By Michael Nam
Rob Manfred, the 10th commissioner of Major League Baseball, wants to “grow” the game in Latin America and the Caribbean, but while he talks up the diversity of baseball’s workforce, his reorganized senior leadership team lacks any Latino representation. If he truly wants to reach out to Mexico and the Caribbean, of the voices closest to him, who can even speak Spanish
Additionally, despite some positive diversity practices in the MLB, the representation of Latinos in other leadership positionsappears to be a glaring oversight, while the player talent pipeline shows some signs of race-based exploitation.
Adweek asked the baseball commissioner during a wide-ranging interview if the league’s Hispanic outreach efforts would be centered in the U.S. or include the Caribbean and other regions.
“We have a very diverse workforce, and we believe that, with some additional emphasis in this space, we can increase the diversity in our fan base,” said Manfred. “It’s an important outreach effort for us in terms of growth of the game.”
In The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport’s2014 Racial and Gender Report Card for Major League Baseball, it could be said there is a great deal of diversity on the field and in various positions among the 30 teams, but the study also highlights the lopsided numbers of Latinos in the general workforce versus the executive and team management roles.
Aside from the lack of Latino representation on the senior executive team that directly reports to Rob Manfred, Latinos only made up:
2 of 30 team managers
2 of 30 team general managers
12.9 percent of the league’s front-office employees
5.5 percent of team vice presidents
10 percent of team senior administrators
Those numbers compare rather unfavorably to some of the other Latino talent representation:
28.4 percent of players on opening day rosters
30 percent of coaches
Of top team leadership or team ownership, there were no CEO/Presidents of color and only one Latino majority owner (Arturo Moreno, owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). The report card gives an overall grade of “B/B+” to the league, but when the baseball commissioner speaks of doing more outreach work, it may require starting close to home.
There is nothing new about bottom-heavy diversity in sports, as DiversityInc has pointed out before, but it is also interesting to note that among all MLB players, 26.1 percent were born outside the U.S., mostly from Latin America and the Caribbean. This “Latin America pipeline” is an additional blemish on Manfred’s glowing words about diversity as it originates from MLB’s player academies that recruit potential talent as young as 13 or 14 in places like the Dominican Republic.
These player academies have been accused repeatedly of exploitative practices.
Mother Jones describes the Dominican Republic’s player academies as a “recruiting system thattreats young Dominicans as second-class prospects, paying them far less than young Americans and sometimes denying them benefits that are standard in the US minor leagues, such as health insurance and professionally trained medical staff. MLB regulations allow teams to troll for talent on the cheap in the Dominican Republic: Unlike American kids, who must have completed high school to sign, Dominicans can be signed as young as 16, when their bodies and their skills are far less developed.”
Perhaps Rob Manfred can rightfully boast of the diversity of his workforce and be excited that Latin America and the Caribbean do have “baseball ingrained as part of their culture.” However, with these positives being sandwiched between the lack of diversity in leadership and the problematic Latino player pipeline, Manfred may have to scrutinize his new responsibilities a little more closely.