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 Akron RubberDucks Account Executive Thyran Nowden.
Thyran Nowden is new to the game of baseball, but he's wasted no time making his presence felt. As the sole African-American employee for the Akron RubberDucks, Nowden has found ways to use his position as an account executive to connect with the black community, and he's been rewarded for his success.
Nowden got into sales because he has a genuine passion for the role and views his job as bigger than selling baseball.
"I love that I get to sell affordable family fun to our fans. It's more than selling the game; it's about selling an experience and making sure fans enjoy their time to the fullest extent, so they'll keep coming back. The relationship-building part of my role is critical and fulfilling, and I enjoy getting to connect with the Akron community through my role."
In January, Nowden was awarded the Community Service and Civic Engagement Award by Mothers On A Mission at the organization's 12th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Majors Awards. He was presented with the honor for his work in creating Black Girls Rock -- Akron's Family Day Event -- which was held in July 2018 at Canal Park, home of the RubberDucks. The successful fundraiser was created to help support the city's black community, specifically African-American women.
Nowden accepting the 2018 MLK Drum Major's Award for Community and Civic Engagement in the greater Akron Community.
"This award means everything to me. One of the greatest pleasures of my role with the RubberDucks is being positioned to serve and make a genuine difference in our community. I'm always looking for opportunities to make our community and our club better, more inclusive places."
The event was a major success and brought out hundreds of people to the ballpark. It was such a success that the club will be hosting another event with the organization this season.
Nowden recognizes that his place in today's sports industry might not exist if it wasn't for trailblazers who laid the foundation for expanding baseball's reach on and off the diamond.
"It's a bit surreal to think that I probably wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for players like Jackie Robinson. His hard work and perseverance helped pave a path for a whole generation of black participation in sport, both on the field and in the front office."
When Nowden joined the RubberDucks office in January 2017, he was the only black member of the staff -- a reality that inherently carries challenges. However, Nowden embraces the opportunity to advocate and create pathways into the business of baseball using his influence and skills. He feels he can make the most impact for change by working with black youth and increasing their participation in the game.
"The lack of representation can be frustrating at times and I think part of the issue is systemic. I grew up in a racially diverse suburb of Cleveland, and, even though our school was about a 50/50 demographic split, there weren't any black kids on the baseball team. The focus for black youth, for me growing up, was on football, basketball and track."
Nowden is aware that changing the game takes buy-in from a wide set of constituencies, and he's prepared to play his part.
"I'll do my best to play my role in trying to increase black youth participation in the game, and I hope others join. I think it will pay off in the long run if we start introducing and increasing the participation in the sport with black youth at an early age."
Nowden preparing for the 2018 Akron RubberDucks home opener.
Nowden is an enthusiastic and diligent worker. Aside from his pursuit of being the best account executive in Minor League Baseball, he aspires to be a role model for minorities from all walks of life who aspire to have a career in Minor League Baseball and sport.
"I've made it a goal of mine to continue to mentor young leaders in college and high school, and I try to be a resource for them as often as possible. I know how tough it can be to break into this industry, and I find such value in sharing my experiences with them."
With the efforts of leaders like Nowden, Minor League Baseball, the Akron RubberDucks and the game of baseball will continue to advance in their diversity initiatives. Minor League Baseball is continuing to strive to be leaders in the field and showcase that our front offices and ballparks across the nation are committed to being fun, inclusive and welcoming spaces for all.
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.