Diversity Business Summit looks to open doors

Diversity Business Summit looks to open doors

Diversity Business Summit looks to open doors
NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball will open its doors to the next generation of potential employees in less than a month, when it holds its inaugural Diversity Business Summit in Chicago.

The summit, a career and supplier diversity trade fair, will play host to around 1,000 job-seekers and entrepreneurs hoping to connect with some aspect of the baseball industry. And it will be the first of its kind, said Wendy Lewis, MLB's senior vice president of diversity and strategic alliances.

"We live this. We drink this. This is all we do right now," said Lewis on Monday. "We have 30 Major League clubs and 10 Minor League clubs involved, and we'll have representatives from the central office, from the MLB Network and from MLB Advanced Media. We have sort of this whole universe of our business, and it's been nice to work so collectively with everybody to coordinate this."

The event, which will take place on July 24 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, is designed to both educate people about the business and to facilitate their employment. There will be roundtable discussions from people in the game, but the Summit will also feature a more personal touch.

Lewis said that applicants will get one-on-one tutorials on some of the finer points of the business and they'll even get a chance to sit down with some of the employers that they've targeted.

Early registration for the summit will end Friday, but Lewis, who was named Woman of the Year by Women in Sports & Events in 2011, said you can register all the way up to the event. The longer applicants wait, though, and the harder it might be to fit them with their first choice.

"If you wanted to meet with the head of human relations for MLB.com or the head of procurement for the MLB Network -- or maybe the Cubs, the Mets, the Yankees or the White Sox -- we're actually making that work," said Lewis. "The reality is that not everyone who tries to get a meeting with a Major League club can get one. There's only so many hours in a day. But here you have the opportunity to not only do that -- and see everybody at one time -- but you get to cherry-pick the ones you want to meet most individually. You can even go booth-to-booth and hit all 40 booths if you'd like."

Lewis, who has worked with MLB for more than two decades, said that the summit will begin with a panel discussion that features six-to-eight baseball executives who will share their perspectives on franchise ownership and the value of diversity in today's business world.

Commissoner Bud Selig will also be on hand, and he'll make remarks at some point in the afternoon. The conference will break up for time to allow job-seekers to meet with their respective targets, and it will continue with another roundtable discussion and a reception at U.S. Cellular Field.

But perhaps most importantly, the summit will both educate people on the intricacies of the industry and allow networking so job-seekers can one day find the ideal fit for them.

"We're going to do our best to teach the nuances of the business," said Lewis. "We have vendors who say things like, 'How do I get an opportunity to provide an apparel product for Major League Baseball?' If they don't know anything about licensing, they're probably not going to pitch very well. People say, 'Oh, I'm dying to work in baseball,' but if they don't know the difference between baseball operations and business operations, I don't know how articulate they can be about their focus."

There will be an array of people with divergent amounts of education and experience at the conference, but Lewis said they'll all have one thing in common: A love of baseball and an idea about what they want to do with their future. And from there, the summit will be their guide.

"It's a mix," she said. "Ideally, I'd love for the conference to be equally divided between job-seekers and entreprenuers. Let's say between 300 and 500 job-seekers are coming to meet with the heads of human relations. They represent everyone from undergraduates to folks who've just graduated. We'll have some people with advanced degrees and even some professionals. Some of the positions that we have listed are great internships, but others are people looking for a seasoned pro."

Those interested in applying for the Summit can go to www.mlb.com/diversitysummit all the way up to the event. Perhaps one day representatives from the NBA and the NFL will also join forces with the Diversity Business Summit, a development that would leave Lewis thrilled. But for now, the mission is to enlighten as many people as possible.

"I look forward to people understanding what true engagement means," said Lewis. "From the baseball side, I look forward to creating a very unique opportunity that didn't exist before. And I'm very excited about everyone who's coming to participate getting to experience our sport and our business in a way that they haven't before. On July 25th, I'd love for people to still be buzzing about it."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.