August 14, 2015 – In an effort to give minority and female candidates a better chance to land higher visibility positions, Major League Baseball has tapped Korn Ferry to provide league-wide talent support services, which includes assisting candidates who reach the interview process for baseball operations positions.
MLB has instructed Korn Ferry to provide special emphasis to help some of the most underrepresented groups in the baseball hierarchy gain admission to its top jobs. Korn Ferry will provide the league’s baseball clubs with potential candidates for senior-level positions, including manager, general manager, scouting director and player development director.
“We are proudly a sport of inclusion, and we must continue to pursue and develop more opportunities for minorities and women throughout our game, both in senior and entry-level positions,” said MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred. “Our policy on this vital issue will ensure that active searches of outside candidates for leadership positions will include strong minority and female representation.”
Commissioner Manfred made his remarks at the conclusion of a two day-long owners’ meeting in Chicago, which saw Billy Bean, MLB’s openly gay ambassador for inclusion, make a presentation on his work; the owners also listened to a presentation on domestic violence during their gathering.
Korn Ferry has a history of working with Major League Baseball, having placed Mr. Manfred into the commissioner’s post seven months ago. The firm’s sports practice is led by Jed Hughes, a former Michigan football coach, who has distinguished himself as an expert in identifying, assessing, and developing leaders. His relationships within sports and intercollegiate athletics are extensive, having spent 20 years coaching in professional and intercollegiate football and working for five Hall of Fame coaches.
“There has never been a female general manager in baseball and there are very few women and minorities on the management side of baseball’s organization structure,” said Dale Zupsansky, managing editor at Greenwich-based talent research firm Hunt Scanlon Media. “This is an unprecedented move by the MLB and will likely set standards throughout sports.”
According to the annual Racial and Gender Report Card compiled by the University of Central Florida, only Mike Hill of the Miami Marlins is the only person of color at the team president level. In other high-visibility positions there are only two non-white managers: Lloyd McClendon of the Seattle Mariners and Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves. Five people of color serve as general managers.
Across major league baseball there are 65 women in vice president roles, representing just over 17 percent of the total positions. People of color hold 14 percent of vice president positions.
“With so many athletes of color active today in major league baseball and with the rise of females generally in college athletic director and coaching positions, it’s high time the league stepped up to pointedly consider women and minorities for senior-level posts,” said Christopher W. Hunt, Hunt Scanlon president and co-founder. “Sports has become big business and it is therefore critically important for leading professional sports organizations like MLB to retain outside recruiting partners such as Korn Ferry who have broad networks and deep talent pools from which to pull,” Mr. Hunt added. Hunt Scanlon Media has tracked the sports leadership recruiting field for more than two decades.
One such team that might search differently under baseball’s new edict is The Milwaukee Brewers, which has just hired Korn Ferry to hunt for its next general manager. Doug Melvin is stepping down after 13 seasons at the helm. He will remain as general manager until a successor is found, then serve the role of paid adviser for a period beyond that.
The Brewers have indicated they will prioritize younger candidates who are more in touch with modern baseball analytics. The recent trend in baseball with hiring GMs has been to go younger, preferably with an Ivy League background or something similar, and with that emphasis on baseball analytics.
“We’ve developed a list of potential candidates. The process needs to be exhaustive, so as a result there’s no timetable. Things could magically come together and we’re able to make a quick decision if that’s needed. But we’re not going to jump to that decision,” said team principal owner Mark Attanasio. “We’re casting a wide net here including internal candidates. We don’t want to create any issues by saying it could be this person or that person. We’ll be looking at internal candidates, we’ll be looking across baseball, and I even have a few names outside of baseball, out-of-the-box ideas.” Stay tuned.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media