Kamekona Is First Woman On-Field Coach For MLB's Guardians
Coaching was always in the cards for Amanda Kamekona. The former standout softball player held down the middle of the UCLA and Cal State Fullerton lineups for four years in college and knew she wanted to use her knowledge to help other hitters one day.
After finishing off her illustrious college career, one filled with numerous honors including All-American status, Kamekona took a year off from softball.
Then, Limestone College came calling the next year with an assistant coaching job as a hitting coach. At the same time, she joined PFX, a barnstorming professional softball league similar to that of Athletes Unlimited that allowed its players to switch teams for each game in new cities. She then accepted the head coaching position at Brevard College, a Division III school in North Carolina, a program she’d run for the next six years while she competed professionally with the Carolina Diamonds and New York-New Jersey Comets in National Pro Fastpitch.
By that time, Kamekona missed life in California, she said. She was coaching and playing on the East Coast and wanted to return home. While still playing for the Pride, she moved back home and began working for a junior Olympic-level softball team in Chino Hills. Kamekona then became the head coach at Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente for three seasons, and opened up a California branch of the Texas Bombers, developing the California Bombers.
Then, something “random” happened, she said. It set in motion the start of a short-term goal Kamekona had set for herself. She was visiting with softball legend Cat Osterman when she received a text from Rachel Folden, a hitting coach for the Chicago Cubs.
“I’m having lunch with Jennifer Wolf (assistant director of player development with the Cleveland Guardians),” it read. “The Guardians are looking for a potential hitting coach.”
Wolf asked Folden if she knew anyone who would be good for the job, and only one person—Kamekona—came to mind. “I was like, ‘yeah, dude,’” Kamekona responded. One call with Wolf expressing her interest in the job led to an interview with Grant Fink, the hitting coordinator for Cleveland. Then a few phone calls were followed by a week of interviews in Arizona. They picked apart her philosophy of hitting, one that helped her gain respect at Limestone and Brevard Colleges, one that led to her leading UCLA with 14 home runs, 46 RBIs, 47 runs scored and a .633 slugging percentage in 2008.
They asked what her constraints were when working with athletes and analyzed video of her working with high school hitters. They agreed with her teaching hitters to work up the middle of the field, driving the ball from gap to gap and adjusting the approach from there.
The Guardians promptly hired Kamekona as a player development hitting coach working with their Arizona Complex League team. Kamekona, amidst a league-wide push to hire more women in coaching roles, became the first woman on-field instructor in Cleveland’s system.
“My priority is making sure I'm doing my job well,” Kamekona said. “Heck, yeah I want to make sure that … I kick butt at my job and do an amazing job. I don't want to mess it up for anyone behind me.”
Being a woman in a league dominated by men crosses her mind, Kamekona said, but just like every other position she’s held, she just wants to do as well as she can so she can advance in MLB. Kamekona was so deeply involved in the college and travel softball worlds that she didn’t really think about making the transition to baseball, though she knew she eventually wanted to become a hitting coach in MLB.
She joined the Guardians in Goodyear, Ariz. this spring and will stay in the Arizona Complex League this season working with some of the youngest hitters in Cleveland’s organization. Cleveland, she said, is a “very positive” environment that allows her to fulfill her passion of coaching and have her office be a baseball field.
“Now that I'm here and have gotten the opportunity, I friggin' love it and hope to be in baseball as long as I can,” Kamekona said.