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Black woman breaks barrier as first MLB coach

Bianca Smith joins Red Sox after stint as assistant coach

Morgan C. Mullings
Staff reporter covering state and local politics. Report for America Corps Member. VIEW BIO
Black woman breaks barrier as first MLB coach

The Red Sox have hired Bianca Smith as their new minor league coach, making her the first Black woman to coach in major league baseball. The Red Sox announced the decision Jan. 5, making baseball history.

The 29-year-old has a law degree and an MBA, along with a lifelong love for the game. Though she’s seen success as an athlete and a coach, her career is spotted with a few naysayers.

“Unfortunately, it is a little bit harder for women, because even though it’s changing in the game, there is still this idea that you need some kind of playing experience,” Smith said during an introductory call with press. She remembers a coach who dismissively said she’d be hired as a cook after graduating, and another who said her team would lose because of her — but these moments were overshadowed by overwhelming support from her players and staff.

Smith is quick to remind challengers that she played club baseball and played softball at Dartmouth College. She later interned with the MLB corporate offices, the Cincinnati Reds and the Texas Rangers. Her most recent position as assistant coach and hitting coordinator at Carroll University in Wisconsin sharpened her skills in the analytics of baseball. She was also assistant coach at the University of Dallas shortly before that.

Throughout her journey in the game, Smith set her sights on becoming a general manager one day, and said she didn’t consider coaching. Recently, Kim Ng became the first woman general manager in the MLB, hired by the Miami Marlins in November of 2020.

“I think part of that is representation. I’ve never seen another Black woman coaching, especially in baseball. So it just never crossed my mind that that might be an opportunity. It was always people in the front office,” Smith said.

As a minor league coach, not only will she be guiding the team, she will also prepare players who may eventually enter the major league. Eventually Smith wants to become a major league manager.

“I want to learn as much as I can and get to that role,” she said.

Smith says that women like her who grow up loving the game may not choose it as a career path because they don’t see themselves on screen or in the offices. Joining the Red Sox could be the start of more interest in the sport, for women of all ages.

“I think that’s going to be the first step, really just letting them have the idea that this is a potential career path for them,” Smith said. “If the result of this position is also that more women, more people in general, are inspired to consider this as a position or at least try to get into the game, and get more interest, that’d be great.”

Smith’s journey to the Red Sox was a short one. Within a month of hearing about the opportunity she was hired.

“I didn’t even get a chance to tell my parents I was even talking with the Red Sox, let alone that I had interviews or a chance to visit for the position,” she said.

Her biggest obstacle now is getting to know everyone and preparing for her minor league debut amid COVID-19 limitations.

Smith will be based in Fort Myers, Florida, working with players at a Red Sox player development complex.