There have been interviews on NBC’s Today Show and CBS This Morning, and Zoom interviews galore.

All for a minor league hitting coach.

Red Sox minor league coach Bianca Smith. Tribune News Service photo

But Bianca Smith is not your everyday baseball coach.

Smith, 29, was recently hired by the Boston Red Sox, becoming the first African-American woman to coach in professional baseball.

The Red Sox usually do not officially announce their minor league coaches until all staffs for each team are complete – for example, Boston has not announced who the 2021 Sea Dogs manager is – but when word leaked out about Smith, the Red Sox made her available for interviews last week.

Smith obviously brings diversity to the coaching staff – a positive step in itself – but the mistake is to discount Smith’s abilities. The Red Sox have a history of hiring young, smart, talented people (I seem to remember a 28-year-old general manager hired in 2002).

Smith knew her hiring was unique, but she did not expect the nationwide attention.

“It’s honestly still surreal. When I accepted the offer, I really just wanted to coach,” Smith said.

It’s all Smith ever wanted to do since she was a Dartmouth College student, first working with the softball team, and then the baseball team. When an injury cut short her softball career, she still wanted to be part of the game.

“I got to stay involved, still helping the coaches with video and analysis,” she said. “I got to work with the coaches, and I also played for the club baseball team.”

After Dartmouth, doors did not fly open for Smith. She enrolled at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland – where she earned both a Masters of Business Administration and a law degree – and contacted head baseball coach Matt Englander. He offered a volunteer job, creating a “director of baseball operations” position for her.

That’s how Smith has pushed her way into the game, making contacts and good impressions.

“I’ll admit in some cases, it was kind of sneakily getting my way in,” she said. “It started with Case Western, starting on the director of baseball operations side, then gradually started doing analysis, then gradually started doing more stats, started evaluating our outfielders; at some point, before I realized it, our head coach said, ‘here’s your uniform, you’re on the coaching staff.’ ”

Smith began making contacts with pro teams – “it was cold emailing instead of cold calling.” She interned with the Texas Rangers, in the baseball operations department. The Rangers sent her to the MLB scouting school, where she soaked up information on analyzing players. She interned with the Reds front office, but made sure she learned more.

“I took it upon myself to go down on the field, and we went from there,” Smith said. “It was really finding any opportunity I could do.”

The Rangers hired her again to work with players in their youth academy.

Smith moved onto Carroll University in Wisconsin, officially as the assistant athletic director for compliance. But Smith was not about to quit coaching. She became the Pioneers’ hitting coach.

Smith said she has no one way of coaching – but adapts to the player. She said it is not an “old school vs. new school” mentality, but a combination.

With the Red Sox, Smith will be stationed in the spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida. She will not yet be joining any of the minor league teams – in Salem, Greenville, Portland or Worcester – but will stay in Fort Myers all season. (The minor leagues have contracted, so there are no more short-season leagues, meaning the youngest players will also stay in Florida all year.)

“I’ll be working with the rookie players,” she said.

Her biggest obstacle? Smith did not mention her gender or race. The first challenge is that of any new coach.

“Getting to know the people I’m working with and getting to know the players … I have to learn how the players learn. I have to get to know their personalities,” she said.

“I just want to learn as much as I can and provide as much value as I can. I want to help develop our players.”

She is just a coach. But Smith is realizing her hiring means much more.

“I didn’t think about how big this was,” she said. “For me, it was just that I get a coaching job where I get to focus on just coaching, and that was awesome.

“Seeing the impact it’s had on other people, it’s really cool. I like the idea that my story can inspire other people.”

Smith has broken a barrier, but she shies away from Jackie Robinson comparisons.

“I don’t see it as that big. I’ve heard (the comparison) a couple of times, but I feel Jackie Robinson did so much more. Maybe I’m seeing it from a different lens, but I certainly never imagined that I’d be even close to other people saying that. That’s actually been crazy.”

Still, there is no doubting the significance of the Red Sox new employee, and the effect it will have, especially on other women, and especially women of color.

“When I was younger, I never thought of working in sports,” she said. “I actually thought of other careers because I hadn’t seen anybody that looked like me working in sports.

“Now that I’m in this position … (others) can say, ‘hey, I can do this.’

“So, that does make a difference.”

SEA DOGS START DELAYED? It appears that the Double A and Class A minor league baseball seasons could be delayed, which includes the Portland Sea Dogs. According to a report in Baseball America, MLB has notified teams that only major league and Triple-A players will be initially invited to spring training because of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements.

Once those players leave spring training camp, the Double-A and Class A players would begin.

That would appear to mean the regular season would not begin until May, at the earliest.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.