team’s senior director of player relations.

“Hopefully, I [said something] tonight that can really help change their lives or get them to focus on things they want to do,” Mitchell said. “... It’s good to see Black men and women who are prominent in organizations taking the time out of their schedules to share their life experiences with them. Hopefully, they were able to take away from tonight what we were able to give them.”

Cook played college baseball for Virginia Commonwealth University before he transferred to Georgetown University to complete his bachelor's degree in government. After graduation, Cook ended up working for MLB, starting in baseball and softball development. He and members of the staff were looking to improve the diamond skills of kids from ages 10 to 17. After spending a year with the Mets, Cook returned to the league office and was involved with on-field operations before landing his current job in player marketing. Cook’s job is to build brands for players in the Major and Minor Leagues. It’s obvious that Cook loves his job.

“Everybody in the Major Leagues and Minor League level, we create videos for them, graphics ... and get them off-field exposure,” Cook told the kids about his current role. “We bring guys to concerts. We bring guys to sporting events. We do a lot of the fun stuff.”

The ages of the kids ranged from 10 to 17. The panel made the suggestion to start thinking about their future right now.

“Whatever you do, wherever you want to go in life, research it,” Mitchell said. “I might say something that might sound a little bit crazy: Whatever you want to do, this is the easiest time in your lives to get that information. We are living in a world of social media. You are living in a world where you have your phones in your hands right now. You can punch something up and figure out how to do it. There are step-by-step instructions on almost every job out there. All you have to do is follow the blueprint. If you are really hungry, reach out to somebody who has been in those shoes and find out what that journey was like.”