‘A little surreal’: First female manager for D-backs’ minor league team speaks on making history

By Michael Raimondi

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    PHOENIX, Arizona (KTVK) — The Arizona Diamondbacks announced minor league assistant coach Ronnie Gajownik is moving on up. After spending the past couple of seasons as an assistant coach in the minors, the Dbacks announced last Friday that Gajownik will become the manager of the Hillsboro Hops. “I held it in really well, but when I told my wife, she didn’t hold it in very well,” Gajownik said with a laugh. “She was very excited for me.”

Gajownik expected to coach again with the Diamondbacks this season, but she wasn’t expecting to be named a manager of one of the teams. “Feels a little surreal to be honest with you,” she said. “I was definitely shocked. Once I started assessing it, I was like, yes, this makes sense.”

Last fall, Gajownik was an assistant coach for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. She told us back then that her dad would take her out of school to see baseball games. So now, when a girl goes to a game, they can see a woman in the dugout. “If my dad took me out of school and to a game and I saw a female on the field how did she get there? It’s cool to say I have that visibility cause when you can see something you know you can be there.”

While baseball is her sport, helping players develop and improve is her passion. “They don’t care what you say until they know you care about them. That’s they key of being a leader. These men they have leaders growing up who were mothers. It’s not a completely new situation for them.”

She will now be calling the shots on the field for the Hillsboro Hops, a minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gajownik says the rest of the coaching staff will be men, but that doesn’t bother her. Instead, she says the players and other coaches treat her “as one of the guys.”

A few months ago, the Dbacks called Gajownik to let her know they wanted to give her the job as skipper of the Hops. The Dbacks Director of Player Development, Josh Barfield, was the person who called her. “She was excited,” he said. “It was a real easy decision. She’s shown leadership skills and an ability to connect. She’s shown all things you want to see from a manager.”

Barfield said the decision-makers were unanimous on giving Gajownik more responsibility. They said her history with the Hops made her a natural fit. “We’ve talked about it for a while and every person we went to so yes a no brainer,” Barfield said. “When she has to command a room she commands a room and everybody that spends five minutes with her feels the same way. We love her and know she’ll be great.”

Going to Hillsboro, Oregon, will be a reunion for Gajownik. She was a player development intern there a couple of years ago, and her wife works for the team in another department. “It’s a great honor to go back there and have my first manager year to give back to how great they’ve been to me and my wife. I’m really looking forward to going back up there.”

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