The Red Sox are breaking new ground, hiring Bianca Smith as a minor league coach. She will be the first Black woman to serve as a professional baseball coach in the history of Major League Baseball, league officials confirmed Thursday.
Smith, 29, will work with the minor league players in Fort Myers, Fla., and her focus will mainly involve position players, a team official said.
“She was a great candidate coming in,” said Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett, who helped spearhead the hire. “She’s had some really interesting experiences and has been passionate about growing her skill set and development herself.”
Robert Lewis Jr., founder of The Base, a Boston-based program with four national locations that provides inner-city youths with both athletic and educational instruction, certainly knows hiring Smith is a milestone.
“I think it’s huge,” Lewis said. “I’m not going to lie to you, a Black woman, I mean, there’s all this symbolism that goes along with it. We all know, the Red Sox being the last team to sign an African-American. The one great thing that I loved about it was, you know, having looked at her credentials, this isn’t just somebody that has experience at the college level, she’s going in competent and qualified.”
Smith comes with a track record: She played softball at Dartmouth College (2010-12), was director of baseball operations and a graduate assistant at Case Western Reserve (2013-17), and served as an assistant coach at the University of Dallas (2018).
Smith’s major league experience goes back to 2017, when she interned for the Texas Rangers in their baseball operations department. She spent time working at Major League Baseball in amateur administration before interning in the Cincinnati Reds baseball operations department.
Smith currently serves as assistant baseball coach and hitting coordinator at Carroll University in Wisconsin, a position she’s held since 2019. Carroll’s head coach, Stein Rear, knows what Smith brings to the table.
“She relates really well to our guys,” Rear said. “She came in, and she got to work and connected with our guys and stole a lot of one-on-one work with them. So she’s built a lot of good relationships with them, which I think is a great quality. She’s highly motivated to continue with her education.”
Now, her education will continue with the Red Sox. Rear describes himself as an old-school baseball guy but said Smith has helped open his eyes to other sides of baseball.
“I’m 45 years old,” Rear said. “So, you know, when she brings in some of that technology, she brings a lot to the table that isn’t necessarily my strength. So it was good to have that piece for us, as well.
“Just from a personality standpoint, she’s a great person, she’s fit right in, you know, there’s been no awkwardness. She fits in just like any other coach would. And it’s been a great opportunity to get to work with her.”
Last season, for the first time in history, MLB had an on-field female coach in the San Francisco Giants’ Alyssa Nakken. A few others were hired as on-field coaches at the minor league level: Rachel Balkovec (New York Yankees), Rachel Folden (Chicago Cubs), and Christina Whitlock (St. Louis Cardinals).
Smith, as a Black woman, breaks a significant barrier.
“It’s a meaningful, meaningful thing for the organization,” Crockett said.
The Red Sox will officially announce Smith’s hire in January. Smith, who has yet to publicly speak about her hiring, may want to be known as just a coach for the Boston Red Sox. But she’ll be more than that.
“Somebody needed to be a pioneer,” Lewis said.
Baseball coach and pioneer. Smith now holds those titles.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.