Most baseball fans know that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball when he stepped onto a field with his white Brooklyn Dodgers counterparts in 1947. While Major League Baseball teams celebrate his debut every year in mid-April with Jackie Robinson Day, what many fans may not know is that Robinson technically broke the color barrier one year prior on March 17, 1946, not in Brooklyn, but in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Minor League Baseball has placed diversity and inclusion at the forefront of its growth strategy. We strive to create an industry where all identities are represented, welcomed, valued and empowered to enhance our league's culture, creativity, innovation and comprehensive service to the communities we occupy. We strive to be the most fun and inclusive league in all of sports and entertainment.
The goal of this series is to spotlight the people, programs and stories in the baseball industry that champion diversity and inclusion and advance the mission of Minor League Baseball's diversity initiative.
After spending over 12 years with the Texas Rangers' community outreach team, Breon Dennis joined the Frisco RoughRiders in 2015 as vice president of community development and executive director of the RoughRiders Foundation. Now preparing for his fifth season with the RoughRiders, Dennis remains dedicated to his mission to serve the greater Dallas community, which began nearly two decades ago.
Destiny Whitmore has worked on the Sounds' community relations team since 2016, starting as a community relations assistant before working her way up to her current title of executive director of the Nashville Sounds Foundation in December 2019.
In August 2019, Minor League Baseball hired Belicia Montgomery as its director of diversity and inclusion -- a role tasked with helping all 160 MiLB clubs ensure that their front offices and fan bases are as diverse as the communities they call home.
The Missoula Osprey concluded their 20th season on a high note, not only because the team finished the year with the top record in the North Division of the Pioneer League, an accomplishment worthy of its own celebration. It was two promotional nights -- Indigenous Heritage Night and Pride Night -- that also brought the team measurable success.
In her final semester of college at California State University, Fresno, Madeline Hamada took an internship with the baseball team she grew up cheering for, her hometown Fresno Grizzlies. For the communications student and former Fresno State marketing intern, this new role as a community relations intern was a pivot toward a new career path.
In early March 2019, Chris Singleton , a prospect in the Chicago Cubs farm system, announced his retirement from baseball at the age of 23. Life up until that moment was dedicated to the pursuit of a career in baseball, and for Singleton, that was the only certainty he had. Baseball had always been his constant.
Pawtucket Red Sox senior director of events Grace Eng challenges herself every day to generate revenue for her club through non-baseball events. The PawSox host a variety of events, including concerts, corporate parties, motocross tournaments, weddings, football games, and career and college fairs, to name a few. Inclusive practices are essential to her work, ensuring that events cater and are accessible to a large audience.
Tiffany Young, the Hartford Yard Goats' director of community relations and director of the Hartford Yard Goats Foundation, has embraced her opportunity to serve as a agent of change in her community since joining the team ahead of its relocation from New Britain to Hartford in 2015. She has championed the Yard Goats community efforts and has been at the forefront of some of their most innovative practices, and she has helped redefine what a community ambassador can accomplish in her role.
The Brooklyn Cyclones are considered pioneers in what is today known as MiLB Pride, having held one of the first Pride games in MiLB history in 2004. With an area as diverse as New York City and a ballpark only minutes from where the Stonewall riots took place 50 years ago, it makes sense for the Cyclones to lead the MiLB charge in celebrating the LGBTQ community.