The Boston Red Sox announced Monday that they have hired Bianca Smith as a Minor League coach, making her the first Black woman to coach in professional baseball history.
Smith, 29, is currently the assistant coach and hitting coordinator at Carroll University in Wisconsin. Prior to stepping into this role, she worked at Case Western University as director of baseball operations from 2017 to 2018, before serving as an assistant coach at the University of Dallas for a short stint, reports MLB.com.
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Smith played softball in college and previously interned in the baseball operations department for the Texas Rangers and the Cincinnati Reds.
"The opportunity is amazing," Smith told MLB Network's Hot Stove program in regards to her new position. "I'm still wrapping my head around it. I probably won't really have it sink in until I'm actually there."
Smith's hiring comes just months after the Miami Marlins hired longtime baseball executive Kim Ng as their general manager, making her Major League Baseball's first female GM.
Like many professional sports leagues, MLB has a long way to go with achieving racial and gender parity in its hiring practice. But, data from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics and Sport at Central Florida shows that the league has made some improvements over the last few years.
In 2020, MLB received an overall score of 80.7 for diversity hiring practices, an increase from 79.5 in 2019, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics and Sport diversity report. While the league's grade for racial hiring dipped slightly from 89.4 in 2019 to 88.7 in 2020, its gender hiring grade increased from 69.6 in 2019 to 72.7 in 2020.
Richard Lapchick, the institute's director and lead author of the report, told the Associated Press that baseball's improvement in gender hiring was the "highlight" of the report, with the league increasing the number of women who had on-field coaching or player development positions from seven in 2018 to 21 in 2020.
"It wasn't that long ago that a thought about a woman on the field was not in anyone's consciousness," Lapchick told AP. "Having 21 women on the field is a dramatic jump. I think everyone saw that when the NBA started hiring and interviewing women there was a positive public reaction. MLB knew that would be good on the game." In 2020, women made up 33% of team management positions in the NBA, which is the highest in two decades according to the institute's report.
Smith, who will work at the Red Sox's player development facility in Fort Meyers, Florida, says she hopes her barrier-breaking role as the first Black female coach in professional baseball history will "inspire other women who are interested in this game."
"This is not really something I thought about it when I was younger," she said. "I kind of fell into it being an athlete. So I'm excited to get that chance to show what I can do."