D-backs High-A manager Ronnie Gajownik tells story of hiring

Feb 5, 2023, 11:10 AM | Updated: 11:40 am
(Twitter Photo/@RonnieGajownik)...
(Twitter Photo/@RonnieGajownik)
(Twitter Photo/@RonnieGajownik)

Ronnie Gajownik was cleaning her blinds and prepping for a day out at the Arizona Fall League when she learned the news. She was about to be named Minor League Baseball’s first female High-A manager for the Hillsboro Hops, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ High-A affiliate.

D-backs director of player development Josh Barfield called her on what she recalled as a normal day. After chatting, Barfield brought up the 2023 season and said the organization wanted her at Hillsboro after she assisted with Double-A Amarillo in 2022. He then put her on hold, saying he got another call.

“I’m standing there for 30 seconds but it felt like five minutes,” Gajownik said when she joined MLB Network’s High Heat on Wednesday during a Play Ball National Girls and Women in Sports Day event.

Barfield came back and said the organization wanted her to manage the Hops.

“I’m pretty sure I blacked out,” Gajownik said.

Gajownik is the second female minor league manager after Rachel Balkovec took over Single-A Tampa last year for the New York Yankees. It did not hit Gajownik how big the news was going to be until the Hops announced their coaching staff on Jan. 20 and an influx of messages forced her to put her phone down just to eat dinner.

She does not anticipate the news waves being a challenge to overcome while managing, noting she feels comfortable in the environment the D-backs built.

The Diamondbacks have put together a highly regarded farm system over the past several years — the No. 4 system ranked by The Athletic’s Keith Law — and Hillsboro is a critical juncture that bridges the lower to the higher levels.

Gajownik was a video assistant for the Hops in 2021 and has built a rapport with many players in the organization. She’s coached Corbin Carroll and Jordan Lawlar, the D-backs’ top prospects, and could soon be tasked with managing 2022 first-rounder Druw Jones after his shoulder rehab.

The manager said she is most excited to continue building relationships to help players reach the next level.

“Right now, we’re at instructs (Arizona Instructional League). We’re gonna be here for early camp and then also with spring training, building those relationships with those guys and being there on Opening Day with them,” Gajownik told the The Show Before the Show podcast on last week.

For the day-to-day, Gajownik said on the podcast that she took in a lot over the past two seasons in the dugout and continues to study and gain knowledge from others. Ultimately, she felt that actually managing games will be the best teacher. The Hops open the season on April 6.

She said on High Heat she wants to build a culture of honesty with players learning where they can get better.

“To be able to look at ourselves and tell the guys it’s OK to fail because we want you to get better,” Gajownik said.

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