When UNC softball utility player Kianna Jones informed her parents that she planned to coach baseball this past summer, the redshirt junior said her parents were “taken aback.”
“(My parents said) ‘Baseball? Why baseball? Why not softball?’” Jones said. “It was something that I was passionate about and I wanted to challenge myself and they saw that. Ever since I had that conversation with them and let them know — this is what I want to do, these are my goals and this is my aspiration for this — they were totally on board and totally bought in.”
Alongside rising junior Kayla Baptista, Jones was one of two members of the UNC softball team who made history in baseball coaching roles over the summer.
As a bench coach for the Macon Bacon of the Coastal Plain League, Jones became the first female head coach in Summer League Baseball history when she took over coaching duties in a game against the Forest City Owls on May 30.
Baptista, a player development coach with the Texas Rangers this summer, served as the first base coach in a spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, becoming the first female base coach in Rangers organization history.
“Both of them really broke barriers as coaches, and it’s not just a token-type thing,” UNC head coach Donna J. Papa said. “The MLB has really embraced women, and I think it’s fantastic that they’re getting these opportunities.”
In her role as a bench coach, Jones specialized in scouting. Using a system called TrackMan, she downloaded in-game statistics to make spray charts for hitters and help predict opponents' pitch sequences.
Jones didn’t always want to work for a baseball team, but her conversations with teammate Baptista and minor league baseball manager Rachel Balkovec convinced her to give it a try.
“I always enjoyed watching baseball for sure, and I always had a passion for the game," Jones said. “But it was also a bit of a challenge for me, as I wanted to challenge myself to see what I could do and what I could accomplish in a different sport.”