Former Bandit a pioneer for Cubs
Folden intent on making difference for organization
Rachel Folden wore a Cubs sweatshirt Saturday with a tremendous amount of pride — albeit with a slight pause — after being named one of the first female coaches of a minor-league staff.
“Honestly, I think it should have happened a while ago,” said Folden, who will become the lead hitting lab tech and fourth coach for the Cubs’ Arizona Rookie League team in Mesa.
“I’m happy to be one of the first.”
Folden, 32, was hired Friday, the same day the Yankees announced the hiring of Rachel Balkovec as a minor-league hitting coach.
Although Folden, like Balkovec, has a college softball background, baseball has remained a passion since she played Little League in Southern California and has worked with baseball players since she started a coaching career outside of her two seasons as an assistant softball coach at Valparaiso (2009-10).
“This is going to be more prominent than people think,” said Folden, a former star with the Chicago Bandits softball team who was inducted into the Marshall University Hall of Fame in September. “Baseball has moved to a place where you don’t need to have been a successful ex-player to be a coach, which is always how it used to be.
“So now you have women learning the sport or who have played the sport. Women have played baseball too. And they are gravitating toward the coaching side, too, and it’s really cool that people are starting to notice that and starting to employ women, especially on the coaching side.”
Folden is part of a major reconstruction in the Cubs’ hitting department, now headed by Justin Stone, with a larger emphasis on technology and data.
Stone, who joined the Cubs as a consultant in the middle of the 2018 season and operates Elite Baseball Training, hired Folden as a consultant several years ago and kept her in mind when interviewing with several teams before accepting his new position with the Cubs.
“If (Folden) were a guy … she would already be a big-league hitting coach,” Stone said Saturday before speaking at a hitting clinic at UIC, hosted by Angels assistant hitting coach and former Cubs hitting coach John Mallee. “That’s how good she is.”
Cubs President Theo Epstein, in his end-of-season news conference, emphasized the need for more contact efficiency throughout the organization.
Folden in 2010 founded Folden Fastpitch, a company providing baseball and softball teachings involving biomechanics, science, technology and data.
She looks forward to devoting her teaching priorities exclusively to baseball.
“A good, efficient swing is a good, efficient swing, no matter what sport you’re playing,” Folden said.
“I don’t think there’s a difference. How you approach might be a little different, just based on who is throwing that day and just like it is in baseball.
“But I don’t think there is anything that needs to be taught differently. Efficiency is efficiency.”
New Cubs minor-league coach Rachel Folden, center, talks with colleagues Saturday during a hitting clinic at UIC.