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MLB, Athlete Ally partner to promote inclusion

MINNEAPOLIS -- Inclusion was the theme of two major announcements that came from Major League Baseball on Tuesday as it took another dramatic step with its ongoing efforts to wipe out discrimination of all types in the sport.

The first announcement introduced former outfielder Billy Bean as the Ambassador for Inclusion and announced the late Glenn Burke as baseball's gay pioneer. The second was to make official a partnership between MLB and Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization on a mission to eliminate homophobia and transphobia in sports and champion LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) equality.

MLB, in conjunction with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), has formed a strategic alliance to provide education and training on respect and inclusion in the workplace.

"Athlete Ally will work not only with players, but also with front office personnel on these issues," MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred said.

Additionally, MLB and MLBAM will work with Athlete Ally and various groups involved in the LGBT community to develop an internship program. Interns will work in both the Commissioner's Office and Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

Athlete Ally, which has been working with MLB for the past year at the Winter Meetings, the Rookie Career Development Program and the Diversity Summit, will assist MLB in targeting and hiring qualified intern candidates.

"We're in a time that people are realizing the LGBT community is part of the athletic community," said Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally. "For a period of time we didn't talk about it, we didn't address it. It really went unmentioned and undiscussed. The fact that athletes are coming out, the fact that allies are speaking out and the league has passed a non-discrimination policy ... sport is on the front lines of social change, and I think we're seeing that intersect in a really fascinating way."

Athlete Ally has had a presence throughout All-Star Week. Their booth at the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest helped bring awareness to the cause, as did a visit by former Yankees manager and current MLB executive Joe Torre, who signed the Athlete Ally pledge to "welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."

Commissioner Bud Selig also signed the pledge following the news conference that welcomed Bean to his position.

Hall of Famer Yogi Berra also offered his public endorsement of Athlete Ally and displayed the organization's mission at his museum and learning center in New Jersey.

Although the spotlight was firmly on the All-Star Game and the All-Star players on Tuesday, the significance of two historic announcements earlier in the day was not lost on the game's most visible dignitaries or the folks working tirelessly to create an equal and fair environment across baseball's landscape.

"Creating inclusive cultures requires explicitly inclusive actions," Taylor said. "Today's honoring of Glenn Burke's legacy and of his family, the league's hiring of Billy Bean, its announcement of LGBT internships, and this strategic alliance with Athlete Ally shows baseball is committed to creating an inclusive culture."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.