photo: coaches Rachel Balkovec and Darwin Marrero (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
Diversity has grown throughout sports and the St. Louis Cardinals are no exception, having employed hundreds of minor league coaches of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds.
But the common theme is they were almost all male coaches.
The Cardinals continued to make inroads by increasing the diversity within its organization. St. Louis has hired Christina “Tina” Whitlock as a “fourth” coach for one of its minor league affiliates, as first reported by Mark Saxon of The Athletic this past Monday.
Whitlock will become the second female coach to work in the Cardinals’ system. The hiring is part of the team’s ongoing fourth coach program, with the goal to develop future coaches and scouts by exposing participants to both jobs daily over the course of a season.
She will be with one of the full-season affiliates to open 2020, but her assignment hasn’t been disclosed as all four fourth coach positions have not been locked down yet.
Whitlock was a two-time All-American softball player as a catcher at South Carolina and has scouted under Cardinals scout Charlie Peterson. The holder of a Master’s degree also has extensive experience coaching Division I and Division II level softball since 1999.
Most recently, Whitlock has served as the national baseball and softball director for Stars and Stripes Sports, which is a youth athletic development organization. Prior to that, she was the pitching coach for the Great Britain Women’s National Softball Team.
Saxon labeled Whitlock as the Cardinals first female coach, however, while she is the first fourth coach, she is not the first overall.
That distinction is held by Rachel Balkovec. The first female coach in the system was strength and conditioning coach at Johnson City in 2012 under manager Oliver Marmol.
Balkovec was named the top strength coach in the Appalachian League that year. She later moved up to strength and conditioning coordinator for the entire Cardinals farm system. Balkovec is now a hitting coach in the New York Yankees system after working for the Houston Astros and most recently, Driveline Baseball.
As a fourth coach, Whitlock will participate in batting practice and pre-game workouts for her assigned club, but sit with the scouts in the stands in street clothes during games. It’s a hybrid training role.
Participants in the fourth coach program, which was started by the Cardinals in 2014, only serve one year in that job. Whitock may have the opportunity to move into a regular coaching spot in 2021 or head in the scouting direction instead.
The Cardinals have hired another female coach for 2020, as well. Back in January, Jacqueline Gover was formally announced as the new strength and conditioning coach for Johnson City, following in Balkovec’s footsteps.
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