In 1998, then Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Bud Selig created the Diverse Business Partners (DBP) Program to “promote efficiency and profitability for Major League Baseball and its Clubs, while extending Baseball’s ability to contribute to the economic growth, strength and well-being of diverse communities.” There were three previous DBS conferences in New York, Chicago and Houston. This year’s MLB Diversity Business Summit (DBS), hosted by the Arizona Diamondbacks from Mar. 7-9, 2016, provided unique opportunities for MLB and Arizona.
“This is the first Summit held in an actual baseball facility and during spring training,” said Jeff Jacobs of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The representatives from the 29 other baseball operations from throughout the country were impressed with downtown Phoenix, Chase Field and Salt River Fields, where they were treated to a DBacks/Angels spring training game on Mar. 9.
But over 1300 attendees had come to see more than impressive architecture and beautiful Arizona scenery. Marian Rhodes, DBacks Senior Vice President/Chief Human Resources & Diversity Officer, said that opportunity is the key to diversity. The DBS was a rare chance for small business owners, from throughout the country, to learn how to do business with, and to “pitch” their own services to MLB representatives.
Some, like New Yorker Julye Spinelli, Managing Partner of SaratogaFlag.com, had made deals with teams last year in New York, and hoped to reach more in Arizona. June McPherson, of Beta Research Corporation, travelled from Virginia, to introduce state-of-the-art study design, geofencing and customer service research techniques to more teams.
Steve Horsford, testified how his relationship with Wendy Lewis, MLB’s Senior Vice President of Diversity and Strategic Alliances and the Summits she created, had helped him grow his business—R&R Resources—to the status of being a sponsor of this year’s event.
Most attendees were entrepreneurs, hoping to deal with MLB for the first time. John Zawistowski, Director of Sales for Indeegear, has many years of experience, but wanted to learn how to navigate the unique challenges of procurement with the MLB to sell his branded luggage bands to baseball teams.
At the DBS, there were numerous workshops and “matchmaking” interviews for small business owners. Each team has specific needs, audiences and processes, but, during this week, they were unified in their willingness to listen and help provide the opportunities Rhodes said are needed for the diversification and continued success of America’s favorite pastime.