baseball

Unc Softball Player Making Her Mark In The Baseball World

Kayla Baptista is a life-long Red Sox fan.

Growing up in Smithfield, R.I., the sophomore infielder and her family have had season tickets at Fenway Park and grew up going to PawSox games, Boston’s Triple-A team in Rhode Island.

When Ray Fagnant, the northeast regional scouting supervisor for the Red Sox, reached out to Bapista about joining his staff for the team’s prospect showcase 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 down to making the choice, she knew what she had to do.

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

“I have a great relationship with the Yankees through Rachel Balkovec and Kelly Rodman. Rachel was the first female hired as a full-time hitting coach in Major League Baseball and has been one of my mentors. Kelly Rodman was one of three female scouts in the majors who I was lucky enough to get to know before she passed from breast cancer in 2020. The prospect game was played in memory of her.”

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

“She did everything,” Weinstein said. “She has a good feel for the analytics, the on-field coaching stuff, a good personality and connects well with the players. … Her passion for the game is unmatched.”

Baptista worked for the Wareham Gatemen this summer, becoming the first female on-field coaching intern ever in the league, which was sanctioned by the NCAA in 1963. She coached first base, threw batting practice, hit fungos, helped with field work pre-game and post-game and helped break down scouting reports with the players.

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

“So, I got to see her working on the mound. [As a scout] I’m always cognizant of the quality of batting practice because that bears into our evaluation of the hitter.”

“She threw strikes at a good rhythm and tempo and gave the hitters a great look.”

Being a successful high-level collegiate athlete in her own right, Baptista was able to take her experience and skill to help relate and coach the athletes.

“Kayla was a very valuable resource for all the Wareham players this summer,” Owen Diodati, a junior outfielder at Alabama, said. “From throwing batting practice to pre-game scouting reports, her dedication to our growth as players didn’t go unnoticed.”

Not only was Baptista helping coach 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 immensely enjoyed being around Kayla all summer. What a delightful young lady,” Polk said. “She has the opportunity to break in a sport that is normally male-oriented. She has all the capabilities, work ethic and personality to get it done [in an MLB career].

Baptista’s goal after graduating and finishing her softball career at Carolina is to continue to work in baseball.

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

Just like Kim Ng, who became the first female MLB general manager in 2020, Baptista is going to continue putting her own stamp on the baseball world.

“Every single time I threw on-field batting practice pre-game, at least one or two major league scouts gave me their business card and said to reach out for a potential opportunity,” she said.

“I made some great connections this summer and I can’t wait for what’s next.”

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