PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball's Diversity Business Summit has been around since 2012, but this year's event is different. The 2016 summit places an added emphasis on those who have served in the military, a focus that was in full effect Monday.Although the summit doesn't officially begin until Tuesday, the
PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball's Diversity Business Summit has been around since 2012, but this year's event is different. The 2016 summit places an added emphasis on those who have served in the military, a focus that was in full effect Monday.
Although the summit doesn't officially begin until Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball co-hosted more than 200 veterans at Chase Field on Monday in an exclusive day of business meetings and panels. Attendees were also treated to a special tour of Chase Field, and the day concluded with an umpire camp at Salt River Fields, the Spring Training home of the D-backs and Rockies.
"Few of us have served more, few of us have sacrificed more and few of us have given as much as you have to make us all here today," Wendy Lewis, Major League Baseball's senior vice president of diversity and strategic alliances, told the crowd. "So today is our turn to serve you, to honor you and to make this a fantastic opportunity for you."
The summit, an employment trade fair, serves as a networking opportunity that connects attendees with representatives from all 30 teams, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and Minor League teams.
• 2016 Diversity Business Summit
Capt. Jack Ensch, a Navy veteran and current military affairs specialist with the D-backs, believes linking the military with MLB and the summit is a perfect fit.
"Baseball has gone to war with our nation in every war that we've had," Ensch said. "Major League Baseball and our military have been together for well over 150 years. Major League Baseball, it's only appropriate that they are reaching out to the military and our veterans."
Ensch began the day with a keynote presentation in which he shared some of his own experiences -- ranging from being a prisoner of war to transitioning from the Navy into a job with the Padres -- and gave advice to those seeking employment opportunities.
Ensch told the crowd that although they may not realize it, the military equipped them with plenty of skills and values -- flexibility, teamwork, commitment, punctuality and discipline -- that are necessary and valued in the workforce.
"In the military, we do it without thinking, because it's been ingrained in us; it's what we do," Ensch said. "Those are the kind of things you bring to the table, to a business. Don't sell yourself short. You've got skills and traits that you probably don't even realize, don't even think about."
Phillip Lair, who retired from the Navy in 2000, agreed with the sentiment.
"I think it's good information for anyone that's getting out," Lair said. "While the military tries to prepare you for it, you need to learn from people and understand what's needed. As all the panelists said, military talk and trying to talk civilian talk, it doesn't work. I can sit there and talk Navy talk to those guys, but no one else would understand it -- they would understand it. When I got out, that's one of the biggest things that I had to learn -- to turn what I did in the military to what I could do in the civilian world."
Because of those differences, Lair appreciated the one-day event exclusively tailored to veterans and their circumstances.
"I think it's great," Lair said. "It's a much smaller group and the panelists that were sitting up there this morning, they all have military experience and they can all talk to us and point us in the right directions."
Over the next two days, the veterans, along with hundreds of other attendees, will take part in numerous other panels -- including one with Commissioner Rob Manfred -- designed to inform them about the multitude of opportunities throughout baseball and to best prepare them for Wednesday's job fair.
William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.