Business Diversity Summit opens door to opportunities
Third annual event to be held Monday and Tuesday at Manhattan Center
NEW YORK -- This event is becoming an institution. The third annual Business Diversity Summit will take place in New York on Monday and Tuesday, connecting more than 1,000 job seekers and entrepreneurs of different backgrounds with a chance to do business with the game of baseball.
The Summit, held in Chicago and Houston the last two years, is sold out for the first time, and it will dovetail with Major League Baseball's celebration of Jackie Robinson Day on Tuesday. Wendy Lewis, MLB's senior vice president of diversity and strategic alliances, is excited by the event's growth.
"It's a combination of many things," said Lewis, who first conceived of the Summit. "We have some real traction and real synergy from the first two editions of the Summit, and we'll have a number of people actually coming from both of those areas -- Houston and Chicago -- either with repeat customers or with people they referred to us. It's our third year, and I think we're better in terms of accessing a target community. And it's New York, it's the Yankees and it's Jackie Robinson Day. Add all those together, and it's really extraordinary how this has become a success before we can even get started."
The two-day event will be held in two large ballrooms at the Manhattan Center, and job seekers will have a chance to meet with human resources represntatives from all 30 MLB clubs, from the MLB home office and from Major League Baseball Advanced Media and MLB Network.
Each of the attendees will get to attend seminars that educate them about working in certain segments of the industry such as baseball operations and charities and strategic alliances. Commissioner Bud Selig will issue the keynote address on Tuesday, and the entire conference will pay tribute to Robinson with a group screening of the movie "42" at the end of the second day's events.
"It's wonderful that we can have the Summit on Jackie Robinson Day," said Lewis. "That was the Commissioner's idea, and ever since he gave us the green light, we've gone for it. Jackie's family will actually be with us, and Sharon Robinson will be one of the exhibitors on the trade fair floor with her new product line of apparel. That's the legacy of Jackie Robinson. We know he was a social revolutionary and a great baseball player, but also he was a great businessperson. He was all about opportunity and engagement. We know that the dream of Jackie Robinson will never be complete -- because it goes on forever -- but we think this is a wonderful way to celebrate the day at this time."
Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter, will be displaying her new line of clothing, Legacy 42, and she'll be stationed within eyesight of her father's famous No. 42 jersey. Robinson will address the crowd prior to watching "42" on Tuesday, and afterward, the Summit will end with a game at Yankee Stadium.
Robinson, one of the true pioneers of sports and civil rights in America, famously broke baseball's color barrier in 1947, and Time Magazine later named him as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Robinson passed away in 1972, though, before any of the league's clubs had named an African-American manager, and MLB has woven his name deeply into the fabric of the game.
MLB announced in 1997 that Robinson's No. 42 would be retired league-wide in 1997, and one of the last players to wear it -- Yankees closer Mariano Rivera -- retired in the offseason. Now, No. 42 will only be worn on Jackie Robinson Day, when players wear it in the icon's memory.
The Summit, conceived as an opportunity to broaden the demographics of people that do business with MLB, fits so perfectly in New York, one of the global economic capitols of opportunity. But if you ask Lewis, the whole point of the Summit is to move it around and share the wealth with everyone.
"The plan is to move it around," said Lewis. "We have many clubs interested in us bringing this to their market, and the clubs have become extraordinarily resourceful and supportive. They always were, but it's interesting now that the clubs are sending more people and different people. We have more club representation in the HR field, so you have more eyeballs and influencers looking at those job seekers. And likewise on the entreprenurial side, we have more folks who are in charge of procurement, and in some cases, the top buyer. For the entrepreneur, it's also a great opportunity, and that's what I mean about the level of engagement. It's much higher, not only from the attendees but even from us."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.