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ABCA's Diversity Committee Forms Professional Development Group

The American Baseball Coaches Association diversity committee, chaired by Southern coach Kerrick Jackson, has formed the Frank Robinson Baseball Coaches Association. The FRBCA has the dual mission of providing professional development for minority coaches at all levels of the game and serving as a clearinghouse to recommend qualified minority candidates in job searches.

Minority coaches are underrepresented at all levels of baseball, and especially in the college game. Only about 10% of Division I head coaches are minorities, while minority players make up about 20% of the sport. Minorities are better represented in professional baseball, but there again are a smaller percentage of coaches than players.

When TIDES, a diversity and ethics institute based out of the University of Central Florida, earlier this year released its 2019 NCAA Racial and Gender Report Card, which grades both racial and gender hiring practices across the NCAA, the report had harsh words for college baseball.

“Collegiate baseball has shown repeatedly that improving representation from a coaching standpoint is not a priority,” the report stated.

The newly formed FRBCA hopes it can help improve the diversity of the coaching ranks.

“We’re looking to provide more opportunities for minority coaches to get into the game at various levels—college, professional and high school, because I believe that’s an entry level,” Jackson said. “If we can get them in at that level, they can matriculate up.”

The ABCA’s diversity committee was formed about two years ago after a podcast hosted by Jeremy Sheetinger, then the ABCA’s college division liaison, with Northwestern coach Spencer Allen, Jackson and Florida International coach Mervyl Melendez. The podcast sparked more discussion and the creation of the committee.

After a lot of work to sort through a multitude of challenges faced by minorities in baseball and ideas to address them, Jackson’s committee is working toward some solutions. The FRBCA will focus on professional development and networking for minority coaches. Another branch of the diversity committee is working more at the grassroots level to help increase the number of minority players in the game.

The FRBCA is being led by its own committee, including Jackson. He is joined by Tyrone Brooks, the senior director of MLB’s front office and field staff diversity pipeline program; D.C. Girls Baseball coach Bonnie Hoffman; Richard Kanter, an agent with Kanter Sports; San Diego State coach Mark Martinez and Oregon State senior associate athletic director Kimya Massey.

When the group was forming, they wanted to honor a trailblazer in the coaching field and selected Robinson, the first Black manager in MLB. Brooks met Robinson a few years ago before his death in 2019 and was able to work with the Robinson family to get permission to use his name.

“After he passed away, his daughter Nichelle was very open and allowed us to use his name in honor of his accomplishments as a barrier breaker,” Brooks said. “We looked for someone who had done something from that side and what he did with the Indians was important but also what he meant to industry and as a man.”

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The FRBCA created a LinkedIn group to help minority coaches network within the game and offers services like resume reviews. They also hope to be able to offer assistance to any athletic director or farm director who has a job opening and wants a diverse candidate pool but isn’t sure who might be a fit.

“Once we get a resume, we collect all we can, look them over, talk about ways to clean it up, shorten it up so they appeal to ADs or field coordinators or HS ADs, whoever it is,” Jackson said. “We want to develop our own minority search firm so when these jobs open the ADs call us and see who they have  because they’re looking to add a coach and they know we have this bank of names. Some coaches may see a job and ask us for help.

“It’s in its infancy stages so far. We don’t know yet what it’ll look like holistically.”

Brooks does some similar work in his day job (though there is no direct connection between MLB and the FRBCA) and is looking forward to being able to help provide resources and instruction to people in amateur baseball.

“We’re looking to create a true platform that will provide tools for individuals in coaching community assist them moving forward in their careers, put them in a position to be successful,” Brooks said. “The great thing is there are a lot of very talented people throughout the baseball community. We want to bring them to light in terms of the masses knowing who they are, what they’ve been doing.”

There were fewer job openings than normal this year due to the pandemic, with just 12 head coach openings created. There recently had been about three times as many as that in a typical year and when the job market heats up again, the FRBCA will be ready to provide assistance to any school that has an opening.

“We think this can grow into something pretty powerful,” Jackson said. “If we’re serious about wanting to increase minority participation, let’s start with coaches. If players see more people that look like them then we potentially can get more players in there.”

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