D-backs High-A manager Ronnie Gajownik gets chance as bench coach at spring training

Mar 4, 2023, 8:00 PM
Coach Ronnie Gajownik of the Amarillo Sod Poodles stands on the field between innings during the ga...
Coach Ronnie Gajownik of the Amarillo Sod Poodles stands on the field between innings during the game against the Arkansas Travelers at HODGETOWN Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Amarillo, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
(Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE (AP) — Ronnie Gajownik spent her Saturday afternoon as the bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It wasn’t until mid-game she realized that was quite remarkable.

“It was awesome,” Gajownik said later. “I didn’t realize how big of a moment it was until (pitching coach Brent Strom) told me in the fifth inning, he’s like, ‘They’re doing articles all over about you. You’re trending!’”

The 29-year-old Gajownik was hired during the offseason as manager of the D-backs minor league affiliate Hillsboro Hops. She’ll be the first woman to manage a Class High-A team.

Gajownik and D-backs manager Torey Lovullo sat next to each other in chairs just outside the dugout, talking for the better part of three hours.

“I told her we were just going to sit down, talk baseball for nine innings and let’s have some fun with it,” Lovullo said before the game. “I said, ‘You think I’m going to be teaching you things, but you’re going to be teaching me things as well.’

“I’m just appreciating my time with her. She’s a spectacular teacher and can relate with the players very well,” he said.

Gajownik has been with the organization for a few years and said sitting with Lovullo and asking questions was an invaluable experience as she prepares for her first job as a manager in pro baseball.

“It’s cool to take a step back and realize how far women have come,” Gajownik said. “And then also, me personally as a coach, all the work I’ve put in myself and then all the work the Diamondbacks have put into me, my family, my friends, my wife. It’s just cool to see the culmination of everything coming together. It’s a cool moment.”

Gajownik said Saturday’s game conversation with Lovullo varied between mundane topics like who might pinch-hit the next inning, to broader topics, like caring about players on and off the field.

“Him and I think a little bit of the same way, in regards that you’ve really got to care for the person,” Gajownik said. “And just know that ‘Hey, I’ll have your back and where there are moments of the game where I need to fight for you, I’ll fight for you.’”

Rachel Balkovec became the first woman to manage a minor league affiliate of a Major League Baseball team last year when she led the New York Yankees’ Class A Tampa Tarpons.

Gajownik served as video coordinator for the Hops in 2021. She was on the coaching staff of the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the D-backs’ Double-A affiliate, last season as the first base coach.

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