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Black Broadcaster Grant finds an audience  

Detailing the rapid growth of a game-changing diversity effort
The Black Play-By-Play Broadcaster Grant and Scholarship Fund has experienced tremendous growth since its June inception.
@BensBiz
October 27, 2020

Five months ago, the Black Play-By-Play Broadcaster Grant was little more than an idea. Heading into November, it is now a full-fledged and rapidly expanding initiative poised to have a tangible impact on the racial makeup of broadcast booths across America. Established by Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders broadcaster Adam Giardino, the

Five months ago, the Black Play-By-Play Broadcaster Grant was little more than an idea. Heading into November, it is now a full-fledged and rapidly expanding initiative poised to have a tangible impact on the racial makeup of broadcast booths across America.

Established by Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders broadcaster Adam Giardino, the grant was conceived as a way to increase the number of Black broadcasters working in Minor League Baseball and the sporting world at large. As Giardino wrote in June when publicly announcing the project, "Simply put, there are not enough Black voices in play-by-play broadcasting." His initial goal, established after gaining support for the idea from his broadcasting peers, was modest: To raise $3,000, which would serve as a $500-a-month season stipend for a Black broadcaster looking to begin his or her career.

"I believe that there are going to be Black broadcasters given every opportunity to interview for jobs," said Giardino, speaking to MiLB.com this past June. "I’m hopeful that there will be other broadcasters wanting to be a part of that, to raise awareness of deserving candidates who may not have otherwise gotten this opportunity."

Indeed, there were, as Giardino's initiative caught fire on social media as soon as it was announced. Over $15,000 was raised in just one week's time, and that number since has increased to approximately $25,000. This influx of funds resulted in a modified name for the project: The Black Play-by-Play Broadcaster Grant and Scholarship Fund.

"We were able to add three $1,000 scholarships for current black undergraduates who are pursuing broadcasting or want to," said Giardino. "We have more than enough money raised already to have funding for next year, and to expand with additional money that we’re raising. It’s nice to have raised so much right out of the gate."

Upon modifying the name, a corresponding logo was unveiled. Simple and streamlined, it depicts an old-fashioned broadcaster's microphone while subtly incorporating the red, yellow and green of the Pan-African Flag. The logo was designed by Minor League Baseball brand development manager Vincent Pettofrezzo and his creative team.

"It was a perfect fit and I can’t be more thankful to Minor League Baseball," said Giardino. "I had never worked with a logo design team before, and I don’t even want to look up how much it would have cost."

Giardino, meanwhile, has established his own team in the form of a six-person board of directors. The board notably includes two Black broadcasters working at the Major League level, the Seattle Mariners' Dave Sims and the Houston Astros' Rob Ford. Sims and Ford are joined by former Minor League broadcasters Darius Thigpen and Jay Burnham, Iowa Cubs' broadcaster Alex Cohen and Giardino.

More money hasn't created more problems, but it has created a lot of extra work for Giardino, his fellow directors and a team of volunteers. After fundraising far exceeded initial expectations, the first item on the agenda was to establish the Black PXP Fund as a 501(c)(3) organization.

"Setting up a non-profit has totally been an all-consuming task," said Giardino. "There are so many details. Setting up bank accounts, doing IRS paperwork. ... We’re looking to seek donations from corporations, getting larger bodies involved, but from a legal standpoint for that to work, you need to make sure you’re a 501(c)(3). It took longer than thought, but it’s done, approved and we’re happy to now move forward. We’re already engaging with companies that seem to be open, willing and excited to partner with us and contribute."

Establishing the scholarship was also a formidable task. Having the money is one thing, but getting the word out is another.

"Myself and a dozen other broadcasters built up an email database with over 400 schools around the country, including 50 to 60 [historically Black colleges and universities]," said Giardino. "We sent emails to nearly 2,000 professors and people in athletic departments. We received nothing but positive feedback from the professor at all these schools, and now we’ve heard back from nearly 20 Black college students who want to be part of the application process for the three $1,000 scholarships."

The deadline to apply for a scholarship is Nov. 1. The following day Giardino and his team will reach out to all the applicants, scheduling Zoom interviews with board members later in the month. The winners will be revealed on Dec. 14.

"The three scholarship winners, we can’t wait to help them out financially," Giardino said. "But we also have 60 broadcasters who have indicated to me that they want to be part of a mentorship program. Some are big league broadcasters or people doing college basketball broadcasts on ESPN. It isn’t necessarily just Minor League broadcasters. It’s all sorts of people who are along the road these college kids would hope to get to someday. So we should be able to specifically pair people up. Like, here are three people that you can lean on, who want to help you.

"And that's the reason we started this: There aren’t enough Black broadcasters in our industry, so the three people you get paired up with very likely don’t look like you. Maybe you would have hesitated to reach out, looking at that person on Twitter. 'They wouldn’t want to talk to me.' But this program, you don’t reach out to them. The 20-year vet reaches out to you. ‘Hey, let's hop on the phone.’ That part excites me as much if not more than the financial contributions we’ve received."

As with a baseball broadcast itself, this brings us to the totals and a recap: Over the course of several months, the Black Play-By-Play Broadcasters Grant and Scholarship Fund has obtained 501(c)(3) status, established a board of directors and cultivated a volunteer network while adding scholarship and mentorship components to its originally stated mission. And it's still just getting started.

"These things take time, especially when it comes to the fundraising conversations we've had and plan on having with larger corporations," said Giardino. "For us there’s no time stamp, no stress on when we need a check in the mail. We can more organically create these relationships, finding out what’s best for everyone."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes **Ben's Biz Blog**. Follow Ben on Twitter **@bensbiz**.