To celebrate the legacy of Jackie Robinson, the Los Angeles Dodgers partnered with the L.A. Dodgers Foundation (LADF) to host a career panel for Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students. The career panel was to show students the various occupations in Major League Baseball.
Jackie Robinson day was celebrated on August 28 this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every player on all 30 MLB teams wore a no. 42 jersey in his honor.
“August 28 is very significant for two reasons, one being that it’s the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963,” said Dodgers community relations coordinator and panel moderator Noelle Bailey. “It’s also the day in 1955, when Branch Rickey met with Jackie Robinson to discuss his future in Major League Baseball.”
On the panel was LADF CEO Nichol Whiteman, MLB vice president of social responsibility Melanie LeGrande, Dodgers baseball performance science senior analyst David Hill, Dodgers baseball operations coordinator Albert Gilbert and Dodgers planning and development coordinator Tahlor Cleveland.
Students from Howard, Spelman, Hampton, Morehouse, and North Carolina A&T gleaned from the panelists and asked for advice.
Along with sharing their backgrounds, the panelists talked about resources that helped them and the significance of Robinson’s impact.
“He had the weight of the world on his shoulders and somehow was able to dominate his field,” Hill said. “From that standpoint, it just serves as a great piece of motivation and inspiration for us to build on top of.”
Whiteman mentioned how she was an alumnus of the Jackie Robinson Foundation and how attending Spelman College boosted her confidence. She told the students how important it is to have mentors.
“I am a strong believer … that you have to have people around you who have your best interest in heart, who are open to telling you the truth when nobody else wants to tell you the truth,” Whiteman said. “I feel like mentorship is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received from some amazing people.”
When the panel was asked about how the recent focus on social injustice has impacted their job, Cleveland mentioned how her perspective on social responsibility shifted from a personal duty to a professional one.
“We had a conversation last week about what vendors can we be using rather than going to the same people,” she said. “How can we make changes to give other underrepresented companies those chances.”
Cleveland also recommended the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) to the students, Gilbert explained how the MLB Diversity program ultimately helped him start his career with the Dodgers.
“It was a one-year fellowship and then a lot of people got hired on after that full time, including myself,” he said. “That was a great resource because one it gave you contacts at the commissioner’s office … and also it gave me contacts to the other clubs.”
Students were able to ask the panelists questions. When one asked about career advice, LeGrande told the college students to “be a sponge.”
“Open up yourself to possibilities, meet people who are not in your department,” LeGrande said. “It’s not only about mentors, it’s about champions and champions are the ones who are going to talk about you when you’re not in the room.”