UNC Softball player makes his mark in the baseball world

UNC Softball player makes his mark in the baseball world

Kayla Baptista is a lifelong Red Sox fan.

The other infielder and her family grew up in Smithfield, RI, and had family tickets at Fenway Park and grew up playing PawSox, Boston’s Triple-A team in Rhode Island.

When Ray Fagnant, the northeastern regional scout leader for the Red Sox, contacted Bapista to join the team for the team’s prospect on August 28, it was a surreal experience.

“I mean it was the Red Sox. I love the team so much, she said.

The Yankees had also reached out to her with the same opportunity, but when it came to making the choice, she knew what she had to do.

“I chose the Red Sox, but it was a difficult decision for me to make,” said Baptista.

“I have a good relationship with the Yankees through Rachel Balkovec and Kelly Rodman. Rachel was the first woman to be hired as a full-time coach in Major League Baseball and has been one of my mentors. Kelly Rodman was one of three female scouts in the majors that I was fortunate enough to meet before she passed away from breast cancer in 2020. The future-oriented game was played in her memory. ”

Fagant had first heard of Baptista after speaking with Jerry Weinstein, a longtime professional baseball manager and current coach of the Colorado Rockies.

“She did everything,” Weinstein said. “She has a good feeling for the analyzes, the training things on the pitch, a good personality and contacts well with the players.… Her passion for the game is unparalleled.”

Baptista worked for Wareham Gatemen this summer, becoming the first female trainee on the field ever in the league, which was sanctioned by the NCAA in 1963. She trained first base, threw battles, hit mushrooms, helped with fieldwork before and after the game and contributed to to break down scout reports with the players.

“I went to a Wareham game and accidentally misunderstood the plan and was about two hours early,” Fagant said.

“So, I got to see her work on the mound. [As a scout] I am always aware of the quality of percussion practice because it plays a role in our assessment of the percussionist. ”

“She threw punches with good rhythm and tempo and gave hitters a great look.”

As a successful high-level fellow athlete in her own right, Baptista was able to take her experience and skill to help relate and train the practitioners.

“Kayla was a very valuable resource for all the Wareham players this summer,” said Owen Diodati, an Alabama junior outfielder. “From throwing strike practice to scout reports before the game, her commitment to our growth as a player did not go unnoticed.”

Baptista not only helped train some of the best players in the country, but she also had the opportunity to work with some of the most influential figures in the sport, including longtime former Mississippi State coach Ron Polk.

“I really enjoyed being around Kayla all summer. What a wonderful young lady, ”said Polk. “She has the opportunity to break into a sport that is usually male-oriented. She has all the abilities, work ethic and personality to make it happen [in an MLB career].

Baptista’s goal after graduating and ending her softball career in Carolina is to continue working in baseball.

“As an athlete myself, I know how much impact a good coach can have on you as a player and as a person,” said Baptista. “I want to be that person for someone. That’s when I realized I wanted to train in baseball.”

Just like Kim Ng, who became the first female MLB boss in 2020, Baptista will continue to make her own mark on the baseball world.

“Every time I threw on the field before the game, at least one or two major league scouts gave me their business card and said I should reach out for a potential opportunity,” she said.

“I made some good connections this summer and I can’t wait for the next one.”

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