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.
While conversations regarding diversity and inclusion happen daily in the Minor League Baseball office and among our 160 clubs, we recognize the need to do more to elevate the voices and stories of those who currently work in our industry. There is something uniquely powerful about sitting face-to-face with someone and listening to his or her experience.
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. This week we profiled the Daytona Tortugas director of corporate partnerships Austin Scher.
Scher with Deltona Vice Mayor Victor Ramos
Austin Scher, the Daytona Tortugas' director of corporate partnerships, began his path to a life in Minor League Baseball, as he would say, before he was born. Raised in Durham, North Carolina, home of the Durham Bulls, Scher has many memories of birthday parties and summer outings at the ballpark, and his passion for Minor League Baseball has been steadfast since.
"I've been to Disney World, I've watched Duke-North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium, I've worn Yankees gear in the bleachers of Fenway Park. Nothing compares to the positive impact a well-run MiLB organization can make on young fans and families, and there is no other industry I would rather be in, period."
Scher's vigor for the game is unquestionable, and it extends beyond his love of baseball. He understands and appreciates the significant impact sports can have on social advocacy efforts in communities across the country.
"At its best, Minor League Baseball truly has something for everyone. It does not matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, how old you are, who you vote for or who you pray to - Minor League Baseball is for everybody. If I can use the power of this industry to do good for the people and communities that MiLB represents, I know I can make a difference. Personally, I need to be playing an active role in the betterment of society to be able to sleep every night. I could not live with a clean conscience if my job did not allow me the opportunity to give back to the community daily. I cannot overstate the power I see in Minor League Baseball to bring people together nightly, and I want to use my position within the industry to bridge gaps every day."
FIELD Program visits Jackie Robinson Ballpark in June 2018.
Scher views the responsibilities of his role through two lenses: what he needs to accomplish for his team and what he needs to accomplish for himself. The biggest similarity between those two responsibilities is centered around inclusion.
"We as a team have several 'numbers goals,' mostly focusing on revenue and attendance. None of those goals will be reached if we only cater to one subset of the population - we need active participation and involvement from all members of our community to become the organization we want to be.
Scher at Tortugas' summer reading program
While attending the University of Wisconsin, Scher majored in religious studies, an unorthodox major for a career in sports business. He has utilized his educational background to develop and advocate for religious freedom and inclusion for the clubs for which he has worked. While diversity and inclusion are often assumed to focus on racial or gender diversity, Scher's efforts are a testament to the extension of the meaning.
His single proudest moment of his career to date was conceiving and executing the first Interfaith & Community Night in Minor League Baseball history with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, according to Scher. The promotional game centered on welcoming all members of the local religious community, regardless of their affiliation, and he worked diligently to invite all houses of worship within driving distance of the ballpark. Scher has continued his efforts with the Tortugas.
"In my opinion, there is no place in the world for religious exclusion, and I wanted to create an event that promoted inclusion at the ballpark. It was truly beautiful to watch an on-field parade made up of congregations representing nine different faiths that first year, and the number of handshakes, hugs, and thank-you's I got from those in attendance was worth more than any paycheck I could cash."
Scher's work has had a sincere impact on the communities in which he's worked. He knows there is still quite a bit of work to be done, and he ensures the Tortugas are involved heavily with Minor League Baseball's Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. In this way, Scher remains devoted to his lifelong commitment to diversity and inclusion.
"It is an uphill battle, but my motivation to stay involved in this space is simple: I want our country, and our individual communities, to raise our children in a way that celebrates differences and recognizes the equal worth of each human being regardless of race, class, creed, sexual orientation, gender or political affiliation. Everything I can do within the world of Minor League Baseball to advance that cause, I'll do."
Scher throws out a ceremonial first pitch in full character during the Tortugas' "Opening Night Hangover" promotion.
Benjamin Pereira is an associate at Minor League Baseball.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.