By her second year as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, Bianca Smith (MGT '17, LAW '17) knew she wanted to make baseball a full-time career.
Little did she know, however, that this decision to switch degrees and pursue her passion would translate into making history and paving a new way for women—specifically Black women—in sports.
Smith, who graduated in 2017 with a dual degree from Weatherhead School of Management and the School of Law at Case Western Reserve University, was recently hired by the Boston Red Sox as a minor league coach, becoming the first Black woman to coach in professional baseball.
"I did a lot of research in college trying to figure out the best place that I fit and discovered that I loved working really on the operations side of baseball,” Smith said.
Smith knew that furthering her education also meant that she would be able to gain more baseball experience at the collegiate level. After taking a year off, she began applying for business schools and studying for the GRE.
“I would ask the baseball coaches how I could help out or be involved at any school I was accepted into, ,” Smith said. “Case Western Reserve was the only one where the head coach immediately said ‘Yes, we could use your help’."
After a visit to campus, Smith instantly clicked with the coaches and team. That summer, she got to work.
From fundraising and social media, to statistics and travel, Smith had her hands full serving as Director of Baseball Operations. Despite that, halfway through her first semester at Weatherhead, she applied to the law school to pursue a second degree.
Upon her acceptance into the dual degree program, Smith immersed herself in extracurricular activities at both Weatherhead School and the law school that would help her achieve her goals of turning baseball into a full-time career. She was the president of the sports management club, worked as a teaching assistant for a sports management class, was a member of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society, served as an Athletics Compliance Assistant, and much more.
“I took every opportunity I could,” Smith remembers.
And it paid off.
Smith attributes a research project she completed during her time at Weatherhead School as one of the reasons she was offered an internship with the Texas Rangers. The project focused heavily on statistics, an area Smith admits was not her strong suit, but felt she needed to learn more about.
“They loved it,” she remembered. “They had me print out a copy at my interview.”
Taking on new projects, roles and challenges to become as well-rounded as possible has been a regular habit for Smith, one that could be directly correlated to her success—and a theme that she is bringing to her new role at the Red Sox. Smith says her new role is still being defined, but plans to immerse herself in all areas as a coach—from hitting and catching to defense and pitching—to help her one day reach her ultimate dream job as general manager.
When Smith caught the eyes of the Red Sox and the team reached out directly to her for the position, she knew it was the best fit for her next move. What she didn’t know was the impact it would have on the world. After appearances on the Today Show, CBS This Morning, ESPN and more, Smith admits the past few weeks have been a whirlwind. But in true Bianca Smith fashion, she’s just ready to get to work.
“It will really sink in when I’m finally down in Florida, putting on the uniform,” Smith said.
Until then, she is finishing up her role at Carroll University in Wisconsin as an assistant coach.
While most coaches come in with a sports science or performance coaching background, Smith says her dual degree from Case Western Reserve University helps her stand out and gives her a unique perspective of the game.
“My MBA certainly helped me with the creative thinking aspect,” Smith said. “While it doesn’t seem like it might correlate, if you’re running a business, your goal is to get ahead of the competition. It’s the same thing with being a coach. If you’re doing the same thing as all the other teams, you’re not going to win. You have to think outside of the box.”
Smith remains connected to the university and baseball team. She has returned for games, met with current players and still wears her Spartans’ gear. She even plans to return to campus as a guest speaker in the spring.
“Case Western Reserve gave me the best opportunity,” she said. “I absolutely loved my time there.”
Learn more about Weatherhead’s suite of MBA programs.