With new challenges to affirmative action programs being brought before America’s courts, including the United States Supreme Court, the “watchers at the gate” of equal opportunity must be vigilant and steadfast to insure that opportunities in the workforce are made available to any and all applicants regardless of race, gender or age that meet and/or exceed the qualifications required to fill those positions.
One of the individuals charged with helping to “level the playing field” as far as profiling employment opportunities for women and minorities seeking a career in professional baseball is former Pirates director of player personnel Tyrone Brooks. Mr. Brooks will be the keynote speaker at this year’s African-American Heritage Sports Luncheon. The event will take place on Friday September 9, 2016 at the PNC Park Lexus Club, 11:30am-1:30pm. He is the Sr. Director, Front Office and Field Staff Diversity Pipeline Program for Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner.
Tyrone Brooks may be the almost perfect conduit that major league baseball can provide to the African-American community to list employment opportunities available in MLB as well as identifying possible candidates from the Black community-at-large that may potentially fill those positions.
“My role is to help get minorities and more women into front office roles and potential on field areas,” he says. “Here at the commissioner’s office we looked into things and we saw the lack of a real pipeline in regards to individuals coming up through the ranks. We felt like there was such a need to put this program in place in terms of hopefully having an opportunity just to get people into the pipeline.”
Brooks also points out that this pipeline also extends beyond high level administrative management positions. These outreach efforts will also attempt to connect individuals to available day-to-day coaching and team roster personnel positions.
“Typically, when you look at most of the General Managers that are out there, they had to get their start somewhere. There’s an internship program somewhere that got them through the door.”
However, Tyrone Brooks himself did not take the typical road to high level management in MLB, nonetheless it was an interesting journey.
I asked him where his life experience began.
“I was born in Bethesda Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC. I grew up in Glen Bernie, Maryland which is about ten minutes outside of Baltimore. I ended up going to the University of Maryland at College Park where I studied and pursued photography. I was a photojournalist all five years that I was in college and at one point I was working for two publications [simultaneously], and I was considering photography as a career.
In the middle of my college career, I thought about transferring to the University of Florida to study photography but I decided to stick it out and continue on the business side”
I asked Brooks how a budding photojournalist ended up filling such a challenging and key position within MLB.
“I found out about book back in the day at a Walden’s Book store. The book was called; The Internship Bible. It had a list of internships all over the country including many Fortune 500 companies that had established programs. It also [featured] a small section on sports teams. There was a program listed called the Career Initiative Program that was run by the Atlanta Braves.
This program was created by Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron. They created this program in order for people to get in the door, including myself. I was thankful for the opportunity, even if it was just for the summer and I was graduating in the spring. I graduated and two days later, I started with the team [Braves].
We talked about Black youth, especially young Black males, born and raised in the inner cities who almost perpetually remain in a crisis state, educationally, socially and economically. Professional baseball unlike the beacon that lit the way to prosperity from the darkness of poverty for Americas Black youth culture in the 1950’s, 60’s, baseball is now the lighthouse for youth of color whose origins are in the Caribbean.
“Well as far as the Caribbean goes every Major League club has a presence and a facility in the Caribbean. There is less of a presence in Venezuela because of some issues presently going on in there but that area has been sort of a starting block for a lot major league players because almost one-third of the players in MLB are Latino.”
However, Brooks also points out that MLB is making progress in an effort to attract more Black athletes to compete as baseball players but acknowledges that a few challenges remain, especially when many young Black athletes seem to be leaning, statistically at least, toward taking their skills to the NFL and the NBA.
“You have to give the NFL and NBA credit in terms of marketing their sports. The typical challenge with baseball is that you have to normally be more organized in terms of having a league to play in and in many inner cities there have been issues in terms of funding. I personally believe that the major league baseball RBI program (Reviving Baseball in Inner cities), is addressing some of these issues in helping to provide an opportunity for every kid to play baseball.”
In many cases with baseball participation being geographically defined, I asked Mr. Brooks what advice he could offer young athletes of all races that were considering careers as professional athletes.
“Take advantage of the opportunities that you do have in just getting the chance to play a sport. However, the biggest thing is to get an education. Use baseball as a vehicle to get an education. That is one thing that we try to stress here because whatever happens that education can’t be taken away from you. Hopefully that can be put in place in your life to help you move forward from there. I would not be where I am today without an education and doors being opened up for me.”
Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.583.6741
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