Scholarship Was Steppingstone To Baseball Dream

ELAINE STEWARD'S family was passionate about baseball - a passion that led to Ms. Steward's profession. Growing up, she followed the Mets devotedly from her home in Queens, attended a life-changing seminar on job opportunities in major-league baseball at age 16, and landed a job in the majors soon after college and a law degree.

As an assistant general manager for the Boston Red Sox, she works with the general manager on negotiating and writing player contracts, hammering out salaries with players' agents. Even with the current baseball strike, Steward is busy researching players.

As a woman, she's definitely a minority in baseball. As a black woman, she's a rarity indeed.

In a Monitor interview, Steward says she owes much of her success to the Jackie Robinson scholarship she received after graduating from high school. Besides from the financial assistance the Jackie Robinson Foundation supplies to minority students, it ``doesn't forget its involvement with you after you graduate,'' Steward says. When she moved to Boston, people from the Foundation were among the first to contact her, helping her know of others she could get in touch with.

She's now on the board of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a nonprofit group founded in 1973 by Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow. With offices in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Stamford, Conn., the foundation will likely receive more than 10,000 applications. It will award from 25 to 35 scholarships, some of which will pay up to $5,000 a year toward tuition.

Does a scholarship named for the man who broke the ``color bar'' in modern baseball help you get a job in the majors? According to Foundation Director Emma Roberson, not necessarily. ``We have doctors, lawyers, engineers, psychologists, teachers, as well as people in the baseball field. Students choose a variety of fields to go into.''

Besides sponsoring scholarships, Steward says, the foundation ``provides a network of support for students throughout their four years, and passes along information about job opportunities.''

Steward has a degree in athletic administration and a law degree from St. John's University in Washington. Before she got a job in the Red Sox organization, she worked for the New York Mets and the baseball commissioner's office as an intern. During the eighth month of her yearlong internship at the commissioner's office, the Red Sox called with a job opening. Steward was soon on her way to Boston.

Before Steward arrived, however, she had some concerns. She was aware that the Red Sox had been the last major-league team to integrate, in 1958. But that didn't stop her.

``I wasn't going to let it stand in my way of taking advantage of the opportunity that was presented to me,'' she says. ``Things have worked out extremely well for me.''

Her advice to young people who want to follow in her footsteps is to take advantage of internships. They are ``an excellent way of gaining experience and being seen, and meeting people. Try to diversify yourself educationally as well. I had a undergrad degree in sports management, but I took as many business credits as I could.''

* Jackie Robinson scholarships, c/o Emma Roberson, 3 West 35th St., 11th floor, New York, NY 10001.

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