Last week, Becky Hammon made history when she became the first woman to act as an NBA head coach during a regular-season game, assuming coaching duties for the San Antonio Spurs against the Lakers after head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected. And now we have another historic first in professional sports, as Bianca Smith will become the first Black woman to coach in Major League Baseball.
According to the Seattle Medium and Boston Globe, Smith will be leaving her position as an assistant baseball coach and hitting coordinator at Wisconsin’s Carroll University to usher in a new era for Black women as a coach in the Boston Red Sox minor league system. She’ll be working with the team’s infielders at the Red Sox spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., and previously interned for the Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers.
“She was a great candidate coming in,” Ben Crockett, Red Sox vice president of player development, told the Globe. “She’s had some really interesting experiences and has been passionate about growing her skillset and development herself.”
Aside from her MLB internships and tenure at Carroll University, Smith, 29, also played softball at Dartmouth College from 2010-12, served as both director of baseball operations and graduate assistant at Case Western Reserve (2013-17), and was an assistant coach at the University of Dallas (2018).
“I think it’s huge,” Robert Lewis Jr., founder of Boston-based organization The Base, told the Globe. “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.”
As Lewis alluded to, Boston’s exhaustive history of racism isn’t exactly breaking news. But as it pertains to the Red Sox specifically, Smith’s hire signals a significant paradigm shift. Especially for a team that’s had more than its fair share of racial tensions throughout the years at Fenway Park. Fans unfurled a “racism is as American as baseball” sign there for good reason in 2017 and numerous Black players have detailed their experiences playing in Boston—including former Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who had peanuts hurled at him.
So how does Smith feel about joining the Red Sox?
“The opportunity is amazing,” she said on MLB Network’s Hot Stove on Monday morning. “I’m still wrapping my head around it. I probably won’t have it sink in until I’m actually there.
“But I think it’s a great opportunity also to inspire other women in this game. This is not really something I thought about when I was younger. I kind of fell into it being an athlete. So I’m excited to get that chance to show what I can do.”