Atlanta Braves’ fellowship gives HBCU graduates a seat at the table


May 26, 2022

The program seeks to increase leadership diversity in baseball.

Baseball is one of America’s most cherished pastimes. Once a segregated sport, today nearly 38% of major league players identify as Latino, African American, or Asian. But growth hasn’t happened as quickly at the leadership level, with people of color representing only 15% of vice presidents and 20% of managers, leaving many players feeling underrepresented and voiceless.1

That’s why the Atlanta Braves created their new Henry Aaron Fellowship. The Braves, partnering with Truist, hope to create a more diverse pipeline of future executives, ensuring tomorrow’s baseball is more racially and ethnically diverse and includes more women at all levels of the sport.

The fellowship aligns with Truist’s Homers for Hank initiative, a five-year commitment to the Henry Louis Aaron Fund. For every home run hit by the Atlanta Braves, Truist will donate $755 to the fund, with a minimum total donation of $1 million. The fund will support academic and professional advancement for students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Advancing diversity and inclusion in major league baseball

Hall of Famer Henry “Hank” Aaron was the home run king, breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record with 755 in his career. He played 21 of 23 seasons with the Braves franchise and later worked for the team in management. The fellowship honors Aaron’s dedication to equity and passion for diversity both on and off the field.

The full-time salaried opportunity lasts at least a year, giving fellows the experience and skills needed to join the next generation of executives.

For inaugural fellows Sterling Bright and Zoe Watkins, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could change the trajectory of their careers.

“I’ve always watched sports, so coming here was a no-brainer,” says Watkins. A recent graduate of Spelman College, she studied film with a concentration in sports. The fellowship is designed to help level the playing field when she enters the sports world.

“This fellowship has made a big difference in my life by jump-starting my career. It’s opened many doors when it comes to networking, learning, and just being unapologetically me, especially in the corporate world.”

— Zoe Watkins

For Bright—a lifelong sports and Braves fan—working alongside executives like CEO Derek Schiller is a dream come true.

Bright graduated from Florida A&M University in the summer of 2020 with his bachelor’s degree in journalism, but after securing a job as a reporter, he realized he wanted to work in the business of baseball.

“My dream now is to become a CEO, become a GM, something of that caliber in the world of baseball or just in sports in general,” says Bright.

Investing in equity on and off the field

For Truist, investing in HBCUs is a strategic approach to advancing equity. While only 3% of all colleges and universities are HBCUs, they enroll 10% of all African American students. Many of the top-performing professionals of color across industries graduated from an HBCU.2

“My HBCU experience prepared me to cultivate my way through an industry that’s not necessarily diverse,” says Watkins.

While she’s excited to gain in-office work experience, Watkins is most proud of carrying on Hank Aaron’s legendary work as inspiration for others. “It is truly an honor to be a representation of little Black girls who look just like me. I am more than happy to be the face in this industry.”

That representation comes with more responsibility. “Growing diversity in baseball is so important because there are players on the field who look like us, but then in the offices, the people sometimes don’t look like us,” says Bright.

Building on Aaron’s legacy, Truist and the Atlanta Braves are committed to leading the charge for change in the business of baseball.

Did you know?

Truist Wealth provides specialty services to pro athletes, team owners and executives, and sports agents. Learn more about our specialty expertise.

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Hear more from Sterling Bright and Zoe Watkins

“The 2021 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball,” TIDES, April 15, 2021.
“The Numbers Don’t Lie: HBCUs Are Changing the College Landscape,” UNCF, accessed October 27, 2021.