When Katie Krall advanced to the interview stage for Major League Baseball’s diversity fellowship in 2017, she remembers receiving the email at 5 p.m. on Friday.
It was a largely generic email telling her that she advanced to the next phase and that she’d be speaking with Kim Ng from the Commissioner’s Office the following week. She was stunned when she saw Ng’s name.
“I remember describing to my family members and friends, she is the Michael Jordan of female baseball executives,” said Krall, now a baseball operations analyst for the Cincinnati Reds.
Krall, a Park Ridge, Illinois native, grew up with a love for baseball. She frequented games and she had a dream of becoming the sport’s first female general manager. Meeting with Ng, a longtime assistant general manager for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, was a special moment for her.
It was a memory that Krall thought about this winter when Ng was named the Miami Marlins GM. Ng is the first female GM in the “Big Four” North American team sports.
“It was amazing,” Krall said. “I remember getting so many texts, like my phone was blowing up, because people do know the story that Kim gave me my start in baseball. It was very celebratory. It felt like a collective win. I couldn’t be happier for her. You look at her resume and it was a long time coming. Nobody deserved it more.”
It was a trailblazing offseason for women working in baseball front offices and coaching staffs. It was just a few years ago when Krall was one of 22 people selected for the inaugural fellowship program out of 1,300 applicants, which was designed to promote women and people of color into baseball executive roles.
Krall, unrelated to Reds GM Nick Krall, had a determination to work in baseball. She created a student promotions coordinator position for college baseball games when she was at Northwestern. She worked on the Chicago Cubs’ World Series trophy tour. She worked with a team in the Cape Cod League, creating scouting reports and helping with roster construction.
Women like Ng helped show that her path was possible.
“The fact that she’s become kind of like a cultural icon and has transcended sports, I think that’s super powerful,” Krall said. “I think the texts I received the day she was named, even from people who aren’t sports fans, they recognized that this is a crucial moment. The paradigm has shifted in a lot of ways just because of what Kim has done.”
Bianca Smith was a baseball operations intern for the Reds during the 2019 season, but her passion was coaching.
When she wanted to learn more about what the coaches were doing, she sat in the stands during batting practice and took notes on a yellow legal pad. A coach noticed her – there are no fans when the Reds begin batting practice at Great American Ball Park – and she was invited to be on the field. From there, she assisted coaches during pre-game drills and attended video sessions.
Smith left the Reds in Aug. 2019 to become the assistant athletic director at Div.-III Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, which included working with the baseball team as the hitting coordinator. It was a valuable experience for her, and she was hired by the Boston Red Sox as a minor league instructor in January. She is the first Black female coach in professional baseball.
“It didn’t surprise me at all,” Reds Manager David Bell said. “I’ve had an opportunity to get to know Bianca, probably more after she left. We stayed in touch. I would ask her questions and she would do a good job of keeping in touch with me. I knew that something was going to happen. She was just so passionate about the game.”
Along with the front offices, there has been momentum in the last two years for more women on coaching staffs. The San Francisco Giants hired Alyssa Nakken as the first female big-league coach prior to the 2020 season. There are some more women who work as minor-league hitting coaches,…
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