O’Conner feted for Diversity Initiative

By Benjamin Hill
Updated: March 25, 2010

NEW YORK — Since taking over as Minor League Baseball’s president in 2007, Pat O’Conner has strived to diversify what has historically been a homogenous industry.

These efforts were formally recognized on Wednesday morning, with the announcement that O’Conner has been named the recipient of this year’s Selig Mentoring Award.

This annual honor was established in 2007 by the McLendon Scholarship Steering Committee, which is comprised of the 15 minority athletic directors currently helming Division 1-A sports programs.

The award is named in recognition of commissioner Bud Selig, who has dedicated himself to creating equal employment opportunities throughout Major League Baseball. Previous recipients include Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and Vince Dooley, former president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.

“To receive anything with the commissioner’s name on it is a tremendous honor for anyone within the game of baseball,” said O’Conner, who will receive the award during a June 23 reception at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel.

“I give [Selig] credit; he named me to [MLB's] Diversity Oversight Committee and that’s what set me on the path to what we are trying to do today in Minor League Baseball.”

Minor League Baseball’s Diversity Initiative was first announced at the 2008 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, with O’Conner vowing to “recruit, hire and advance minorities, as well as develop an open market program to entice minority-owned business participation in the commerce of Minor League Baseball.”

Steps that O’Conner has taken toward this ambitious goal include the establishment of a speakers’ series at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a program designed to inform students of the opportunities available within the industry.

Minor League Baseball has also entered into a partnership with Wendy Lewis, former head of MLB’s “Diverse Business Partners Program,” with the goal of facilitating relationships with minority-owned businesses.

“Pat O’Conner’s dedication to the integration of all levels of Minor League Baseball is truly amazing,” stated Keith Tribble, chair of the McLendon Scholarship Steering Committee.

“The implementation of a diversity initiative as well as his foresight to get involved with HBCU’s with the hopes of further integrating the administrative ranks of Minor League Baseball is right in line with the core values of the McLendon Foundation.”

O’Conner, for his part, took a more modest view of his accomplishments thus far. “I’m humbled, to say the least,” he said.

“It is critically important to establish a process with a solid foundation, something that will produce generational results. To talk about something in theory is great, but now’s the time to put it into practice.”

“We want to change how the game looks.”