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Former Baseball Player Doug Glanville Opens Up About Race, Sports During a Pandemic, and His Transition to a New Career

This ex-baseball player is using his background to bring understanding and advocate for change.

  • Who: Doug Glanville, age 49
  • Occupation: Baseball analyst and ex-MLB player
  • Where: Bloomfield, Conn.

What was your path to becoming a baseball analyst? When I was playing, I always had a good relationship with the press and was fascinated by their work—and I love writing. So it made sense when my career ended in 2005 that I would explore commentary. I was writing a column in the New York Times called “Head for Home” that explored life in baseball. Eventually, I got noticed by other national media, and ESPN hired me. I believed I could have a voice on the social aspect of sports. I saw a purpose behind it, driven by change and advocacy and understanding.

You’re also teaching a college course on sports? For a few years, I was working on this content about sports and society. Three years ago, I taught at the University of Pennsylvania, my alma mater, and now I teach a sports management/education course at the University of Connecticut. It has helped me to see the next generation and how they think and talk, and to learn from them. But it has also helped me see an expansion of the spaces where sports play a significant role.

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And now, at this moment, is the convergence of everything I’ve worked on and have been passionate about, because there are no sports to cover and we’ve had to look at sports in a different way. So it has given me a platform. I have an academic background, I have the media side, I was a player—and I grew up in communities that were diverse and worked toward solutions. With all of that coming together, as horrible as the pandemic is, it’s a good time for me to amplify that voice.

You recently created and narrated a video essay for ESPN about the death of George Floyd, called “Enough.” How did that come about? In this rare moment after the death of George Floyd, ESPN said, “Do you want to take a crack at this?” Remember, there has been a lot of pushback saying that you should stick to sports when you’re covering sports. But I’ve never stuck to sports, for multiple reasons—one of which was that I grew up in Teaneck, N.J., where I witnessed a commitment to an inclusive society, one that voluntarily desegregated in the ’60s. I saw too many examples of the importance of dialogue and communication and actually using sports to figure out a way to bring people together.

Do you think America has turned a corner? I think we see a corner. I don’t know if we’ve turned it. In the positive sense, I see sports at its best as a great example for our country to be a better team and better teammates. Sports also has equity—it tries to fight for rules that are equal for both teams and players, and that’s a good example for our country as it thinks about fairness.

How do you see the baseball season playing out? I’m skeptical that sports are going to make it this year. I just don’t see how they won’t have setbacks and outbreaks. I hope I’m wrong. I guess my question is, 'When we get back to sports, will we get comfortable again?' I’m trying to make sure we continue to celebrate baseball, or sports in general, as an avenue of constructive engagement to address social issues.

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