Baseball legends influenced D-backs VP Watson

Baseball legends influenced D-backs VP Watson

De Jon Watson is entering his second season as the D-backs' senior vice president of baseball operations and his 31st in professional baseball. Before joining the D-backs, Watson spent eight seasons with the Dodgers, where he rose to vice president of player development. He played in the Minor Leagues for five seasons before transitioning into a front-office role.

So many different people have impacted me in this game. I had the luxury of working in Los Angeles for a few years, being exposed to the Dodgers and their history.

That experience helped give me an even greater appreciation of Jackie Robinson and his impact. Robinson's impact wasn't limited to just baseball. He helped change the culture in society.

Without Robinson, baseball as we know it would not be possible. I keep thinking about the opportunities that opened up for me and other young African-Americans in this industry as a result. Outside of just playing, many African-Americans have impacted different sides of this game, from scouting, player development and into the front office.

I had the opportunity to spend quality time with Don Newcombe and Maury Wills, listening to them talk about their experiences. There have been so many who have shared their stories with me. John Young, who was the founder of the program Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), was one of my mentors and guided me along my way in this game.

I was also fortunate enough to have worked with the Cleveland Indians. There, I was introduced to Mr. Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League. I've been exposed to great people like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Tommy Davis and Dusty Baker, all leaders and icons in our industry. Sometimes I pinch myself when I'm in the same room as these gentlemen, who have opened so many doors and helped so many people deal with different challenges in baseball. 

Major League Baseball and the Commissioner's Office have put some new initiatives in motion to try to increase the participation of African-Americans in baseball. They've put quality people in place that are going to really push it forward.

I love getting the chance to speak with young kids, because I want to share my journey and experiences. I speak to the type of work ethic and dedication one must have to succeed in any line of work, and how one's passion and purpose must be displayed in their actions daily.

I didn't play in the big leagues, but I've had a tremendous career and some longevity working in baseball. When I get the chance to share my insight and thoughts on the opportunities this great game has to offer, I try to take advantage of it, sharing my message and my story.

They don't really know who De Jon Watson is, but when I talk about my journey and where I've gotten because of my hard work and time spent dedicated to honing my craft, I hope I can touch at least one person who may have the same aspiration to strive for excellence in this great game.