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, in coordination with our MiLB CommUNITY Month presented by Allegiant, we profiled Fresno Grizzlies community engagement manager Madeline Hamada.
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.
"I quickly fell in love with my job with the Grizzlies. Who knew you could get paid to do meaningful and fulfilling work like that?" said Hamada. "I was given such a unique platform that allowed me to inspire and encourage our community and our fans."
Hamada pictured with her female coworkers at the Fresno Grizzlies rebranding event before the 2019 season.
Hamada proved herself to be a formidable community leader, quickly making connections with stakeholders in the Fresno area by immersing the Grizzlies in the community's day-to-day life.
"My job is to make sure that as a team we are supporting and inspiring our community. If I can leave work every single day knowing that my team has brightened someone's day, we've done our job. That could be a super grateful community leader, a fan receiving a donation for his or her organization, or it could simply be playing games with a young fan at a neighborhood park. Either way, every day is fulfilling in this role."
Hamada at the Ronald McDonald House with Grizzlies mascot, Parker, and Pitcher J.J. Hoover.
For Hamada, this job was a natural fit, as her love for the city of Fresno runs deep.
"It has been an amazing experience to do this work in my hometown, to work with organizations that I've grown up admiring and to support their missions is so fulfilling. I love this city, and I love downtown Fresno [where Chukchansi Park is located] even more. It's pretty cool to be in a position where I am able to merge my personal love for this community with my career."
Since starting with the Grizzlies in the spring of 2017, Hamada has been promoted twice, where she now holds a manager title and oversees the community engagement initiatives for the club. Her mentor, Courtney Nehls (MiLB's assistant director of community engagement) - with whom she was connected through Minor League Baseball's Women in Baseball LIFT (Leaders Inspiring Future Talent) Mentorship Program - has not been surprised by her early career success.
Hamada with Grizzlies colleagues' Belinda Diaz and Jazzmien Young at the Nationals Press Conference.
"When speaking with Madeline, her passion for the Grizzlies and the Fresno community are immediately undeniable," said Nehls. "Her potential in the baseball industry is unlimited due to her energy and eagerness to learn and grow within the game. I look forward to seeing how she continues to make an impact with her team and serves as an example for other young women in baseball."
As a community engagement leader, strong diversity and inclusion practices are inherently tied to success, as it's important to Hamada to ensure the club is accessible and welcoming to everyone who calls Fresno home. She is implementing those practices by engaging the Grizzlies with every facet of the community. The club visits hundreds of schools in the Fresno area, actively engages underprivileged communities, and looks to bring fans who have never visited Chukchansi Park out to the stadium.
"It's important for us to participate in events in Southwest Fresno and other historically underserved areas in our community to ensure that our neighbors know we appreciate them. Recently, we passed out memorabilia and free ticket vouchers to families who had never been to our stadium. It was the best feeling in the world to see some of the same kids at the Grizzlies game the next night."
Hamada serving dinner at the 2018 Season Ticket Holder Holiday Dinner.
Hamada is ambitious and a change maker in her own right. As one of the few women in the front office, she has played a big part in opening doors for more women to follow in her footsteps and has been key in the planning of an initiative for young girls, launching in 2020, called "A League of Her Own." The three-part initiative - a summer job shadow, a pre-game speaker series and a girls' baseball clinic - focuses on attracting and retaining women and girls in the sports industry, both in the front office and on the field.
"By creating these three programs under this new initiative, our goal is to offer something for all girls. Even if they aren't athletic or into playing sports, maybe we can inspire these girls to chase a career in the business of sports. My hope in launching this program is that we will encourage and inspire other teams to join us in creating programming specifically for girls and women in their communities."
Hamada has climbed up the organizational ladder quickly, propelling herself into a seat of influence and a position where she can proactively strengthen the community she's called home for most of her life. For her love of community, Fresno is fortunate.
"I have two goals, one being that I want to be able to bring more women to the table with me. My second is to leave a legacy by which the Fresno community knows that the Grizzlies are a business they can rely on - for entertainment, for family fun and for support. I want the Grizzles to always be considered a great neighbor."