MLB programmes helping women find jobs in baseball

MESA, ARIZONA (AP) – Rachel Folden figured something out early on during her first spring training with the Chicago Cubs – long before the coronavirus pandemic wiped out team activities.

None of the players care all that much that one of their coaches is a woman. As for the girls she encounters, they care very much that one of the coaches is a woman.

“I’ve had quite a few people reach out that their daughters are like glued to the television watching baseball now or their daughters know that there’s some sort of way that they can get into baseball, they don’t have to pick softball,” Folden said. “I’ve heard that from quite a few people, actually.”

Major League Baseball (MLB) is pushing the same message. Recognising the importance of representation when it comes to growing the game, the commissioner’s office continues to look at ways to bring more women and minorities into the sport.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida gave baseball a C for gender hiring in its most recent diversity report, which was issued last April, down one point from the previous year to 70. But MLB is hoping a hiring spree over the winter is a sign that its Diversity Pipeline Programme is working.

Alyssa Nakken became the first female coach on a major league staff when she was named an assistant under new San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler. Folden got a job with the Cubs as their lead hitting lab tech and fourth coach for rookie-level Mesa. Rachel Balkovec was hired as a minor league hitting coach with the New York Yankees.

Veronica Alvarez worked with the Oakland Athletics during spring training for the second straight year, and Christina Whitlock was hired as a minor league coach with the St Louis Cardinals.

“I’m here for a reason,” Nakken said. “I’m here to make an impact. People are free to think what they want to think, but it goes back to that sense of responsibility. I’m going to come in and grind and hustle and work extremely hard.”

Chicago Cubs minor league hitting coach Rachel Folden hits infield ground balls at the Cubs spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona. PHOTO: AP