For­mer Ban­dit a pi­o­neer for Cubs

Folden in­tent on mak­ing dif­fer­ence for or­ga­ni­za­tion

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CUBS | COLLEGE BASKETBALL - By Mark Gon­za­les

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.”

JOHN J. KIM/CHICAGO TRIBUNE

New Cubs mi­nor-league coach Rachel Folden, cen­ter, talks with col­leagues Saturday dur­ing a hit­ting clinic at UIC.

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