SPORTS

Opinion: Major League Baseball Gets an A in Diversity, but Still Not A Perfect Grade

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 16: Pitcher Roy Halladay (R) of the Philadelphia Phillies and senior vice president and general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. answer questions from the media on December 16, 2009 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 16: Pitcher Roy Halladay (R) of the Philadelphia Phillies and senior vice president and general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. answer questions from the media on December 16, 2009 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)  (2009 Getty Images)

Rubén Amaro Jr. is the face of Latino general managers across professional sports. 

It's not just that he is the most recognizable or the most high-profile Latino in his position, though it’s safe to say he is. It's not that the Philadelphia Phillies general manager could be one of the best GMs – Latino or not – in the business. He is arguably that, too.

Amaro, who has Mexican, Cuban and Jewish roots, is the face of Latino general managers across professional sports because he is, after all, the only one. 

Amaro's status as the lone Latino GM, and other matters of diversity in baseball, were included in the 2011 Race and Gender Report Card for Major League Baseball, which the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida released Thursday. 

The league received an A in race and a B- in gender. The annual report surveys professional sports organizations and “grades” each on its hiring practices. 

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The institute has been issuing the report card since 2004. In 2008, MLB received its first A- grade in race, and it has received an A every year since.

The report’s race grades do not break down race beyond white and non-white. By that measure, the league’s diversity numbers are certainly better than many big businesses in America.

Baseball, more than any other sport, has been a sport about celebrating firsts. The league annually recognizes Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier. And unquestionably, when it comes to Latinos, Major League Baseball leads the way in firsts.

MLB, to be sure, became the first sport to hire a Latino general manager when Omar Minaya got the Montreal Expos' job in 2002. And it became the first major professional sports organization to have a Latino majority owner when Arte Moreno purchased the now Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2003.

Still, Amaro, the second Latino to ever become a general manager, became a lone ranger in the world of GMs following Minaya's dismissal from the New York Mets organization last season. And eight years after Moreno purchased the Angels, he remains the only Latino owner of a major professional team.

True diversity, it would seem, has to be about more than breaking barriers. Having a “first” is wonderful, but a first is not enough if no progress continues from that point.

Consider that more than a quarter of MLB players are Latino (27 percent). In terms of process, players are doing the manual labor. They’re extremely well-paid unionized laborers, but the players are virtually the assembly line crew producing the physical product at the end of the day.

Yet, Latino represention is almost negligible in terms of decision-making and top level management positions in MLB. 

One in 30 general managers. No CEOs. No team presidents. And only 11 out of 274 team vice presidents.

The numbers are underwhelming, for sure, but even more troubling is the lack of progress regarding further diversifying those positions. In 2002, MLB had one Hispanic GM. In 2011, there is still but one.

There are currently 11 Latinos vice presidents with various clubs. That is up from 10 in 2004. However, the total number of vice president positions has jumped from 225 to 247 in that same span.

There has never been a Hispanic team president or CEO, though.

Diversity is about more than the sheer number of people of color an organization employs – it is about having decision-makers that reflect the makeup of the company’s workforce.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports deserves credit for bringing the issue of diversity in sports to the forefront every year, but Major League Baseball still has room for improvement as far as having Latinos in positions of power.

Progress – indeed, embodied in Amaro, Moreno and the dozens of Latino players in the league – is not just about achieving milestones. It is about building on them.

Maria Burns Ortiz is a freelance sports journalist, chair of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Sports Task Force, and a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. Follow her on Twitter: @BurnsOrtiz

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