'I'm here to be a coach': Edwards makes history with Phils
26-year-old softball superstar is first on-field staffer for Phillies organization
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Making history is nothing new to Sarah Edwards -- at least on the softball diamond.
But being named the first female coach in the history of the Phillies organization came as a bit of a surprise even to her.
The 26-year-old Edwards, who established herself as an international softball star over the past half-decade, will serve as the hitting development coach for the Phillies' Rookie Level affiliate in the Florida Complex League.
"Extremely prideful, of course," Edwards said of being the franchise's first on-field female staffer. "Paving the way for younger generations of women to be able to grab some of these opportunities -- it fills my heart, honestly."
For the Phillies, though, this is an opportunity that Edwards has earned -- and they're excited to see what she can do with some of their young hitters.
"Look, I've got two daughters, so anytime you include females in whatever business it is, I think it's great," said Phillies manager Rob Thomson. "I had some time to speak with her during our organizational summit, and she seemed very knowledgeable. It sounds like she wants to help players get better and that's all we're looking for -- knowledgeable people who want to help our players. She epitomizes that."
Though Edwards is breaking barriers for the Phillies, she's not the first woman to assume a prominent role for a Major League team over the past few years.
Alyssa Nakken joined the Giants' staff as a Major League assistant coach in January 2020, becoming the first full-time female coach in the big leagues. Kim Ng was named the Marlins' general manager in November of that same year, making her not only MLB's first female GM, but she is believed to be the first woman to hold a GM position in any of the professional men's teams in the major North American sports.
More recently, Rachel Balkovec was named manager of the Yankees' Low-A Tampa affiliate in 2022, making her the first woman to manage in affiliated Minor League history. Prior to being named manager, Balkovec impressed as a hitting coach for the Yankees' Florida Complex League team. Edwards is getting her start in the industry in the same position.
So when Edwards was contacted this offseason by a Phillies recruiter about a job as a player development associate, she instead used it as an opportunity to push for a position better aligned with her career aspirations.
"Being able to watch them and watching their careers develop, it gave me the inspiration to be able to say, 'Hey, I would rather be considered as a coach instead,'" Edwards said. "I don't know if I would have had that courage to say that if I didn't see other women already in positions like that."
Though Edwards said she doesn't yet know any of those women personally, she has followed a similar path as Gretchen Aucoin, who serves as the reconditioning hitting coach for the Mets' Florida Complex League club. After all, the two played against one another overseas in both Italy and New Zealand before Aucoin joined the Mets' staff in 2022 to become -- like Edwards, she was that organization's first on-field female coach.
"Being able to see someone who is my age and has a similar background to me, in this field," Edwards said, "that definitely gave me a lot of confidence."
While Edwards is honored by the historical aspect, her focus is on using her unique experience to help some of the Phillies' up-and-coming hitters. Along with being a collegiate star at Buffalo and Hofstra, Edwards went on to shine as one of the top hitters in international softball, including representing Team Italy at the 2022 World Games.
"The thing is hitting is quite a language, and there's also like a hundred ways to say the same thing," Edwards said. "So I've seen the language that I've developed in hitting -- we're all very much talking about the same thing -- but the way I can go about certain things or maybe help a player adjust, depending on what he needs to work on, it is a little bit different and I am bringing something new to the table."
It's also not lost on Edwards that she now has the chance to set that proverbial table for future generations. As camp continues this spring, she knows there will be young girls who see her on the field in full uniform -- something nobody had never seen before at Phillies camp.
At the same time, Edwards looks forward to the day that this type of thing becomes the norm instead of a historical development.
"Hopefully, it's soon. I think it's a very nice anecdote that I'm the first female -- I'm obviously very prideful and it's a huge honor -- but I'm not here to make any political statements or anything," Edwards said. "I'm here to be a coach and I'm here to help the players."