There was a time not long ago that Sarah Edwards thought she might live in Italy the rest of her life. But it turned out that this was not the time.
Instead, the rest of her life began March 1 in Clearwater, Florida, spring training home of Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies and home base for the club’s minor-league development complex. She will be a hitting development coach and the Phillies’ first female on-field coach.
How she got there requires some explanation.
Edwards, now 26, grew up on New York’s Long Island, and began playing softball at the age of 7. She starred in high school, in college at the University of Buffalo and Hofstra University, and in professional leagues in the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and Italy. She lived in Italy for four years, played for Italy’s national team, and obtained an Italian passport in 2019, thanks to her Italian lineage.
“The way my life had been going, I thought I might be in Italy forever,” she said.
But no. Not yet, at least.
In mid-October of this past year, a recruiter from the Phillies organization reached out to her regarding a “player development associate” position, which turned out to be a role as a video technician. The job description said “baseball experience preferred”.
“It interested me because it would be a way to get my foot in the door,” Edwards said, “but I’m not a big tech person and thought the role wouldn’t be very fulfilling. The recruiter said he’d understand if I wanted to keep playing, but I thought about it more and decided that, if nothing else, it might help me be a better player. So I got back to him, and he set me up with Dana Parks, the assistant director of player development.
“It was cool that my first interview was with a woman in a position of such status,” she added. “I told her I would be most interested in a situation in which I would have a voice. I thought it would be hard if I didn’t. She asked if I would be more interested in a coaching role, and I said yes.”
Sarah Edwards played two years at Hofstra University and started all 53 games of her senior 2018 season in the 4 spot.
From that point, things progressed until she got a job offer and made it official in mid-January. She is primarily working with the Phillies’ rookie league team and occasionally with the club’s Class A team based in Clearwater. In addition, she may also continue her playing career, with winter ball in New Zealand or Australia a possibility, and she hopes to continue her role as softball coordinator for Baseball Jobs Overseas.
David Burns, CEO of Baseball Jobs Overseas, said, “I’m not surprised that the Phillies recruited Sarah. She is a go-getter and has made a major impact on Baseball Jobs Overseas. We love having her on board. She has gone over and above from Day One, and I’m sure she will do the same in her role with the Phillies and exceed expectations.
Phillies manager Rob Thompson said, “I’ve got two daughters, so anytime you include females in whatever business it is, I think it’s great. I had some time to speak with her during our organizational summit, and she seemed very knowledgeable. It sounds like she wants to help players get better and that’s all we’re looking for — knowledgeable people who want to help our players. She epitomizes that.”
Edwards had four brothers, so she was exposed to baseball from a young age, but working in baseball didn’t seem possible until recently when major league clubs started hiring more women, including in on-field roles.
“When I was young, being involved with baseball was more of a fantasy than anything,” she said. “It wasn’t really a possibility then. I probably started thinking about it in college, but it was still a rare thing.”
Sarah played 6 seasons overseas, four of which were in the Italian Softball League.
The most notable female appointment has been that of Kim Ng as general manager of the Miami Marlins. Among others, the list also includes Rachel Balkovec, the first full-time female field manager (of the New York Yankees’ low Class A team); Alyssa Nakken of the San Francisco Giants, the first female to hold a coaching position with a major league team; Bianca Smith, a minor league coach in the Boston Red Sox organization; Sara Goodrum, minor league hitting coordinator for the Milwaukee Brewers; Veronica Alvarez, a catching instructor in the Oakland Athletics’ system; Gretchen Aucoin, a development coach in the New York Mets’ system; Kayla Baptista, a development coaching apprentice in the Texas Rangers’ organization; Caitlyn Callahan, a development coach in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system; Ronnie Gajownik, a coach in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system; Katie Krall, a development coach in the Red Sox system; and Jaime Vieira, a hitting coach in the Blue Jays’ system.
Edwards is the Phillies’ only on-field female coach at the moment, but she’s working on Parks’ team and there are women in roles such as mental performance coaches, so she won’t be alone.
“[Women in baseball] is still a relatively rare thing, but I’m not the only woman at the complex,” she said, “and that provides a sense of support. I feel as prepared and qualified as I can be at this point. It’s an entry-level position, so I’m here to learn as much as possible and absorb as much as I can as quickly as I can. The biggest thing initially has been to learn how the Phillies organization thinks and goes about things, and I’m also learning the nuances of baseball and the differences between baseball and softball. The pitching, for sure, is different.”
She isn’t new to coaching, though, possessing more than 10 years of experience as a youth instructor, high school assistant, and assistant coach for professional clubs in Europe and New Zealand.
“I’ve always wanted to teach, and coaching is along the same lines,” she said. “I had thought I would end up as a college softball coach. But this may take me in a different direction.”
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