MLB's Lewis to be honored with WISE Award

MLB's Lewis to be honored with WISE Award

MLB's Lewis to be honored with WISE Award
Wendy Lewis' father doesn't travel much anymore, because he's 91 years old, and because ever since Lewis' mother passed away, it has been tough for him to muster the energy to do so.

But Lewis, who is senior vice president of diversity and strategic alliances for Major League Baseball, really wants him to be in New York City on June 8. That's the day Lewis will be honored at the Marriott Marquis Hotel as one of three recipients of the 2011 WISE Woman of the Year Award during the 17th annual luncheon.

As a longtime Milwaukee resident, Lewis' father is a really big baseball fan, and an even bigger admirer of Commissioner Bud Selig.

One way or another, he'll watch his daughter win the award she's admittedly most proud to have earned.

"I can't think of any award we would try so hard to get my dad to be there for," Lewis said. "I'm more than thrilled -- really, really, really humbled, because it means a lot to a lot of people. It means we've done a good job for them [Women in Sports & Events] to think this way."

Most recently in a long list of achievements geared toward workforce diversity in her two-plus decades at MLB, Lewis was critical in starting the two-day Selig Business Conference -- a massive trade fair that will take place at the Georgia Aquarium May 12-13 as part of the Civil Rights Game events.

Lewis' father, Emcee Williams, will be 92 in May. He still lives at home and is still in pretty good health. In fact, Lewis worked it out so that her father can bring a group of his friends as special guests at various Brewers games this season.

"He's so excited," Lewis said. "But I tell him, 'Dad, you have to wait.'"

CRG 2011 Include

Lewis' mother, Alma Williams, passed away eight years ago from cancer. Before then, Emcee and Alma visited the same deli and dry cleaners as Selig and ran into him frequently. And every time they did, Selig would make sure to stop and say hello.

Those trips don't happen anymore for Emcee, and neither does much traveling at all. But he still brags about his daughter's involvement with baseball.

"He thinks it's just so special that baseball actually pays me to make sure there's a more diverse representation," Lewis said. "He just thinks it's incredible."

WISE, described as the leading voice and resource for professional women in the sports and events industries, was founded in 1993 and has 10 chapters across the country. According to a release issued by the organization, WISE "aims to offer its members the opportunity to gain valuable industry insights and connections that can give them a competitive advantage in their current position, and as they advance in their careers."

Every year, the organization's national board creates a Women of the Year ballot based off recommendations, then sends an email blast to its 1,200 members for voting.

After being listed at least two previous times, Lewis finally got over the hump this year, joining Stacey Allaster (chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association) and Lisa Baird (chief marketing officer of the United States Olympic Committee) as winners.

"This one specifically is very special, because of the selection process and because of the caliber of women who have received it in the past," Lewis said. "It has always meant a lot to me. The thought of joining this unique club of extraordinary people -- it's the most special honor I've ever received."

The WISE winners, according to a release issued by the organization, were selected because they "are visible leaders and continue to be an influential voice for women in the industry," they "have broken down barriers and helped create connections and new opportunities for other women," and they "exemplify professional excellence and are role models for others."

"[Lewis] has great achievements and has proven to be a leader and is well-respected," WISE founder and national president Sue Rodin said. "Aside from her career accomplishments, she's also very supportive of WISE and what it does."

Lewis did her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, got her MBA at Northwestern University and began working at MLB while serving as manager of human resources with the Cubs in 1987 -- at a time when professional sports leagues didn't really have HR representation.

Lewis then moved to MLB's Central Office in New York in 1995, and along the way has steered several initiatives geared toward diversity in the workplace. Perhaps most notably, she now manages the leadership of MLB's Diverse Business Partners Program -- the leading supplier-diversity program in sports, which has resulted in more than $800 million being spent with thousands of minority- and women-owned businesses.

"Wendy kind of goes under the radar," MLB executive vice president of baseball development Jimmie Lee Solomon said. "She does a tremendous job. On behalf of minority and women in businesses, she has basically been responsible for MLB spending tens of millions of dollars in that sector. That, in large part, is a tribute to her hard work."

And as a tribute to that, Lewis will be one of several notable winners of a prestigious honor.

Her biggest fan plans on being there to see it.

"I'm just so excited of just the thought of it," Emcee said about Lewis wanting him there. "I appreciate it very much."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.