In honor of Black History Month, the MLB office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion’s ‘Unfiltered Series’ hosted a “Black Voices in Baseball” Panel.
The panel featured MLB Chief People and Culture Officer Michele Meyer-Shipp, Miami Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson, MLB coaching development consultant Bo Porter, Dodgers general manager Dave Roberts, and Boston Red Sox player development coach Bianca Smith.
MLB Network host Fran Charles was the moderator for this installment of the ‘Unfiltered Series.’ The panel addressed the past, present, and future of the MLB. Panelists honored the baseball legends who came before them while sharing their experience and talked about how they work to get more Black representation in the league.
Reigning World Series champ Roberts talked about the pressure of other’s expectations, there was talk of him possibly losing his job as general manager during his time with the Dodgers. Those experiences taught him to have tough skin.
“Me as a former athlete, ball player, I was stubborn, I didn’t listen well,” Roberts said. “But now, to be a good father, a good husband, a good manager of men, you can’t make things about yourself, you got to be a good listener.”
Porter had a strong mentor in Frank Robinson, he told Porter that he had the skills to be a general manager. Robinson introduced Porter to MLB commissioner emeritus Bud Selig.
“It gave Selig an opportunity to sit across the table from me and have a conversation and he was able to now gain confidence in my ability to manage major league baseball,” Porter said. “I shared that story to say this, we have to open the access gate.”
The conversation also shifted to how recruitment requirements for athletes have changed from seeking out athletic players for players with the proper metrics, like launch angle. During her time as a hitting coordinator, Smith focused on teaching key details that would help individual players.
“I don’t teach launch angle at all, because I tell my players that’s the result,” Smith said. “There’s some players who they want to see their metrics … I’ll show them their metrics and we’ll work with that. There’s some who they just want to see video and I’m like I can do that too.”
There are few Black players and Black people with senior positions in the MLB. There must be a process put in place to develop talent and leaders should be held accountable for enforcing said process, according to Meyer-Shipp.
“I often hear ‘Michele, we don’t have the talent … the talent is not in the pipeline,’ it actually is, it may be lower in the pipeline,” Meyer-Shipp said. “If we develop, support, mentor and give access to the talent across the league, help people build relationships, I think we’ll actually see some progress.”
Brinson is a member of The Player’s Alliance, an organization that exposes Black youth in marginalized communities to baseball. The organization hosted the Players Pull Up Tour where MLB players traveled to different cities to give youth baseball equipment.
“We definitely needed an alliance, a group to go in our communities, less fortunate communities and go in there and just show face,” Brinson said. “Giving these kids gloves, giving these kids bats where it’s very scarce and it’s not very affordable for families in that neighborhood.”