DENVER -- New Rockies director of baseball operations Al Gilbert loves practicing law, and he is quite good at it.
Gilbert’s proficiency in the legal field is evidenced by his internship and fellowship stints with the U.S. Department of Justice -- writing speeches for Tom Perez, then the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights; helping to prosecute hate crimes; researching and drafting memoranda on sentencing issues regarding white-collar crime and violent offenses; and analyzing judicially supervised settlement conferences to resolve criminal cases. An Oakland, Calif., native, Gilbert returned to the Bay Area to work as an associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and later as San Francisco assistant district attorney.
But as an ADA with a case load at 80 over his year in the job, through seven trials, “mostly DUI and gun possession,” and through all the processes of law that he found enjoyable, there was always time for baseball.
“Baseball never left,” said Gilbert, whose role in the Rockies’ revamped front office will include being a voice during the offseason in making creative moves to build the club, as well as managing the roster during the season. “Even in law school, I was doing sports law clinic, and I was an editor for the sports and entertainment journal. So I was always interested in sports.
“Still, I was watching baseball. After the day at the law firm, I was checking trade rumors and what’s going down with trades. I still had my opinions of what guys should be paid.”
Albert Gilbert IV, 32, grew up in the Oakland area admiring Giants slugger Barry Bonds. But his favorite player on his favorite team was shortstop Miguel Tejada with the Athletics. The organic chant fans like him would perform from the stands, “Da-da-da, dadadat-da, Tejada!” still rings in his ears.
Gilbert had played youth ball in Oakland with some distinction, including playing for the Oakland All-Stars during the Cal Ripken 12-and-under World Series in Vincennes, Ind.
Through high school at St. Paul's School, a boarding school in Concord, N.H., he was a middle infielder and team captain. He prepared for the law by earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology from Stanford University and going to Harvard Law School.
Gilbert’s level of arm strength dictated a high school position change, from shortstop to second base, but he was good enough to consider playing at Cornell University. The influence of his parents, however, led him to focus solely on academics at Stanford.
“My mom [Erin Gilbert] has her MBA from USC and her Columbia Law School JD, and my father [Albert III] has his MBA from Indiana,” Gilbert said. “Some kind of graduate degree was the expectation. When I was in college, it was clear to me that I was best suited for the legal path. I had strengths in reading and writing.
“Certainly law school, the classic saying is it teaches you to think like a lawyer. There are some benefits to trying to think logically, whatever that means.”
When Gilbert left the legal field to become part of the inaugural MLB Diversity Fellowship Program class of 2018 -- after his mother heard about the program on a radio show and encouraged him to apply -- he had never met a front-office official. He then worked for the Dodgers as coordinator of baseball contracts and financing for the 2018-21 seasons before joining the Rockies.
Gilbert’s credentials were intriguing to Tyrone Brooks, MLB senior director of the Front Office and Field Staff Diversity Pipeline Program, when the Diversity Fellowship Program started.
“We were excited about him working in baseball, and the Dodgers hired him and that opened the door for him to get started working in the game,” Brooks said. “With his legal background, he learned about the rules and different aspects of baseball operations while having a role with a lot of their contracts. Now, to go over with the Rockies, he is actually the first member of our Diversity Fellowship Program to become a director with an organization.”
Gilbert was part of a stellar initial class.
Brittany Haby, whom the Rockies promoted this offseason to manager of baseball research after two fellowships with the club, also was a member of that 2018 class. This winter, the Rockies also brought in Julianna Rubin as a baseball operations fellow, to continue the influence of the program with the club, and Emily Glass, formerly the Marlins’ education coordinator, joined the Rockies as scouting operations administrator after training in the MLB Diversity Pipeline Scout Development Program.
As passionate as Gilbert is about baseball and applying all of his skills to helping a club, he is equally excited about helping others through his visibility and information. Gilbert said before pursuing employment in the game, he had never met a front office official -- much less one who was Black, of color or a woman.
“Representation matters,” Gilbert said. “To the extent that I am that for somebody else, I am happy to be that. I certainly have people reaching out to me every day, whether it be through LinkedIn or random email. I am interested in talking to anybody who is interested in getting more information about the industry or thinking about this career path.
“There are so many people who want to get in, but it’s worth it. It’s a great industry.”