Several days ago, Wendy Lewis, Senior VP of Diversity and Strategic Alliances for Major League Baseball was returning my call regarding this year's diversity summit. The first thing she said was, "I got great news, we have SOLD OUT." The excitement of her comment can only be understood if you know a bit of history.
Wendy has been a tireless worker for years trying to up the score, not on the field where MLB is popularly known for, but behind the field, where few see what's happening. Behind the field includes the employees that make up the back end operations of the teams and every physical thing that affects the operations of every team. There is no secret as it has been obvious for years that though Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier on the filed of baseball in 1947, many barriers still exist in the good old game of baseball. Jobs, executive level positions and business opportunities for people of color still lag behind in many ways.
Unfortunately, much of this information is not popularly known because it's not on the screen, or on the field as graphically as the players in a game. A Latino family going to a game to see their favorite Latino players might not be so excited if they perhaps knew that the team's hiring of Latino and other minority members might be less than the players they put on the field. Sometimes you might see Latinos and African Americans in the concession stands and maintenance and security, but you don't see what the front office is made up of. This Latino family might not enjoy the nacho's they're consuming if they know that not one Latino vendor sells to the club.
For example, very few fans think about the billion dollar business dealings that take place behind the field, but Wendy and her staff do. Everything that deals with the actual game, but few get a chance to see. From the popcorn fans eat, to the napkins they wipe the mustard off their lips with, to the seats they sit in, to the soap and paper in the bathrooms to the grass on the field and the gifts given out on special give-away day games, to all office supplies and more. Yes, just about every physical thing that touches the game has to be bought and the companies that sell their wares to the team sell billions. Who is selling and who is getting an opportunity to sell? That is the topic that constantly occupies Wendy's mind, thus the MLB Diversity Business Summit.
The Summit is one quick and precise way for everyone and anyone looking to do business with Major League Baseball to get a quick class, a section 101 on doing business, or getting a job in baseball. Every team is represented and here you have the opportunity to actually talk to someone, introduce yourself and, or present your product, or idea to someone that has access to the club. There are also workshops with representatives of teams and vendors that have gone through the system explaining their experiences and offering tips on the "how to."
This year's summit, as Wendy had expressed, was a SELL OUT. That meant that over one thousand people had registered.This is New York, and everything here is BIG; our easy transportation system and high minority unemployment are all factors that would help anything that promises a possible job, a career, or a business opportunity sell out. The response was so overwhelming that many of the clubs had lines of people that resembled that of a Disney amusement park waiting to get their two minutes of talk to a team representative that could help send a resume, product or idea in the right direction.
This year's New York City Summit was co-sponsored by the New York Yankees.This gave the Summit a special added touch as everyone was invited up to the stadium for an evening reception that also included a tour of the New Yankee stadium, and as everything that is New York Yankee, that gave a class A culmination to the first day of this two day event.
Now the question is after this great presentation, how many people actually did get closer to a dream job in Major League Baseball? How many potential vendors will be in a better position to sell to any of the Major League Teams? These are the questions that should be answered in some form of way prior to next years summit, thus giving people a clear idea of what chances they really have by investing their registration fee and time.