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. In recognition of Black History Month, every week in February, we will profile a black leader in our industry. This week we profiled Northwest Arkansas Naturals Promotions Coordinator Roxanne Grundmeier.
Roxanne Grundmeier's rise in Minor League Baseball is similar in many ways to that of the players she works to promote. It has required persistence, sacrifice, grit and a bit of luck. After graduating from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she was a student-athlete, Grundmeier uprooted her life to move to Springdale, Arkansas, with the hopes of landing a job in Minor League Baseball.
"I originally moved to northwestern Arkansas with hopes of getting a job with the Naturals. Some of my family had lived in the area for about 20 years and that was always the go-to plan. 'You know, if you move closer to us you can always work for the Naturals,' as if it would be as easy as showing up to the front office one random day and they would offer me a job. Little did I know, a few months later I'd get my foot in the door to pursue a career in sports."
Grundmeier is a part of a growing number of female leaders in Minor League Baseball, and she credits MiLB's LIFT (Leaders Inspiring Future Talent) Mentorship Program with helping her feel confident in her feminism early in her career.
"I have seen a change in my confidence with my work immediately after joining the LIFT program, and I look forward to learning even more from my mentor, Kim Stoebick [of the Indianapolis Indians], and all of the women in the program. It's encouraging and inspiring to have other women in the industry have your back and encourage you to be your best self."
Roxanne Grundmeier, pictured with a few of the Texas League organization's awards.
As a woman of color, Grundmeier has double-minority status. She's proud that the league has made such intentional efforts to work on making the industry more representative, but she still struggles with typecasts and looks to play her own role in helping eradicate these issues.
"I do think the saying, to a certain degree, that you have to work twice as hard to get half as far exists. I've had people question my baseball knowledge, or those who have questioned whether I'm only in my position for the sake of diversity, but I just channel that energy into a positive spirit. I try to learn twice as much and work twice as hard to prove I deserve to be in my position. I want the quality of my work and the knowledge I have to do the talking for me and break any barriers or stereotypes of people of color and women."
When asked how teams could do a better job of increasing their representation among all minority groups, she challenged hiring managers to look outside their comfort zones. She suggested that hiring committees be direct with their recruitment practices and ensure their applicant pool is diverse.
"For a hiring manager there seems to be close to zero risk involved if they choose to hire someone like them, that they can directly relate to, because they typically know what they're in for. To hire someone different, a bit of risk and possibly some challenges come with that, but it is easier to stay in your comfort zone than to implement change. To grow you need to leave your comfort zone."
Grundmeier is passionate, and there aren't many people working in baseball who display the dedication she has to her craft. Her dedication, and a tireless work effort, have earned her praise from many who have worked alongside her at the Naturals. She is making a difference in her work and her local community by being herself, unapologetically.
Roxanne Grundmeier and Strike the Sasquatch, the Naturals' mascot, stopped by an area school in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, where they helped celebrate Read Across America Week.
"I continue to look for ways I can make a difference in my work, especially now that I'm in a position where I possess more knowledge and experience. When talking to young people, especially minorities, the best advice I can give is to let negative comments motivate you and positive comments fuel your passion. If you are doing your job with quality, exceeding expectations and, most importantly, performing to the best of your ability, you will succeed."
In that sense, Grundmeier is an unconventional change-maker. She doesn't consider herself one, but her work and her perseverance will make a world of a difference for the generation after her.
"There is nothing more that I can do other than paying it forward for future generations by working hard and continuing to do my part in breaking down some barriers along the way."
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.