If you're an African-American, a woman or a minority in general, Tyrone Brooks wants you to follow your version of his journey through Major League Baseball during the past two decades, and this is a good thing.No, this is a great thing. I'm not only referring to those I just
If you're an African-American, a woman or a minority in general, Tyrone Brooks wants you to follow your version of his journey through Major League Baseball during the past two decades, and this is a good thing.
No, this is a great thing. I'm not only referring to those I just mentioned, but to everybody who wants the national pastime to continue its efforts, under previous Commissioner Bud Selig and current boss Rob Manfred, to extend Jackie Robinson's legacy from the 20th to the 21st century, with a heavy dose of diversity from the playing field to the front office.
Brooks is the epitome of baseball's vision. Soon after he graduated from the University of Maryland in 1996, he received a three-month internship with the Braves. Now, following front-office stops as a personnel guru with the Braves after that internship, the Indians and the Pirates, this 43-year-old native of Orioles country (Glen Bernie, Md., which is outside of Baltimore) is entering his second year working in the Commissioner's Office as the senior director of MLB's front office and field staff diversity pipeline program.
To translate, Brooks is trying to get more minorities to understand they can have opportunities in baseball beyond just playing the sport, and he's also seeking to help Major League franchises identify the growing number of candidates among minorities who are worthy of hiring.
That's a massive task for anybody. So Brooks swings for singles and doubles, because he knows the home runs will come.
"With 30 clubs, that's 30 personalities, and with this opportunity I have with Major League Baseball, just getting a chance to peel back the layers of each club and getting a sense of how each club works and how they operate, it has been a tremendous experience for me," Brooks said. "You get to know the organizations and the people, which I have done over the course of my time in baseball, but I've also gotten a chance to work closely with the baseball operations people and with the human resource staffs -- since they are a part of the hiring process -- so it's just been great to see how each club operates.
"One thing through my time and my experiences of talking to the clubs about the pipeline program, it's been very clear that the teams realize there's a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of this area of diversity within our game, and they are very much up to the challenge themselves.
"We've asked them to do some things to get slightly out of their comfort zone as we've gone along with this process. So we've all had some steps we've had to take as we learn and grow together as an industry."
Managers. Coaches. General managers. Scouts. Player personnel folks. Even team presidents and owners. Given baseball's vision, those positions are all in play for minorities, and Brooks is leading the way with a supporting cast that includes everything from those who run baseball's RBI (Riving Baseball in the Inner Cities) program to team executives bringing some of their prominent African-Americans back into their organizations as a sign of inclusion.
The Twins, for instance, hired the highly popular Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins during the winter as special assistants.
Brooks is more of the role model here. While Hunter and Hawkins were trying to win pennants and the World Series for the Twins back in the day, he was studying accounting and finance in search of a business degree. Still, like Hunter and Hawkins, Brooks made it to the Major Leagues.
"I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time," said Brooks, of the Braves' career initiative program for minorities during the 1990s that was designed by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and former team executive Stan Kasten, now among the ownership of the Dodgers. Before long, Brooks had a full-time job with the Braves that lasted 11 years, and his bosses included Aaron, Hall of Fame general manager John Schuerholz and legendary player personnel director Paul Snyder.
"I knew I only had a summer to prove myself, because that internship was only a three-month program, and thankfully, I got hired within a month and a half due to a staff member leaving. So I seized that moment, and then from there, I learned a lot under John Schuerholz and Dayton Moore [now GM of the Royals] and Paul Snyder, all of those individuals.
"They were willing to provide the resources to help me develop and to grow during that time. That's the same thing we're asking clubs now to do with the individuals they bring into their organization."
All of this has more weight coming from Brooks, especially since he isn't new to any of these things. In 2009, he invented something called the Baseball Industry Network, which is just that: A place for minorities interested in working in the game to connect with those who could make that happen.
"I created the network to do what I could to help give back and to give individuals a chance to start the process of networking and of understanding the information that's out there in terms of hopefully getting advice from professionals and of getting the process to connect with individuals," Brooks said. "The network is now over 32,000 members. One, there are lot of professionals willing to give a lot of their time to connect with young job seekers in college, trying to make their way into the industry. But also this is an opportunity for college students trying to get their story out there and for getting a sense of where their ambitions are and also what they're skills are."
It sounds like Brooks has a plan. Mostly, it sounds like his homers involved with growing the number of minorities in baseball are closer than you think.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com.