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Robinson's grandson joins MiLB fold
As special assistant, Simms will focus on Diversity Initative
04/13/2010 11:37 AM ET
Jesse Simms threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Shea Stadium on April 15, 1997.
Jesse Simms threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Shea Stadium on April 15, 1997. (AP)
Jesse Simms, the grandson of Jackie Robinson, is carrying on his family's legacy through Minor League Baseball.

It was announced Monday that Simms has been hired as a special assistant to Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner, with his primary responsibility being the development of education programs and outreach efforts related to the organization's Diversity Initiative Program.

O'Conner first announced the Diversity Initiative at the 2008 Baseball Winter Meetings, with the express goal of "improving race and gender diversity of ownership within our industry, executive-level management within the sport, staff-level employment with our clubs; diversifying our fan base and developing business-to-business opportunities between Minor League Baseball and a diverse business network of diverse-based companies."

Simms, the son of Sharon Robinson and grandson to Jackie and Rachel, considers Minor League Baseball to be an ideal employment opportunity.

"I've been around Major and Minor League Baseball my whole life, and after meeting Pat through mutual friends we realized this would be a good fit," said Simms, who is also developing a clothing line for Major League Baseball. "I want to be able to highlight the role of African-Americans in the game today and have an influence in the African-American community."

To that end, Simms will develop nationally distributed baseball-related educational curriculums while also participating in Minor League Baseball's Speaker Series at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. And in a fitting twist, he will lead educational programs at Vero Beach Sporting Village at Dodgertown. The iconic complex, which served as the longtime Spring Training home for Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn Dodgers, is now operated as a multi-use facility by Minor League Baseball.

"There's a lot of synergy there with that connection, but at the end of the day, we needed somebody who brings a unique set of qualities and abilities," said O'Conner. "While [Simms'] legacy is important and critical to baseball history, you don't hire someone because of who their grandfather is. ... [Simms] is an excellent speaker who can relate to young people, and his interest and passion immediately comes through."

Simms, who directed a culinary arts program for students in New Jersey and Rhode Island before accepting his position with Minor League Baseball, summed up his thoughts on the matter in a succinct fashion.

"If someone gives you an opportunity, you step up to the plate and stay true to what you do best."

Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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