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Bucs host diversity event in honor of Roberts

Pittsburgh Pirates

Earlier this month, the Pirates gave a select group of students from colleges in the Pittsburgh area an opportunity to gain insight into professional baseball and interact with the team's hiring managers at a function called "Curt Roberts: Step Up to the Plate."

The event, which took place at PNC Park, was named in honor of infielder Roberts, who in 1954 became the first African-American ever to play for the Pirates. That fit with one of the important messages of the day, which was that the Pirates strive to be a diverse organization.

Earlier this month, the Pirates gave a select group of students from colleges in the Pittsburgh area an opportunity to gain insight into professional baseball and interact with the team's hiring managers at a function called "Curt Roberts: Step Up to the Plate."

The event, which took place at PNC Park, was named in honor of infielder Roberts, who in 1954 became the first African-American ever to play for the Pirates. That fit with one of the important messages of the day, which was that the Pirates strive to be a diverse organization.

"We want to make sure you know our doors are open for all members of our community," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said during his opening remarks. "People of every race, creed, color, religion, gender, gender identification and sexual orientation are welcome at the Pittsburgh Pirates. Our front office needs to reflect the diversity of our society."

Roberts' son -- Curt Roberts Jr. -- who also spoke at the event, liked how it gave students a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes of a professional baseball team.

"When people think of baseball, they usually think of what happens on the field," he said. "They don't have a good perception of what it takes to operate the team or put the games on every day. But there's a lot that goes on. The business of baseball is wide open. That's why when I heard about this event, I was all for it. I believe in this. That's why I said, 'Let's go forward and see how to make this happen.'"

The event also included a panel discussion that featured 10 members of the Pirates' front office sharing thoughts on how they got into baseball, what their current job with the organization entails and advice for those seeking to break into the business.

Here's a sampling of what was offered:

• "You can't just say, 'I want to work in sports. I want to work in baseball,'" associate counsel Frankie Garland said. "You have to identify where you can add value and what skills you have to offer."

• "You have to be willing to get on the treadmill and not get off," assistant general manager Kevan Graves added. "Attack every job, every task and every assignment with passion and a desire to get it right and be thorough."

• "Tact and diplomacy are important," director of advertising and creative services Kiley Cauvel said. "Knowing how to talk to different people. Knowing when to talk and when not to talk. Understanding what's happening other places, not just in your own hallway. All of that is important."

• "Your formal education ends at some point, but you never stop learning," director of business analytics and strategy Jason Witzberger said. "You have to be motivated. You have to want to learn on the job and take the next step."

The final phase of Curt Roberts: Step Up to the Plate included breakout sessions where students got to network with the Pirates' hiring managers and ask questions. The ballclub encouraged local colleges to send a diverse group of young people who have a passion for learning and a strong work ethic to the event.

As the morning's activities were wrapping up, Elizabeth Wayne -- a psychology major at Duquesne University -- said: "What I heard and saw here today is extremely valuable. I really appreciated the career advice, even simple things like gaining connections, talking to different people and getting experience. That all helps to put things into perspective."

Witzberger neatly framed why diversity in the work force is important to the Pirates when he said: "We can't expect to grow as an organization if we all come from the same background and have the same perspective. You don't know what you don't know if you don't have opinions and viewpoints from people with backgrounds different than your own. The more we widen our lens, the better off we'll be."

Pittsburgh Pirates