Baseball leaders speak at Diversity Business Summit

Baseball leaders speak at Diversity Business Summit

Baseball leaders speak at Diversity Business Summit
CHICAGO -- The opening bell of the Diversity Business Summit brought word from the top. Five Major League Baseball team executives shared the stage Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, and they took turns sharing anecdotes from their respective pasts.

Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the White Sox, was co-host of the event, and he was joined by high-ranking executives from the Astros, Yankees, D-backs and Braves. Collectively, they spoke about the baseball industry and about the importance of diversity on their respective brands.

"People tend to act in ways that are in their own selfish best interests. We just feel its in our own selfish best interests to deal with the whole world," said Reinsdorf. "And when you're hiring people, do you want the pool to be everybody or do you want it to be a small pool? If you're looking for quality prices, why not open it to the whole world? You're going to get better deals that way. If you can do good along the way, that's fine. But the fact of the matter is that diversity is really good business."

That message -- and others like it -- resonated with the audience, which was made up of around 1,000 people either seeking job opportunities in the game or hoping to do business with baseball teams at some point down the line. And on this day, they got to hear from the people who do the hiring.

Randy Levine, president of the Yankees, told the audience that it has to be assertive. If you want a job with a big league team, he said, you have to go after it and not take "No" for an answer.

"I think the best thing to do is don't be shy," said Levine. "Don't be nervous. Get really, really aggressive. I love talking to people. I return as many phone calls as I can. ... I get a lot of people that come up to me and say, 'Hey, I want to be general manager of the Yankees.' It just doesn't happen like that. Maybe the president of the Yankees happens that way, but not the general manager. Just be flexible. If you get into an organization -- whether it's a club, a league or a major sponsor -- just get in the door. And then prove yourself. And there are a lot of ways to get in the door."

George Postolos, president and chief executive officer of the Astros, said that diversity in the ownership group was a priority for Houston, but that it didn't end there. The Astros are looking to make their business match their community, and they feel that starts with their own hiring practices.

"We're doing a lot of hiring, and we're also raising pay on the entry-level," he said. "It's very competitive to go after the best minority candidates. They're in very high demand today, because diversity is a priority for many leading companies. ... We've found that being more aggressive in pay and having ownership and senior management involved in recruiting talented minority candidates is really essential if you want to have leaders in the organization and if you want to have a racially-diverse organization."

But not all of the talk centered on diversity and getting your foot in the door. Derrick Hall, president of the D-backs, told the audience about his two-decade odyssey in the game, which started with a Class A affiliate of the Dodgers and has brought him all the way to the top of Arizona's brain trust.

Most important of all, said Hall, is remembering the human element. He spoke of how vital it is to be responsive to the needs of your clientele one request at a time, and he told the audience of an acronym -- FAWSY, or Find A Way to Say Yes -- that his service team uses as a credo.

"When I first instructed all of our employees that we had to find a way to say Yes, it was tough. It was a challenge," said Hall. "Find a way to win a game, even when we lose. When you lose a game, 1-0 -- when they take a lead in the top of the ninth and you don't score in the bottom of the ninth -- how do fans walk away saying, 'That was great. I can't wait to go back.' And that's really the difference we have to provide. We have to make sure we have the best service team in place so that each of our season-ticket accounts have a rep assigned to them to make sure that relationship is as strong as ever."

The panel discussion -- which also included Bill Bartholomay, chairman emeritus of the Braves -- took place right before the conference attendees would break up to meet with representatives from teams and from companies that supply apparel and equipment for Major League Baseball.

Hall told the attendees how important it is for the respective teams to make an impact in their community. Arizona has donated more than $30 million to charity over the past 15 years, he said, and the D-backs do it for a fairly simple reason.

"It's very important that we win, but we know we're not going to win every year. We're always contributing off the field," he said. "All of our fans know that, and the community knows that. We want the fans to feel good about our hometown team regardless of how we're playing. We give back more per year than all the other local sports teams combined.

"That's really our challenge, to make sure that not only our front office -- but also our players and coaches -- are involved in the community. They'll go and visit children in the hospital, not because there's a camera over their shoulder but because it's the right thing to do. They take time to sign autographs and take time to take pictures with the fans."

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