Disgraceful encounter with HS coach didn't deter Bianca Smith from pursuing baseball dreams

John Tomase
·4 min read

Tomase: Bianca Smith 'beyond thrilled' about Red Sox opportunity originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Bianca Smith did not embark on a career in baseball to make sandwiches.

That was news to a high school coach who asked her what she did for Case Western, where she served as a graduate assistant and director of baseball operations from 2013-17. Smith laid out her responsibilities, which included pretty much everything except recruiting. She even told him she was earning law and business degrees.

His response?

"Great, that means I can hire you to make sandwiches after you graduate," he said.

Whoever that coach is, it's safe to say he'll never wear a big-league jersey. The same cannot be said of Smith, who joins the Red Sox as a minor league hitting instructor, becoming the first Black woman to work as a coach in professional baseball. She relayed that story while meeting the Boston media via Zoom on Thursday.

"I didn't even have a response," Smith said. "It was the first time I really had anyone to my face say something like that. Fortunately our head coach was right behind me and went, 'No, she's way too smart to be making sandwiches for you. She's going to be doing something else.'"

That something else now includes working with Red Sox minor leaguers on the finer points of hitting, where the Dartmouth grad hopes to blend observations, analytics, and an understanding of biomechanics.

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"My philosophy in hitting is whatever works for the athlete," she said. "I never want to be that coach where it's my way or the highway, or no, I'm only going to teach this specific type of hitting, because each athlete is different. You never know until you actually get to know that player what will actually work for them."

The 29-year-old said she has loved baseball since being introduced to the sport by her mom at age 2 or 3, with movies like "Rookie of the Year," "The Sandlot," and "Angels in the Outfield" cementing that bond. She liked the fact that she could learn strategy simply by watching, though she's quick to note that she has some experience on the diamond -- in addition to playing softball at Dartmouth, she also played club baseball.

She arrived in Hanover expecting to become a veterinarian, but one bio course dissuaded her of that notion. Her work at a local YMCA made her realize how much she loved coaching, and she decided that her goal would be a job in baseball, with football as a backup.

Still, she expected to embark on a GM path like plenty of other ambitious Ivy Leaguers. But she changed her mind while doing a little bit of everything at Case Western and serving as a baseball operations intern with the Rangers and Reds. The Red Sox hired her away from Carroll University in Wisconsin, where she was entering her third season as hitting coordinator.

"The process was actually very interesting, because somebody in HR reached out to me about opportunities working in the (Red Sox) baseball operations department," Smith said. "I was pretty shocked to get that e-mail. They just saw my résumé and thought I'd be a good candidate to just talk to.

"From there, I spoke to several different departments -- scouting, analytics, player development, started talking to our field and hitting coordinators, and then a couple of weeks later, got the call that they wanted to offer me the opportunity to coach in the organization. It happened in less than a month. It was a very crazy few weeks. I didn't even get a chance to tell my parents that I was even talking to the Red Sox, let alone that I had interviewed for a position."

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Now she's a hitting coach in an organization intent on developing the next generation of productive big leaguers. She can barely comprehend the whirlwind that led to Boston, but this much is certain -- her responsibilities won't include making sandwiches.

"I'm super excited," she said. "The idea that I get to just coach, I still haven't really wrapped my head around it. Yes, I've been coaching for multiple years, but all of my coaching positions have always been with either a secondary duty, or I had to work a second job so I could coach. This will be the first time I just get to focus on coaching. I'm beyond thrilled about that. Really, the idea that I just get to coach, I can't stop getting excited about it. As soon as I got that offer, the smile on my face just wouldn't go away."