Former Olympic great Jennie Finch’s name has been etched in the softball history books for nearly two decades; now, she will make her mark on America’s national pastime.
With the help of a promotion from an independent team, Finch is set to become the first female manager in professional baseball history. Finch will serve as a guest manager for the Bridgeport Bluefish when they host the Maryland Blue Crabs this weekend in Connecticut. The move was announced by the Bluefish in March and will add to the slow but steady progress being made by the various leagues to create a more inclusive hiring process.
“We are really excited to have Jennie come out and manage the team,” said Bluefish General Manager Jamie Toole in the release. “She is an incredible athlete and a wonderful person, and we hope our fans will enjoy seeing her in a Bluefish uniform for the day.”
Finch’s name remains in the sports world due to her stellar career as a softball pitcher for the Arizona Wildcats, with whom she captured the 2001 national title, and the U.S. Olympic team. She went on to capture a gold medal with the United States in 2004 and a silver at the Beijing Games in 2008 — the American team’s gold medal game 3-1 loss to Japan marked the end of the program’s 22-game win streak and the end of the sport’s existence within the quadrennial event. Following the 2008 competition, Finch was one of softball’s most vocal advocates, though the International Olympic Committee axed the sport from the Olympics in 2005.
Even though softball still remains absent from the Games, Finch’s managerial duties prove both her staying power in the U.S. and the fact that both baseball teams and fans are becoming more open to gender diversity, a rare trait given the current male-dominated environment of the sport.
Her role with the Bluefish is a temporary one, but has the potential to have a resounding effect given the number of other efforts being made around the nation and in other mediums to help push the movement to the majors. Finch’s pro baseball coaching career comes just over a week after Fox released promos for the upcoming show “Pitch,” which will depict a fictional version of the first female MLB player.
Outside the world of television, Justine Siegal’s name is among the first to be mentioned when it comes to breaking baseball’s gender barrier. In addition to being the founder of Baseball for All, a non-profit focused on correcting the gender inequity issues at the youth level of the sport, Siegal is also the first female coach of any kind in professional baseball, with her stint as the first-base coach of the Brockton Rox in 2009. She is also the first woman to throw batting practice for an MLB squad, tossing for the Cleveland Indians in 2011. Siegal went on to become the first female major-league coach when the Oakland Athletics hired her for a two-week job as a coach in their instructional league.
Kim Ng has also made a name for herself around MLB front offices over the past 18 years, as she was named assistant general manager of the New York Yankees by Brian Cashman in 1998, making her one of just three women to ever hold the position in the game’s history. In the years since, she interviewed for the role of general manager at four different clubs before accepting the role of senior vice president of baseball operations with MLB in 2011. While MLB, like the NFL and NBA, has still yet to hire a woman in the role of general manager, some progress has been made in the minor leagues, where Shari Massengill served as the general manager of the Kinston Braves from 2005 to 2010.
MLB still has a good amount of ground to cover before it can consider itself caught up with the times, as it received a rating of a C/C+ in 2015 for its gender hiring practices from the The Racial and Gender Report Card, produced by Dr. Richard Lapchick of the University Central Florida. As of the most recent report, women make up 22.6 percent of MLB central office positions, an increase from 2014, but there remain no permanent female coaches, general managers, team presidents or CEOs.
Prior to this Saturday’s stint as Bluefish manager, Finch will also participate in a meet-and-greet with fans and toss the game’s first pitch.