Minor League Baseball has placed diversity and inclusion at the forefront of its growth strategy. We strive to create an industry where all identities are represented, welcomed, valued and empowered to enhance our league’s culture, creativity, innovation and comprehensive service to the communities we occupy. We strive to be the most fun and inclusive league in all of sports and entertainment.
The goal of this series is to spotlight the people, programs and stories in the baseball industry that champion diversity and inclusion and advance the mission of Minor League Baseball’s diversity initiative. In recognition of Black History Month, throughout February we will profile a black leader in our industry. This week, we profiled Minor League Baseball’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Belicia Montgomery.
In August 2019, Minor League Baseball hired Belicia Montgomery as its director of diversity and inclusion — a role tasked with helping all 160 MiLB clubs ensure that their front offices and fan bases are as diverse as the communities they call home.
Montgomery started her career in Minor League Baseball as a resident intern with the market strategy and research team. She played a key role in developing the popular Copa de la Diversión Hispanic fan engagement initiative before transitioning into an analytics-focused role, the first of its kind at the Minor League Baseball office. After serving on the diversity committee, she has successfully transitioned into leading the diversity department, charged with guiding an ambitious initiative still in its early stages.
“I come from a research and analytical background, so I tend to be more behind the scenes in projects and efforts. I am a more reserved and introverted person, which I perceive as an advantage. While it is a different leadership style than some may be used to, our clubs and fans can be confident in the work that comes from our department, and can expect that everything we provide to our industry is well-thought-out, researched and most importantly, from the heart,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery pictured with participants from the 2017 FIELD program.
For Montgomery, the most fulfilling part of her new role has come from serving as an educator on culturally specific subject matter.
“It is easy to assume diversity efforts are external efforts only, but so much of our success comes from educating ourselves on the importance of engaging in this space and how it affects our jobs and society. Whenever I get an email saying that something our department presented helped enlighten someone’s perspective or inspire them moving forward, that’s the best feeling,” Montgomery added.
In 2020, MiLB will introduce a campaign centered on the centennial anniversary of the Negro Leagues and black fan engagement. Dozens of teams will partner with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Josh Gibson Foundation to celebrate and raise awareness of the Negro Leagues’ history, and how it has impacted today’s culture within the game.
Montgomery outside the MiLB office wearing the jersey of her hometown club, the Birmingham Barons.
“It is not a secret that baseball lacks a cultural connection to the black community. Despite the history and impact the black community has had on our sport, a lot of that history is unknown. Our intent is to educate and bring awareness to their significant contributions within our sport that shape our game, and our society,” Montgomery said.
While Minor League Baseball clubs historically have held promotional nights recognizing the history and significance the black community has had on baseball, 2020 will see a record number of clubs host game day activations in the largest outreach effort to this segment of the fan base to date.
“I hope our teams can showcase their ballparks as places that welcome their local black communities. Through celebrating the history and impact of the Negro Leagues, I hope they develop lasting relationships. This initiative is much bigger than one game, and I hope teams give back to their communities where it means the most,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery presenting at Moving Diversity Forward during the 2019 Baseball Winter Meetings.
For Montgomery, the initiative is personal. As the most senior-ranking black woman in the national office, she hopes her efforts help pave the way for those who will follow in her footsteps.
“I take pride in honoring what those who came before me went through, for people like me to be in the positions that we are in today,” Montgomery said. “I have a framed jersey in my office that my stepfather gave me that has patches of all the major Negro Leagues teams. It serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go. I’ve always said that I want to leave the world a little better than I found it.”
Benjamin Pereira serves as Specialist, Diversity & Inclusion with Minor League Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.