HOUSTON -- Business interests and career advancement were on the minds of most in attendance at an energetic cocktail hour Tuesday night, an A-list event that marked the official start of the second annual MLB Diversity Business Summit.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Astros owner Jim Crane, Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, and Shawn Taylor, a member of the Astros ownership group, headlined a VIP reception at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston. Along with MLB senior vice president of diversity & strategic alliances Wendy Lewis, the group welcomed guests to the all-encompassing one-day event, co-hosted by Major League Baseball and the Astros and designed to allow job seekers and entrepreneurs opportunities to meet with MLB's teams as well as sponsorship partners.
Known as one of the most diverse cities in America, Houston was a logical venue to follow Chicago, host of the first Summit in June 2012.
"We're a big city and a big baseball town and we are an amazingly diverse city," Parker said. "A lot of our major corporations -- and Major League Baseball is a big business -- understand that they have to not just reach audiences in the seats, but they have to have opportunities to be able to do business that reflect a wider community.
"This is an opportunity for Major League Baseball to show its stuff and for business owners in Houston to show our stuff, and also for those young people who have a dream of somehow being involved in baseball, to have a chance to maybe go somewhere in baseball."
Major League Baseball has partnered with several entities in preparation for the Summit, including the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Attendees will have unprecedented access to human resource and procurement executives from MLB's central office, all 30 MLB clubs, MLB Network, MLB Advanced Media and Minor League Baseball clubs. For those looking to jump-start careers in baseball, this convention is a good place to start.
"The purpose of the job fair is to not only provide opportunities for attendees, but also to demonstrate the variety and scope of careers and business ventures in Major League Baseball," Taylor said while addressing the crowd. "Anyone interested in working for baseball will benefit from this opportunity directly. You'll be engaged with decision-makers from all 30 teams around the country, and the agenda will include opportunities to do business with entrepreneurs from a variety of companies."
The all-day event will take place Wednesday at the George R. Brown Convention Center, and it will feature several speakers, including Commissioner Bud Selig. The local angle will be fortified with presentations by Crane, Astros manager Bo Porter, general manager Jeff Luhnow and Ryan.
"Baseball has really opened its arms up to the world of diversity," Ryan said. "It's important to our society. You can learn so many different things from having people that have different perspectives on life in your organization. It makes you a more well-rounded organization, and it makes you a better organization."
Top executives from around MLB will participate in a "Business of the Game" roundtable, featuring Brewers chairman and principal owner Mark Attanasio, Braves chairman emeritus Bill Bartholomay, Crane, D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, Minor League Baseball president and CEO Pat O'Conner and MLB executive vice president and chief financial officer Jonathan Mariner, who will moderate the discussion.
Job seeker exploratory interviews will take place later in the afternoon, followed by a reception at Minute Maid Park. Participants will then be invited to attend the Astros game against the Brewers at 7:10 p.m. CT.
"It's a neat event for the Astros to be involved with, because it brings so many job seekers right here in our backyard," Ryan said. "On top of that, we're able to show off our city to people around the country, host a marquee event like this and show off Minute Maid Park. So it's really just a win for us."