Fellowship opens door for work with Major League Players union


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A passionate supporter of Major League Baseball, Sophia Ruff in 2019 worked for the nonprofit, “More Than a Game” that establishes youth baseball and English programs around the world. Working in Envigado, a city in the municipality of Medellín, Colombia, she taught English to the Envigado Cubs little league team.

“Baseball is unique for its international reach in Latin America and the Caribbean compared to the other major professional sports in the United States,” she says. 

“About half of the kids on the team were Venezuelan whose families had decided to leave Venezuela for better lives in Colombia. I had the opportunity to see how baseball can impact the lives of the kids there and how it presents new opportunities to study and to travel and see more of the world. It’s really special the way baseball can inspire kids around the world and enhance their lives and their families' lives.

“I loved teaching English. I think if I were not a lawyer, I would teach English as a second language,” she adds. “My favorite thing was getting to see the kids in my classes—they were so sweet and fun. I also got to watch all of the games for the Cubs and that was a highlight. And I got the see a lot of the city—Medellín is really beautiful.”

And so this past summer’s work with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) in New York City was a dream come true for this Michigan State University College of Law 3L student, a 2022 recipient of a Fellowship through the Peggy Browning Fund, a prestigious organization in labor law. 

“I’m very proud I got a Peggy Browning Fellowship—and even better, it was with the MLBPA,” Ruff says. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the MLBPA—it’s been a great experience for me to learn about advocating for players and to learn about international baseball operations. I had the chance to work in person in the New York City office and be mentored by the exceptional team of labor lawyers.

“Coming from Fowler­ville, a small town close to East Lansing, I’m so thankful I’ve had the chance to see Medellín and New York City!” 

Last year Ruff—who like her parents earned her undergrad degree from MSU—spent 6 months interning with the Michigan Association of Governmental Employees (MAGE) Local 2002 in Lansing, mentored by Labor Relations Counsel Peter Neu, and learning about labor law, union law, and arbitration. Her experience and knowledge from this position opened the door for the MLBPA work.

A member of the MSU Law Sports and Entertainment Law Society, Ruff also is an associate editor on the MSU Law Review. 

“This has been a great part of law school because I spend time with my classmates and get to know them outside of a classroom setting. The journal is student run, so there is excellent teamwork, every member contributes to the final product,” she says. “It’s a lot of work, but is worth it. Being on Law Review has also helped my research skills and writing skills.”

During her 2L year, she enjoyed serving as a peer mentor to 1L students. 

“I’m the first in my family to get a graduate degree, so I know entering the world of law school and the legal field can be intimidating and I was happy to help first year students enter law school with confidence,” Ruff says.



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