The Elon alumnus, who studied sport management and Spanish, is finishing up his first season as the player education and cultural development coordinator for the MLB organization.
As the 2020 Major League Baseball season reached its final stretch, with a new world champion crowned this week, Elon alumnus Andrew Scarlata ’19 was in the midst of wrapping up his second full season with the Washington Nationals organization, and completing his first as the coordinator of player education and cultural development.
Scarlata’s role within the MLB organization is to serve as a mentor to international players, largely Latino players, using platforms and programs to teach English, U.S. culture, professional development and the game of baseball.
“I keep track of their progress and set goals for them within the Rosetta Stone program and also their high school platform, if they are enrolled,” Scarlata said. “Many international players in professional baseball drop out of high school to sign with a team, and we encourage players to utilize our formalized education program to finish their high school education once they sign with us.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic halting action across baseball this spring, Scarlata and the Nationals had to adapt, changing face-to-face education to a virtual environment.
“We got innovative and used Zoom, Google Forms and WhatsApp to get content and instruction out to the team,” Scarlata said. “They continued to progress in both Rosetta Stone and their high school programs. Our players were very productive during quarantine and Rosetta Stone graduations are up over 200% from last year.”
The Elon alumnus, who double majored in sport management and Spanish, first joined the organization as a player development intern, but saw an opportunity for the franchise to improve its cultural development efforts last season.
“At the time, the Nationals did not have anyone in the role of education and cultural development, so I saw an opportunity and began to take on extra responsibility during the internship to work with our international players and help them better adapt to U.S. culture,” Scarlata said.
His proposal to create his position totaled 72 pages, and was approved right before the Nationals won their first world championship over the Houston Astros, vaulting Scarlata into a brand-new role within the organization at their highest moment.
With that, Scarlata has been able to see real progress in the program’s first year.
“We recently celebrated three of our Dominican Summer League players’ graduation from high school as part of our formal education program,” Scarlata said. “Their families are incredibly proud, and they are now better positioned for life during and after baseball because of their education level. It isn’t as common to graduate high school in the Dominican Republic as it is here in the United States, so to have this opportunity and also be able to pursue a career in baseball is a big deal for these young men.”
At Elon, Scarlata’s journey to the world of professional baseball started almost immediately, and he traveled to the Dominican Republic with Assistant Professor Mark Cryan during his freshman year. During a three-week Winter Term course, titled Business of Baseball and Tourism in the Dominican Republic, two dozen students examined issues relating to neo-colonialism, globalization and, of course, baseball while traveling in the Caribbean nation.
“We visited some MLB academies there, and I remember wanting to learn more,” Scarlata said. “So, I spent the following summer with the Kansas City Royals as a summer intern in the Dominican Republic. That was followed by three more internships in baseball. I don’t think I would have had these opportunities anywhere else.”
Scarlata’s internships spanned the country and the continent, from the Kansas City Royals academy in the Dominican Republic and the Royals’ Advanced Rookie League affiliate in Idaho Falls, Idaho, to Major League Baseball headquarters in New York City. Scarlata said the Elon faculty played a significant role in facilitating these real-world opportunities.
“The faculty in sport management is amazing, and they deserve more recognition. I bonded with all of those professors immensely, and they all taught me different lessons about life,” Scarlata said. “I would not be where I am today without my adviser and second father, Dr. Cryan, who has supported me since my first semester at Elon.”
Just last week, Scarlata paid it forward, serving as the keynote speaker for the Sport Management Department’s fall internship forum, sharing his insights with nearly 70 current students.