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MLB diversity initiative takes stage at Meetings

Events continue with 'Unfiltered Series' panel discussions
MLB.com @JamalCollier

LAS VEGAS -- Kedeem Octave arrived at his first Winter Meetings this week with eight job interviews already lined up. He doubted he would have been able to secure more than two on his own, but Octave credited Major League Baseball's Diversity Pipeline Program and its senior director, Tyrone Brooks for helping him get his foot in the door.

"It's helped tremendously the past few months," Octave said Monday. "[Brooks] has definitely gotten my name out there more. … I feel like getting involved with the game and trying to move up within the game, you can't do it by yourself. It's just like anything else. It's not what you know, it's who you know."

LAS VEGAS -- Kedeem Octave arrived at his first Winter Meetings this week with eight job interviews already lined up. He doubted he would have been able to secure more than two on his own, but Octave credited Major League Baseball's Diversity Pipeline Program and its senior director, Tyrone Brooks for helping him get his foot in the door.

"It's helped tremendously the past few months," Octave said Monday. "[Brooks] has definitely gotten my name out there more. … I feel like getting involved with the game and trying to move up within the game, you can't do it by yourself. It's just like anything else. It's not what you know, it's who you know."

In conjunction with the Winter Meetings, MLB hosted a variety of events and activities this past weekend designed to promote diversity and inclusion within the sport. That continued Monday with a pair of panel discussions launched by the new "Unfiltered Series" from MLB's Diversity and Inclusion department.

Hosted by Brian Kenny of MLB Network, the first panel focused on analytics, which have grown in importance as front offices evaluate potential new hires. The second panel was hosted by Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams; He and Marlins president Michael Hill are the only African-Americans across baseball front offices to hold such titles.

Those are just two samples of the work being done by MLB's Diversity Pipeline Program, launched in 2016 when Brooks was appointed as director, to give women and people of color, such as Octave, a chance to break into the game.

"We just want to be on an even playing field," Octave said.

On Friday, the Diversity Pipeline Program launched the inaugural Take the Field initiative, a two-day event aimed at promoting women for on-field roles within professional baseball. Women baseball executives came together Sunday for the second annual Katy Feeney Leadership Symposium, focused on career advancement. MLB is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Diverse Business Partners program, which has led to more than $1.5 billion spent by MLB and its clubs with minority- and women-owned businesses.

And since it began in 2016, the Diversity Pipeline Program has helped place 86 people in entry-level roles in baseball, from internships to full-time front-office jobs. And the fellowship program has placed 22 people, all women and/or minorities, in baseball-operations roles.

"What I think we've done well is created programming that gives candidates legit access to the people that are making decisions," said Renèe Tirado, MLB's vice president of Talent Acquisition and Diversity and Inclusion. "You're talking about 100 people who at minimum have been given an opportunity to break into the game.

"You've got to do the work when you get there, that part I can't do for you. But with the fellowship, we're providing developmental opportunities, they all have mentors, we're touching base with them on a regular basis because whether real or perceived, whatever those gaps are, we're going to do whatever we can to make sure we level out that playing field. And close it."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.