By R.L. Bynum
North Carolina softball player Kianna Jones is making history in the Coastal Plain League, an amateur wooden-bat league.
Jones, who started 50 games as a redshirt sophomore last season for the Tar Heels, will be the first woman coach in league history as a bench coach overseeing baseball analytics and coaching the bases for the Macon Bacon.
She isn’t the first member of UNC’s softball team to be a groundbreaker.
Last summer, sophomore middle infielder/outfielder Kayla Batista became the first woman on-field coaching intern in the Cape Cod League with the Wareham team. This season, she is the first woman in a coaching role in Texas Rangers history as a player development coaching apprentice.
“She honestly helped me get into baseball and it’s been a dream since I was younger,” Jones said of Batista. “But I never thought it would be a possibility.
“I’m super excited to get started with the Bacon,” said Jones, mainly a right fielder, who was second on the Tar Heels with seven home runs and third in slugging percentage at .478.
Jones, who played her freshman season at Minnesota, said an October conversation with Rachel Balkovec, the manager of the Class A Tampa Tarpons, along with talking with Batista, led her to pursue the opportunity.
“My main goal this summer is to inspire the next generation of young women who want to work in baseball and to show them that there are so many more opportunities to follow their dreams,” said Jones, who is also a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.
Jones is from Surry, British Columbia and was a member of the Canadian Women’s Junior National team.
“Kianna reached out to us first about internships but in talking with her, it was clear that she belonged on the field, both coaching and in the analytics area,” team president Brandon Raphael said. “When we connected her to Kevin Soine, our manager, he felt she was a perfect fit. We’re thrilled to have her blaze the trail for history in the Coastal Plain League.”
Macon opens the season Friday against the Florence Flamingos.
Photo via @GoMaconBacon