The Big Score: African-American Vendors and Major League Baseball Team Up to Form a Winning Combination. (Sports)

Article excerpt

WHEN Ed Robinson opened his printing company 24 years ago, he had no idea that hundreds of thousands of people would be seeing--and using--his work on a regular basis, and he certainly didn't think that his efforts would be an essential part of Major League Baseball.

For the past 15 years, Robinson, owner of Robinson Graphics in New York, has been one of the minority vendors who supply a variety of goods and services to make sure that the national pastime continues to be a fan favorite. If fans want to know the date, time and location of a game, they have Robinson to thank because he is responsible for producing wall-size and pocket-size schedules for each team. Additionally, during playoff time, he produces media guides that include valuable information about participating teams.

"This year I produced 200,000 schedules," says Robinson, who began his association with baseball by producing confidential directories, complimentary passes and the rules and regulations that were posted in the clubhouses. "The people at Major League Baseball have been with me year after year. I've given them my all, and in return they have come back and given me whatever work they can."

Baseball's Diverse Business Partners program, which invites minority-owned and women-owned businesses to "step up to the plate," is one of the most respected programs of its kind in the sports industry. And the program was strengthened recently when Major League Baseball signed individual partnership agreements with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Those agreements provide Major League Baseball access to national and local minority-owned and women-owned business information that enhances baseball's objective of diversity.

"By partnering with NMSDC and WBENC, we've created conduits through which Major League Baseball can effectively build these business relationships and provide our clubs with access to specialized knowledge and resources that support the league's efforts," says Wendy Lewis, vice president, strategic planning for recruitment and diversity for Major League Baseball. "Through these agreements, Major League Baseball's Diverse Business Partners program continues to evolve and grow, and serve as a working model for all professional sports."

During the program's existence minority vendors have included a wide range of participants, including those who provide catering, uniforms for front-office staff, event planning, moving services, media relations and marketing services. …