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Bianca Smith said she never saw herself as a major professional sports coach because she'd never seen it happen before.
"I'd never seen another black woman coaching, especially in baseball," she said. "So it just never crossed my mind that that might be an opportunity."
Now, Smith is making history as the newest member of the Red Sox coaching staff.
The team announced earlier this week it had hired Smith as a minor league coach, which makes her the first Black woman to coach a professional baseball team. She will work primarily with Minor League position players at the Sox's player development facility in Fort Myers, Florida.
A former softball player and club baseball player at Dartmouth University, Smith combines traditional baseball experience with an understanding of the new age of advanced analytics currently shaping today's game.
Smith comes to the Red Sox from Carroll University in Wisconsin, where she was the assistant coach and hitting coordinator since 2018. Before that, she served as Case Western University's director of baseball operations while earning degrees in sports law and sports management.
She later interned in the baseball operations departments of the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds as well as in MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's office before her latest jobs took her down to the diamond.
"This is the first time where I get to just focus on coaching," Smith said. "I can't stop getting excited about it."
Smith credits her mom — and a host of 1990s baseball movies like 'Rookie Of The Year,' 'The Sandlot,' and 'Angels In The Outfield' — with nurturing her love of the game at a young age.
But the idea of working in baseball didn't come to her until her freshman year of college. And even then, Smith said, she thought she'd be working in the front office rather than on the field.
"Everyone thought I was going to be a GM," she said of family members who cited her law and business degrees. "And I'm thinking I still just want to coach. It took me a while to finally just ignore the expectations, do what I want to do, do what I'm interested in."
She's not the only woman blazing trails in professional sports of late.
Smith joins the Red Sox a few months after the Miami Marlins' Kim Ng became possibly the first woman general manager in major American sports and about a week after the San Antonio Spurs' Becky Hammon made history as the first woman to serve as a head coach in an NBA basketball game.
Her breaking of the color barrier for women in baseball for the Red Sox also represents a stark shift for a franchise that was infamously the last team in Major League Baseball to integrate Black players — finally doing so in 1959 when it called up the late Elijah "Pumpsie" Green from the minor leagues, 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the sports color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Smith admitted the idea of being a role model for other women in sports wasn't her intention as she worked her way through the baseball landscape or when she took this position.
But the significance of being a woman — and a Black woman at that — on a professional baseball diamond isn't lost on her. And she hopes she's not the last.
"I'm happy if my story can inspire other women, other women of color," she said. "If anybody is inspired by the story, then even better. My biggest thing I would want to say is just continue to follow your dreams. When you think you might be done, push through it anyway. Just keep trying."
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