Nearly 200 professionals, students and fans joined Minor League Baseball (MiLB) on Sunday afternoon of the Baseball Winter Meetings to network, learn and engage on all things diversity and inclusion at MiLB's inaugural Diversity in Sport Forum.
The event was emceed by a spirited Sarah Kogod, director at You Can Play and key partner in MiLB's Pride campaign in 2019.
Phylicia McCorckle from Major League Baseball's diversity and inclusion team kicked off the event with a presentation focusing on hiring, retaining and developing diverse talent. She challenged attendees to think critically about their hiring processes, to still ensure that they're recruiting the most talented individuals and brightest young minds to join their workforce, but to ensure their recruitment pool is vast and diverse.
"At the end of the day, we need to ensure that our front offices look like the communities we serve. This mindset extends far beyond baseball, all organizations should look to ensure that their consumer base feels reflected in leadership," said McCorckle.
David Wright and Courtney Nehls of Minor League Baseball continued the discussion and emphasized the importance of driving positive social impact through strategic partnerships and shared current examples of MiLB's efforts.
"For us, it's important to be an organization that drives impact in all of the communities we call home. All 160 of our clubs are truly dedicated. Last year alone our collective efforts raised over $47 million and we spent 24,041 volunteering in our communities," said Nehls, who spearheads MiLB's community engagement efforts.
Wright, MiLB's chief marketing & commercial officer, reminded the audience of the impact MiLB has had and the success stories that have derived from strong partnerships with companies that value, and add to MiLB's efforts.
"When collaborating with ECHO on their Project Refresh initiative, refurbishing 15 youth baseball and softball fields in Minor League Baseball communities, we made a significant local impact. Brands today are looking to stand for something greater than their product. ECHO's VP of Marketing and Brand Development Wayne Thompson told our team that this partnership has given their brand purpose. In today's marketplace, it's crucial for brands to take a stand on issues and to commit to giving to causes that support their mission."
Marco Lopez, Petco's director of local and experiential marketing, spoke on how every market is inherently global.
"There is no doubt we live in a more connected world than ever before. But brands, when marketing, just need to focus on the local market. Collectively, local markets become inherently global. Local markets are the majority."
The event was closed out by Ashland Johnson, a decorated inclusion specialist who runs her own consulting firm, the Inclusion Playbook. Johnson gave a keynote lecture on authenticity and inclusion in athletics. She shared her powerful journey through sports and how the court served as solace for her. It was an escape, a place where she could thrive and feel authentically her.
"Nothing is more important today than authenticity." A wise lesson for all attendees to carry with them as they exited.
MiLB's Director of Diversity and Inclusion Belicia Montgomery was enthusiastic about the strong turnout for the first-time Baseball Winter Meetings event.
"To have so many people here in this room energized and ready to have these discussions further legitimizes the importance and need for this work to continue moving forward. Our society is changing, our sport is changing and our culture in changing, and Minor League Baseball needs to continue to be at the forefront of these discussions."
Benjamin Pereira is an associate with Minor League Baseball.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.