(WJHL) – As the old adage goes, baseball is America’s Pastime. It’s a game that requires specialized physical skills and a wealth of tactical knowledge at the same time.
The sport is also full of tradition – it’s one of the many reasons why people continue to love it.
It’s why Jacqui Reynolds and Bree Nasti fell in love with it.
“Like most kids in the United States – I think it was my first sport,” Nasti said. “It was the first thing I started to do with my father, with my brother.”
“I went to a Rays vs. Orioles game and just fell in love with it ever since,” Reynolds explained.
But that same tradition is, perhaps, why the number of women in baseball remains rather low. Still, Reynolds and Nasti aren’t letting those numbers stand in the way of forging paths as two of the three female bench coaches in the Appalachian League this summer.
Both grew up playing baseball for a time, before they gave way to softball careers in high school and college.
“It’s kind of funny actually because I boycotted softball for the longest time,” Reynolds smiled.
Reynolds walked on at Southern New Hampshire University, but tore her ACL two weeks into her stint on the team, “which ended up being a blessing in disguise,” she said.
Reynolds graduated early and began pursuing coaching opportunities back in baseball – first with youth and high school teams – until she took a job as assistant coach at UMass Boston in 2021.
“I don’t know – baseball is basically my life at this point,” she said. “Baseball has been there for me, whenever it could be.”
Nasti has stuck more closely with the softball route, playing for The State University of New York at Buffalo. She had a passion for coaching and has served as an assistant at Hofstra, St. John’s, and Stony Brook over the years. Her first head coaching job came at Division II Adelphi, before joining the staff at Providence College in 2018.
“I value seeing people thrive and kind of being alongside them for that process,” she said.
Despite the lack of female faces in the baseball industry, both women say they have been boosted by the support they’ve received from family and mentors.
“Whenever any opportunity has happened, they’ve always just been really supportive and so have my friends,” Reynolds said.
“I feel really supported,” Nasti said. “I think my first kind of foray into baseball – Major League Baseball – was with the diversity pipeline scouts run by Tyrone Brooks.”
But still, there have been challenges along the way.
“I’ve gone to shake an umpires hand and they don’t shake back type of thing,” Reynolds said. “I’ve had that happen to me.”
“I think there’s always going to be resistance,” Nasti said. “I think it’s definitely something that people are still adjusting to for whatever reason.”
However, they say the adjustment to working with the Johnson City Doughboys and Elizabethton River Riders in the Appalachian League this summer has been seamless.
“I love – even the odd schedule, the travel, the bus rides, the clubhouse – I love all of that stuff,” Nasti explained. “I love that it’s not the same every day.”
“This has been an awesome experience and to see the clubhouse and kinda almost how minor league baseball works, so it’s been really cool to see,” Reynolds said. “All the guys here are very supportive – I’m thankful that they are about that.”
Nasti says this first experience in baseball has been one to treasure, so far.
Reynolds, on the other hand, has dreams of working in a Minor League dugout sooner rather than later, hoping to take an eventual step to the big leagues. She says she looks to those few women that have achieved that goal for guidance.
“I’ve had some contact with a few of them and I’m always reaching out to them asking questions, if I need to,” she said. “Having someone there that’s done it makes it a lot easier on me. They’re doing all the hard work – I’m just following in their footsteps.”