In this episode of the SLN Podcast, Chad Capellman interviews Tyrone Brooks, Senior Director of the Field Staff Diversity Program at MLB. After twenty years moving up the ladder working as a scout and in the front office for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cleveland Indians, and a formative decade with the Atlanta Braves, Tyrone talks about how the experience of interviewing to become the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers led to his current role working on diversity initiatives for Major League Baseball.

Tyrone shares memories from many stops on his career journey and how he’s working to provide opportunities for others both in both his full-time role as well as through the wildly popular group he created, the Baseball Industry Network.

Podcast Highlights

2:27 – The role of the Front Office and Field Staff Diversity Pipeline Program at Major League Baseball: “It’s really a partnership. Obviously, the commissioner working hand-in-hand with the 30 Major League clubs, really a concerted effort as a whole to try to help in terms of getting more women and persons of color into the baseball operations side of the game, whether it’s the front office or in on-field areas such as scouting or coaching or umpiring. It’s really, truly about that partnership and working together and helping  to identify candidates and put them in front of clubs, really help them to get on the radar as part of this process of making sure that the clubs themselves have a diverse slate of candidates when they go through their process for any positions.”

5:13 – How Tyrone got his start with the Atlanta Braves in 1996: “I came in through a diversity-based program called the Career Initiative Program that was started by Hank Aaron – and just the chance to be a part of the day-to-day in the different aspects of running an actual organization. I mean, I learned a ton in Atlanta. A lot of great people there. Paul Schneider, Dayton Moore, John Schuerholtz, … the general manager there who’s now in the Hall of Fame. There’s a ton of individuals that were willing to basically share and put their energy into me, which is something that I truly appreciate.”

7:02 – Being part of the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Pirates: “I wanted to get back into a front office and be back in the day-to-day of the operation of a baseball operations unit and being a part of something where it also was a chance to really build something from scratch. And the Pirates were coming off of a really tough run. And when I got there in 2010, our first year we lost 105 games. And to see that process of really trying to build something and finally see it all start to come together in 2013, making the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. That was pretty special. And then to have 2013 ’14 and ’15 making the playoffs, all three of those years was something that I truly cherish in terms of being there with that group and how we were able to do some great things.”

8:16 – Interviewing for the Milwaukee Brewers General Manager position: “I kind of gave myself certain goals when I first came in to become a general manager. And to go through that process was something that was pretty incredible. It didn’t quite work out. And David Stearns has done a great job there with the Brewers and that organization. But I’m appreciative of Mark Attanasio, who is the owner of the Brewers, who actually talked to Commissioner Manfred about me. That’s when the opportunity with the diversity pipeline program really kind of came about from there.”

11:00 – Starting the Baseball Industry Network on LinkedIn: “I felt like ‘Let me find a way to see about bringing people together that are passionate about getting into baseball’, but also those that are really already in the industry who may have a willingness to want to help the next generation that are coming behind them. And I remember just thinking about that.  I could see all these people that were joining LinkedIn, but they were just scattered all over the place. There were baseball people in all different facets of it.  I saw there were a couple of different groups that were already on LinkedIn that were baseball-related, but they really didn’t have that professional angle at all. I just felt like, ‘Hey, this is a chance to do this better.”

15:35 – The one great thing about baseball is it is a people business and it’s something that we’re all looking to – “We are all very passionate about getting to know new people. And organizations are always looking for talent and finding individuals that really have the same ideals as them, but also have a good skill set that they can bring to the table. So it’s just a great avenue to bring people together, and you just never know where that one opportunity to network with somebody can open up a door.”

17:34 – How Covid is affecting hiring in baseball: “It’s a tough time in terms of hiring at this stage in the industry as a whole because of the effects of Covid and how that’s all come into play. Teams have been forced to some degree to have to make some serious decisions and some serious cutbacks. You know, the biggest thing I can tell anybody now that’s trying to work in baseball is, you know, keep pushing to keep yourself in position, but also keep looking at how can I make myself an even better candidate going forward. And that’s the big thing. Now, people just keep educating themselves, hopefully still have an opportunity to seize that opportunity to break into the industry.”

20:51 – The impact of the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor: It’s made us all kind of come closer together and really help each other as an organization, as a league. And, you know, it’s part of our job within the office of the commissioner really to be used as a resource for the 30 Major League clubs and support their efforts. A lot of our teams have really pushed different initiatives that they’re putting into play, especially voting. We’re coming up with the election taking place on November 3rd. … Many of our clubs, including my office, have made it a holiday for employees to make sure that we can be involved in one, voting and also potentially volunteering to help at different voting centers throughout to make sure that we’re continuing to push that in order for us to create change is to be involved. So it’s something that we’re all very excited about.”

22:29 – The importance of the Negro Leagues on its 100th anniversary: In order to know where you’re headed, you need to know where you’ve been. And that’s where the Negro Leagues when it started in 1920, that really just opened up an avenue for black business, for players to get a chance to make their way through. … It’s unfortunate that … we didn’t get a chance to really do it up as well as we really would have liked to have done. But it’s something that it’s great that the spirit and the legacy of the league have been continued throughout this year.”

29:31 – When Tyrone started moving from being an up-and-comer to a mentor: It really started right around the time that I was working for the Indians and I was scouting for them. I just felt like right around that time. I just remember a number of people reaching out to me, and that’s why, in terms of creating the Baseball Industry Network, was something I thought was just important. And I just remember during that time period, just so many different people were reaching out. And, you know, one thing I look at is when the Moneyball book came into play, it really itself opened up. Where all these different people that might normally have not even thought about baseball as a career option. All of a sudden wanted to work in baseball and thought it was cool to do it. And all of a sudden it brought so much more demand in terms of people wanting to break into the industry. And then, when you started as a club, the teams themselves started expanding their front offices bigger and bigger. And that’s what really kind of led to the push with bringing people fully in. And also then incorporating data and looking for people with different skill sets. You know, when I first got in, it was so much about if you had played the game for the most part, and then now all of a sudden, that really wasn’t as much of a factor.”