Study: Gender hiring up, number of Black players fall in MLB

Detroit News
Associated Press

A study examining diversity hiring practices finds Major League Baseball with rising gender scores but also a three-decade low for Black players on opening day rosters.

Wednesday’s report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida issued an overall grade of B-minus, with a B for racial hiring and a C-plus for gender hiring. The report examined a range of positions at MLB’s headquarters and within franchises using data for the 2022 season.

The gender grade improved from a C last year, while the racial score slid from a B-plus. The overall grade was up slightly from last year’s C-plus based on the gains in gender (75.3 score, up from 70.7) being larger than the decline for racial (83.0, down from 86.8).

TIDES director and lead report author Richard Lapchick pointed to 33 women holding some level of coaching role at either the major or minor league levels, as well as 13 women holding on-field coaching or player development positions.

Specifically, he noted some of the groundbreaking nature of those roles, including Rachel Balkovec becoming the first woman to manage the affiliate of an MLB team as she leads the New York Yankees’ Class A Tampa Tarpons and San Francisco Giants assistant Alyssa Nakken becoming the first female on-field coach in a regular-season game.

That follows the milestone November 2020 hiring of the Miami Marlins’ Kim Ng as the first woman to serve as MLB general manager.

“I think the fact the overall grade went up as substantially in gender as it had was important,” Lapchick said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s still not a great grade. … But now they’re making dramatic hires.”

Of concern to Lapchick was the finding that Black players represented 7.2% of opening day rosters. That was down from 7.6% last year and is the lowest percentage since the study data began being collected in 1991, when 18% of MLB players were Black.

Lapchick said the decline, a long-running concern, came “in spite of” programs MLB has created to enhance participation for Black players at the youth level.

“I’m always impressed by how many programs I see that they’re developing in so many communities,” Lapchick said. “But I think part of it is it’s a chicken-or-the-egg equation.

“If you’re a young Black kid who dreams of being a professional athlete … and you say, ‘What sport am I going to have the best shot at?’ And you look and see superstars in the NFL and the NBA … and they happen to be Black and look like you, that’s probably going to be the first step you make.”

In a statement, MLB senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Billy Bean said the league is committed to “improving representation and diversity” throughout the sport.

“We are proud of the various levels of progress we have seen throughout our game, especially women taking on more coaching and baseball operations roles than ever before,” said Bean, also a special assistant to Commissioner Rob Manfred. “We will continue to push for more results through effective programs, key partnerships and investments in our people.”

Lapchick also credited MLB for its 10-year partnership with the nonprofit Players Alliance that is set to generate $150 million, beginning in 2023. The alliance’s goal is to increase Black representation in the sport from youth levels to the front office.

“While we would like the number of Black players on opening day rosters to be higher, there are signs of optimism,” Bean said, adding: “We will continue to support partnerships like the Players Alliance, and invest in these effective programs, as we look to build a sustainable pipeline of Black players at all levels of our game.”

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