Reagins recounts his path to trailblazer GM

December 18th, 2020

As part of a series of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion events held in conjunction with the virtual Winter Meetings, Major League Baseball hosted the fourth annual “Unfiltered: GM Chronicles.” Moderated by former Major Leaguer and television announcer Eduardo Perez, the guest panelist was Tony Reagins, MLB’s chief baseball development officer who is in his 29th season working in the industry.

Reagins is a trailblazer in his own right, having made history with the Angels in 2007 when he became the fourth African American to run a Major League team. His run with the Angels was a good one -- the club went 363-285 from 2008 to 2011 under his watch.

During that period, Reagins signed free agent Torii Hunter in 2007, and he drafted a stud named Mike Trout in 2009. Reagins’ best trade was arguably acquiring Mark Teixeira from the Braves before the 2008 Trade Deadline. The Angels ended up winning 100 games that year.

“I was just fortunate that [then-Angels GM] Bill Stoneman recommended me to the owner, Arte Moreno,” Reagins said. “It was a cool time. I look back at that time. It was pretty awesome.”

In his current role with MLB, Reagins, 53, oversees the growth of youth and amateur levels of baseball and softball, both domestically and internationally, as well as the streamlining of amateur scouting around the world and operations of the Arizona Fall League.

“It’s really about growing the game, having more kids play our game, no matter where you come from,” Reagins said. “Our focus is on providing young people with the opportunity to play our game, whether it’s domestic or international. Some of the programs like the Dream Series, the Breakthrough Series, the Hank Aaron Invitational, the RBI programs -- those are programs that are impactful. Those are programs specifically related to the advancement and the encouragement of African American players playing our game. We are focused in that area. There are a ton of programs that we have been able to create and encourage kids to get out there and play. That’s what my job is focused on.”

Reagins started from the bottom and worked his way up. He began his career in 1991, when he became the first African American to intern in the Angels organization, starting in the marketing department. Soon, Reagins became a computer whiz and worked his way into the baseball operations department.

He learned how to read scouting reports, and under the tutelage of people like Bob Clear and Preston Gomez, Reagins was able to further develop his evaluation skills. By the early 2000s, Reagins became a farm director, and under his watch, the Angels drafted infielder Howie Kendrick and right-hander Jered Weaver.

“I was fortunate to be part of the game at the grassroots level, the very bottom of the rung, if you will, and then worked my way up the organization over the course of 20 years,” Reagins said. “Being African American in the game, you are trying to be credible at what you are doing. That credibility and the respect is not given to you overnight. It’s something that is earned over time.

“You go about your business the right way and you conduct yourself in a professional manner, then that credibility starts to come. To this day, you are still working on being the best that you can be and doing the best job you can do. Things don’t come to you easily. You have to work for it. I’ve been fortunate to be in the game for 29 years. It’s had its ups and downs along the way, but everybody has a journey.”

The discussion also included a nod to Kim Ng, whose journey as the newly appointed GM of the Marlins is just beginning. Reagins is pleased that she made history as the first woman to run a baseball team. Ng and Reagins worked together for several years in the Major League office.

“She kept at it. She kept grinding,” Reagins said. “It’s kind of like my career in the day. You have to keep going. You have to keep moving forward. When the opportunity comes, be prepared.

“You read she is the first woman GM in the history of the game, which is awesome. Kim is as capable and qualified as any male GM in the game. I don’t look at her as a female GM. I look at her as a GM because I know what she is capable of. I know her background. She has seen it all on the baseball side. She is going to do well because she is going to keep grinding.”