07/26/2003 1:30 AM ET
Sox build community relationships
Club leads Diverse Business Partners Program
CHICAGO -- Arnold Hennings sat in luxury box No. 407 at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday, looked out at the crowd filing into the park and predicted what would make an already great evening that much more spectacular.
“As long as the Sox win, everything is beautiful,” said Hennings with a laugh. “If they lose, it’s all for naught. We will all go home grumbling.
“But with it being a beautiful night for baseball, this is a great outing either way. That’s the way I look at it.”
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Hennings, who owns Hensal Management Group, was one of 16 minority and women-owned businesses invited to watch Friday’s game, courtesy of the White Sox. They all received business contracts from the team during the All-Star Game, as part of the Diverse Business Partners Program, established by Commissioner Bud Selig in 1998.
From 1999 to 2001, $250 million has been spent through contracts with minorities and women on business through the Major League Baseball initiative.
“We are hoping to surpass that total with our next report coming out in one month or so,” said Wendy Lewis, Major League Baseball’s Vice President of Strategic Planning for Recruitment and Diversity. “We are very happy with the direction it’s going.
“This is a special thank you for what we think is a great opportunity for vendors and franchises. What we are actually celebrating is the networking with previous vendors and the new friends who have joined the organization because of the All-Star Game.”
It didn’t take the All-Star Game festivities to get White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf involved in this program. During the past 23 years, the South Side organization has been one of the best in the league in terms of contacts with minority and women businesses and their hiring.
Reinsdorf serves as co-chair of the Commissioner’s Equal Opportunity Committee. The White Sox deal regularly during the season with approximately 40 minority and women-owned businesses.
“Not only is that his assignment, but he really leads by actions,” said Lewis, who mentioned a number of diversity initiatives are under Reinsdorf’s watch. “This franchise is one of our best-case business models. They get it done at all levels of the organization.”
Reinsdorf believes the policy makes good business sense for the White Sox organization.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Reinsdorf said. “By getting minorities involved in employee capacities or as vendors, obviously, we are giving them an opportunity economically to grow.
“On the other side, when we increase the pool of people where we can purchase goods and services from, we get better products, better quality, better service and better prices than if we limit ourselves. It’s the same that if you have a bigger pool to hire from, there’s a better chance of getting quality.
“We don’t practice set asides or affirmative action,” Reinsdorf added. “It’s all about equal opportunity. If we give everyone an equal chance, then minorities are going to get their business sometime and sometime they won’t get the business.”
On Friday, All-Star businesses ranging from Edge Graphics to Especially for You Gift Baskets to Robinson’s Ribs were represented in the luxury suite. Reinsdorf mingled with the vendors, as did Michael Spidale, the team’s manager of purchasing.
“Mike Spidale has been great and really is causing the program to work,” said Hennings, whose company supplies the White Sox with everything from napkins bearing the team’s insignia to smoked turkey legs for the All-Star Game. “He encouraged most of us to stay involved with the White Sox. This team is setting a precedent for Major League Baseball.”
“This is really a thank you night and celebration night on our end and their end,” Spidale added.
Reinsdorf appreciated Hennings’ sentiments in support of the red-hot White Sox, as they pushed for their eighth straight victory. The chairman appreciates the work provided by the companies over the years even more.
“I always believed it was smart for us to do, and not just from a social standpoint,” Reinsdorf said. “The by-product is that we are helping our community.”
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
“It’s a win-win situation. By getting minorities involved in employee capacities or as vendors,
obviously, we are giving them an opportunity economically to grow. On the other side, when we
increase the pool of people where we can purchase goods and services from, we get better products,
better quality, better service and better prices than if we limit ourselves."
-- Jerry Reinsdorf