MLB panels work to increase diversity, inclusion

December 10th, 2020

For the fifth year in a row, Major League Baseball is offering several activities designed to increase growth in the areas of diversity and inclusion within the sport.

Tuesday’s panel, which was entitled the “Impact of COVID on Diverse Businesses,” and Wednesday’s Supplier Diversity Summit, which was called “Doing Business with Baseball,” combined to address the pandemic and how to do business in the future. The activities, which normally take place on site at the Winter Meetings, were conducted via Zoom.

On Tuesday, the “Impact of COVID on Diverse Businesses” featured a panel of MLB partners and a conversation that covered a variety of topics, including club procurement best practices and the impact of COVID on diverse-owned businesses. The activity provided an opportunity for MLB vendors to present to procurement leads.

Ashley Manzueta, MLB’s coordinator for Diversity & Inclusion, introduced the panel. The group featured Cecil Plummer, president of the Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council; John Harmon, founder and president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey; and Susan Allen, CEO of US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation. The panel was moderated by Maria Prince, vice president of the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

“I don’t think we can come out of this recovery without minority businesses, “ Prince said. “Their impact on the community and their impact on the country is too important. We have to take care of minority businesses.”

The following day, the Supplier Diversity Summit featured some of the game’s leading procurement representatives and focused on how teams do business, what they look for in partners, the best practices and the benefits of using diverse-owned suppliers.

This year’s Supplier Diversity Summit featured Bette Prendergast, the purchasing coordinator for the Cleveland Indians; Bud Hanley, the senior director of procurement for the Minnesota Twins; Jorge Fajardo, the senior director of procurement for the Washington Nationals; and Leo Brady, the senior purchasing coordinating for the Chicago White Sox.

Justin Reyes, vice president of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Major League Baseball, moderated the panel.

The longest running Diversity Supplier Program in major sports, the Supplier Diversity Summit is an economically-driven business initiative designed to cultivate new and existing partnerships with diverse-owned businesses. It’s been increasing opportunities for participation in the procurement of MLB activities since its inception in 1998.

“Personally, what I see every morning when I wake up is the image in the mirror, and what I see is diversity,” Fajardo said. “So it's important to me, because diversity represents a large percentage of the American population more than ever before. So as diversity grows, so should the opportunities for businesses.”

The panel offered insight to club business operations during the unique 2020 season, the challenges faced and what to expect in 2021. They also offered hope and optimism.

“There have been a ton of success stories at the Winter Meetings to begin with and a lot of the vendors that we currently use, and some that my peers use came from these meetings,” Hanley said. “We met folks here, and over time, they develop relationships and have done a lot of good business together. I would also say it represents a great time for these folks to reach out to all 30 clubs. No other sport does this.”

In addition to the business and diversity panels, MLB’s list of programs also includes:

Take the Field -- This program, which is in its third year, is specifically designed to provide women who are interested in careers in coaching, scouting and player development in baseball with the opportunity for education and engagement with team personnel.

The Unfiltered Series -- For the fourth consecutive year, MLB’s Diversity & Inclusion department will host this program, which provides opportunities to learn from diverse representation within baseball. This year features Tony Reagins, MLB’s chief baseball development officer.

Women on Deck -- This activity will profile Michele Meyer-Shipp and the representation of women in the baseball industry workforce.

Unfiltered: Player’s Alliance -- The program will feature an update on the Players Alliance initiatives such as the “Pull Up Neighbor Tour.”