At the 2018 SABR Analytics Conference, the Diverse Perspectives Panel focused on how to discover, recruit, hire, and retain a more diversified group of employees in front offices and other roles throughout the baseball industry.
The panel on March 10, 2018, included Dr. Lorena Martin, Seattle Mariners’ Director of High Performance; Philip Cho and Ehsan Bokhari, both Senior Analysts in Baseball Research & Development with the Los Angeles Dodgers; and Emilee Fragapane, Baseball Operations Coordinator with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was moderated by SABR President Vince Gennaro.
- Audio: Listen to the SABR Analytics Diverse Perspectives Panel (MP3; 41:38)
Here are some highlights:
ON LACK OF OPPORTUNITIES IN BASEBALL FRONT OFFICES
- Cho: “There is a business case [for diversity]. But the societal case is an even bigger issue for me. Whenever you look at society and any subset of the population, whether it’s baseball front offices or top 1 percent of income earners or CEOs across Fortune 500 companies … when the demographics of that group don’t match up with the demographics of the general population, for me at least, something seems inherently wrong with that. I think it stems from the fact that it’s a symptom of a lack of quality opportunities. It’s a very competitive environment. People want to be CEOs or GMs of baseball teams. … It’s not that people don’t want those jobs. The opportunities aren’t the same across all groups, at least for young people.”
- Bokhari: “It starts at a young age. You have to get kids interested in baseball but also in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, the STEM fields. And when you have socioeconomic status, the classes that are disproportionate across groups, that’s going to lead to worse opportunities. That’s a deep and difficult problem to solve. … It definitely runs a lot deeper than just baseball. It really is a societal problem.”
ON BASEBALL TEAMS HIRING MORE WOMEN IN ANALYTICS
- Fragapane: “Across the game, I think the strides that the industry has made have been huge. I think we took a headcount maybe three years ago of how many women we could find in front office analytics positions; it was four and the Dodgers employed half of them — me and my coworker. So that’s obviously a very small number that’s still quite disproportionate, even relative to what we’re seeing in academia in technical fields. … Even if it’s not in analytics, I noticed this past offseason there were about four or five more women in baseball operations positions. … So to have doubled in that time, it speaks to the direction, the trend, that the industry is going and it’s a very positive thing.”
ON INTERNSHIPS AND UNPAID POSITIONS
- Fragapane: “I think that the other biggest barrier to get around, and this was touched upon earlier, is socioeconomic status. People trying to get into scouting and video internships … not everybody has the luxury of going out to AFL [Arizona Fall League] games, writing up reports, and hoping they can make a connection with people, and not making any money. That’s the way that a lot of people are able to get their foot in the door in traditional baseball positions. But socioeconomically, that is not doable for a lot of people. I don’t know what the solution to that is …”
- Bokhari: “Teams could pay us more!”
- Cho: “But yeah, I think that’s a big point. A lot of people get into baseball by doing internships. Especially when you’re in school and you have student loan debt, that’s a hard thing to do. A lot of the people we see getting the internships, they’re the people who can afford to do it. And that filters out a certain group of people. … What’s become the traditional route to baseball front office [is] the expectation where you work internships and often multiple internships at very low wages where you really can’t do it without financial assistance from family members or some other fellowship outside of baseball.”
ON MAKING A PROACTIVE EFFORT TO DIVERSIFY THE WORKFORCE
- Cho: “What [also] happens is we’ll have a job posting and you’ll get hundreds of applications and you say, ‘I really want to pursue hiring a diverse work force’ and you look at the candidate pool and it’s not very diverse. Even if you wanted to emphasize diversity in your organization, you can’t do it if no one is applying. … You look at a lot of [tech] companies in the Bay Area, they make a concerted effort to go out to [college] campuses and partner with local organizations, like women in science and women’s STEM groups, to get the word out and actively recruit. Just don’t wait and say, ‘I really hope I get a good minority candidate application coming across my desk the next time I have a job opening.’ You have to go out and actively try to change that candidate pool as much you can. Oftentimes, I think we sit there and say we have other things and we’re busy. Well, we’re all busy. So it’s matter of just prioritizing diversity and say, ‘This is something I’m going to spend resources on.’ That happens at the organizational level, that happens at the league level, it’s all of our responsibility.”
- Martin: “In addition to having a diverse candidate pool, it’s also about being qualified. To me, if you’re not qualified and you’re diverse, I’m probably not picking you. You have to meet the qualifications — or exceed them. Go above and beyond, and make yourself more competitive. That’s how you get chosen. That’s how I would choose you. Being diverse gives you an added bonus of having a different perspective, that can add on. But definitely make sure that you meet the same requirements that everyone else is meeting.”
ON OVERCOMING THE LACK OF PLAYING EXPERIENCE IN FRONT OFFICES
- Martin: “I’d rather have a heart surgeon that had never undergone heart surgery, but is really good at being a heart surgeon. … You know what you’re there to do and understand your role. If your role is as a physiologist or biomechanical, you understand how the body works. That’s what you’re there to do.”
For more coverage of the 2018 SABR Analytics Conference, visit SABR.org/analytics.
- Related link: Mike Petriello: MLB Diversity program sends 21 students to SABR Analytics Conference (MLB.com)
Originally published: March 16, 2018. Last Updated: July 27, 2020.