Charley Pride Fellowship brings colorful representation to Major League Baseball front offices

:Roland Parrish is flanked by Charley Pride fellows. – Photo courtesy of the Parrish Charitable Foundation

 

By DIANE XAVIER

The Dallas Examiner

 

When the name of the late American country music legend Charley Frank Pride comes to mind, he is often associated with hit country music songs such as Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’, Is Anybody Going to San Antone and Mountain of Love.

Pride, who died at the age of 86 on Dec. 12, 2020 due to COVID-19, will be remembered for more than just his strong singing voice. The singer was also known as a great athlete, leader and serviceman.

His versatile legacy lives on through the Texas Rangers Baseball Club who recently honored Pride’s legacy by teaming up with local businessman and philanthropist Roland Parrish, a 30-year franchisee owner of McDonald’s Corporation.

Parrish has been working with the Rangers to help increase minority representation in the front offices of Major League Baseball through the establishment of the Charley Pride Fellowship Program.

“I didn’t know he was such an avid baseball fan and that he actually played in the Negro Leauge.” Parrish admitted. “I always respected his music and what he accomplished.”

Through the Parrish Charitable Foundation, Parrish committed to sponsor a four-year fellowship for $250,000. In honor of Pride, a 10-week paid internship will be reserved for a student enrolled in a Historically Black College or University – beginning this year through 2024, according to a press release by the Texas Rangers Baseball Club.

Parrish, who opened his first restaurants in Pleasant Grove on Juneteenth in 1989, said he is proud to be involved with this initiative.

“I’ve been fortunate through hard work, luck to grow to 26 locations,” Parrish said. “The Texas Rangers actually reached out to me about the program, and … it is a grand slam and I decided let’s give it a go. One of the things my foundation tries to focus on is providing opportunities for the youth. It would like for it to be Black minorities, minorities of color, but in the end we want it to be things that we do good for the youth. So typically, our focus is to try to create an opportunity for youth to live the American dream, and so this to me fit those categories – a great group to work with.”

Ray Casas, director of Community Impact for the Texas Rangers, explained the importance of honoring Pride.

“Charley Pride was the only name that came to mind when I started creating this program,” Casas stated. “He was alive and originally the program was to be launched on his 87th birthday on March 18, 2021. My only regret is that we couldn’t have him with us because he died from COVID-19 complications on Dec. 12, 2020.

“He was a courageous man, a trailblazer in country music and a major league baseball owner. He set the bar high. We are honoring him to send a message to young people who have an interest in working in major league baseball, that there is a place for them. We want them to follow in Charley Pride’s footsteps and be a success.”

Casas went on to explain that finding the right person to sponsor the fellowship was the biggest hurdle of the time-consuming project. He said Parrish offered counsel and advice to our young fellows. He went on to state that it was something special for someone with Parrish’s measured success to step up to continue to show his support for young men and women.

Karin Morris, senior vice president of Community Impact and executive director of the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation the purposer and leadership of the fellowship.

“When Ray created the program in 2020, social justice was an issue,” Morris said. “The question was what can we do in our corner of the world to make a difference? When Charley Pride came to owners meetings, he said that he wanted to do something to change MLB to be more diverse. He knew that a diverse voice is important. Charley Pride became a Texas Rangers Baseball Club Owner in 2010. He came to spring training every year and performed. We talked about honoring his legacy and Roland Parrish is a committed fan of the Texas Rangers. It’s a great opportunity when diverse students see a sponsor like Roland. We wanted the students to be involved and engaged with leaders in the business world.”

Parrish, who has a rich sports background himself, believed it was important to make this investment for future generations.

“I am, I guess like most kids – you want to be a good athlete before growing up, so there would be basketball. But I finally found that my gift was in track and field, and so I became what you call a record setting high school half-a-miler,” Parrish said. “In the 70’s, I got a full scholarship to Purdue University, like I said as a scholar athlete, was on the dean’s list, and was two time captain and MVP myself on senior year of track team, made it to three NCAA finals. I just think that I wasn’t a natural athlete but I worked hard at it. Working hard is related to my business. … I have worked hard through the years to grow the business as I worked hard as an athlete.”

When asked why it was important that we have minority representation in MBL front offices, Parrish reflected on the scriptures of the Bible

“In Luke 12:48, it states, ‘Too much is given, much is required,’ Parrish said. “So I know I have a responsibility to help people and I talked about how I like to give scholarships to the youth from fifth graders on. Here, we are looking at individuals that some of them are working on their masters degree, at the collegiate level. We know that Major League Baseball but also all of the professional sports are lacking in the front office. There is talent out there but a lot of times they don’t have the exposure, they don’t have the relationships, they don’t have the connection so with this they get the exposure, they get to build the relationship with the Texas Rangers, it goes on their resume and out of the six students that we have, in total I committed to four years and that comes out to 24 students. There will be two from HBCUs and to me, I am doing my part, my fair share of creating opportunity in this area which is lacking as far as minorities.”

Parrish said that the three years he spent in business school was his first time interacting with Corporate America. It was a differenct culture and provided more opporunities and money in his pockets – not at all like the “America” that he grew up in.

As a mentor, he shared advise that he offers many youth on how can they fulfill their vision.

“I say one, not to be too biblical but probably, stay on your knees, be humble, work hard, respect people, build relationships, and of those points, probably the one I would say is first would be to work hard and to respect people, build relationships. So I went from five to three and if there is really one, it is you really have to work hard which means you got to study, you got to prepare yourself, and you have to have the fortitude to come back when you fail,” Parrish said. “My one and only application to McDonald’s is to become a franchisee, was rejected. And I still have that letter to remind me of that rejection, and I was able to persevere, build relationships to get into the program.”

Jordan Thomas, one of the fellowship recipients, said he planned to graduate with a master’s degree in Sports Business from Temple University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in May 2022.

During his fellowship, he worked with the Philadelphia baseball club in Baseball Operations, Partnerships and Marketing Departments.

“I knew I had to do this fellowship program because I want to make some positive changes to the Major League Baseball industry and provide opportunities for people that look like me,” Thomas said. “Charley Pride led an amazing life. I learned a lot from this fellowship, and I feel like I’m walking away with three years of experience in just 10 weeks. In Baseball Operations, the biggest thing for me was prepping for the Major League Baseball Draft. In Partnerships, there was a common theme that sent a strong message about connecting with the right people and about being able to put the right systems in place for all to benefit. Marketing was all about technical and marketing skills. I was introduced to coding. It was an honor to meet our fellowship sponsor Roland Parrish. It’s a good feeling when you see a Black man that has reached his level of success and is willing to create opportunities for others to do so. I like the fact that Roland Parrish is a self-made man, who impacts other people’s lives. He is a man of few words, but powerful words. Ray Casas’ leadership during the fellowship program was incredible. He dove in to make the program interesting, fun and exciting. Karen Morris was great too.

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