Last March, Emily Glass PO ’15 got a call from the Miami Marlins. The Major League Baseball team had a vision for the future of its program and wanted Glass to be a key component.
While traveling for her Watson Fellowship after graduation, Glass, who played softball while attending Pomona College, had the opportunity to work with the MLB for the first time.
She researched baseball player development programs and philosophies in six countries: as a baseball coach for Little League Japan, as an intern for the MLB in the Dominican Republic and while playing baseball in Australia and Curaçao. She also conducted research in Puerto Rico and Chile.
Glass’ experiences around the world led her to realize that building an education program for a professional baseball team was her next career goal.
“Baseball is a very small world,” Glass said. “One day I got a call from the Marlins, after the team was bought by Derek Jeter, Bruce Sherman and a group of 11 owners. They were looking to build a program, and I eventually got the opportunity to work with a really great team there.”
For the past year, Glass has overseen the Marlins’ education programs in their player development department. The initiative prepares players for both on- and off-the-field success in a variety of areas.
Glass teaches her players life skills such as community service outreach, leadership, media preparation, public speaking, cooking and budget management. Perhaps the biggest piece of the education program, however, is its focus on language and communication.
“Our goal is to become the first bilingual professional sports team in the world,” Glass said.
While about half of MLB teams have begun teaching Spanish to English-speakers, the Marlins have garnered the most attention, perhaps due to the former Yankee star Jeter’s involvement.
More than 30% of professional baseball players are Latino, so Glass’ program teaches Spanish to the franchise’s rookies, specifically the catchers, who need to be able to communicate effectively with Latino pitchers. Additionally, all international players begin to learn English from the moment they enter the Marlins’ system.
“What’s so important from a language perspective is just having our team truly be able to communicate and work together,” Glass said. “The power to have strong relationships really needs that foundation of communication.”
Jeter has been extremely supportive of the Marlins’ education initiatives, according to Glass. He is a partial owner of the team, but also the CEO of the franchise.
The goals of Jeter’s personal foundation, “Turn 2,” directly coincide with those of the Marlins’ player development system. During his rookie season with the Yankees in 1996, Jeter created the foundation with his father to encourage high school students to lead healthier lifestyles.
“Education has always been a core value for him,” Glass said. “He and our entire leadership team have really helped bring the program to fruition.”
In developing the program, Glass said she has drawn upon her athletic and educational experiences at Pomona, where she majored in public policy analysis and played for the Pomona-Pitzer team.
“What we’re trying to teach these guys is how to compete,” Glass said. “My experience playing softball at Pomona and playing softball prior to that really helps me connect with them.”
Glass said Pomona’s academic style served as inspiration for her when she began to plot out the program’s structure and curriculum — particularly its interdisciplinary nature.
Glass said she does not teach classes with more than 12 players in the room. Often, classes only have five to six students. She said she valued the benefits of small class sizes at Pomona, and her choice to incorporate this style into the Marlins’ program is modeled after that experience.
As for further development, Glass mentioned several projects that are in-the-works for the Marlins, who are in the midst of a full roster rebuild.
Glass said she wants to take the program on the road. The Marlins are starting to invest in “affiliate language labs,” so that when minor league players are on road trips, they will have access to computers where they can continue their education.
Another aspiration relates to community service.
“We have a goal that this year, every player in our organization will complete one community service event per month,” Glass said. “We’re trying to build a fan base in Miami, and we’ve seen that when our community members meet our players, that’s when they become fans.”