Corey Smith shares how Major League Baseball is seeking to embrace diversity

via MLB

Major League Baseball has struggled with its image of being a league that lacks diversity on and off the field. But the MLB is seeking to become a league that highlights inclusion with players and upper-management.

The MLB recently held its Winter Diversity Summit at the Gaylord National Resort in Maryland. Corey Smith, Senior Director of Supplier Diversity and Strategic Sourcing, spoke about the MLB’s diversity goals for 2017.

What were the primary goals for this year’s Major League Baseball Winter Diversity Summit?

It was important for us to start to inject some diversity into the winter meetings. It’s a great time for us to try to take care of some things off season for next season. This is where a lot of the Major League clubs are buying all of the things that they are going to need for next season. It was a great opportunity for us to invite some diverse suppliers to interact with the clubs to see if there were any opportunities for them to sell their goods of services to MLB for next year. We had a great time and it worked out really well.

How do you ensure that diversity remains a priority for Major League Baseball? 

I mean it definitely is, it’s one of the business imperatives of the organization. We, as a league, we are a corporate member of all of the diverse organization and advocacy groups out there so we are corporate members of the national minority supplier development council. The Black Chamber, Hispanic Chamber, Parisian Chamber, and this year we joined the NGLC (National Gay and Lesbian Chamber) and all of those organizations are great resources to help us find suppliers for all the different categories that we are looking for. So whether it’s facility-related, printing companies, design services, or technology companies, we utilize those organizations to help us from their databases find different companies that we potentially then allow big opportunities for us. This is something we do year-round and it’s an important initiative for us.

How can diverse companies begin to create business connections with the MLB? 

It’s about you being a good company, you having a quality product, you having the best price, and having a good of service we need. Diversity is almost secondary to the conversation. Either you are a viable financially sound company or you’re not. For us, it’s something as simple as we have a registration portal where you can sign up and put yourself in a database where we are looking for suppliers, we can search that database to find out who you are, where you are, and for us that’s at  Through those same organizations that I mentioned earlier, we spent a lot of times going to their conferences and sourcing some of the best business out there. For us also what’s important is local business initiatives. So again, with the 30 Major League teams, we try to be good neighbors. It’s important to do business in the cities in which we operate because those are the people that come to the baseball games. We have a great local business initiative and we work in those cities and partner with the cities to get supplies that we need on a variety of levels.

You’ve done some work with NBC Universal and Columbia University. What kind of lead you into your path?

I started out in basic purchasing. I was buying stuff on behalf of the various companies I worked for. It’s math. You have to have an analytic mind because you’re always looking at trying to realize and get the best total cost of the value and the total cost of the dollar you are trying to spend. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and about half way through, someone introduced me to the concept of supplier diversity. I’m African-American and I get to help my company by saving them a whole bunch of money and I also get to help people of color and women. For me, it’s really about the economic impact. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

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