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Andrea Hayden has one goal: inspire, motivate and serve elite athletes

Minnesota Twins coach Andrea Hayden

Andrea Hayden did not set out to be a trailblazer. It just worked out that way.

Hayden, 32, a native of St. Charles County, is the first female strength and conditioning coach in the history of Major League Baseball.

Last November, Hayden was hired as the Minnesota Twins’ assistant strength and conditioning coach. She is the first female to hold that job in MLB history. Hayden also became the first female coach in MLB.

But her status as “the first woman” matters little to Hayden, who graduated from O’Fallon Christian, before going to Missouri Baptist University and Lindenwood University.

“I did not know. I was not concerned with that,” Hayden said. “I just wanted and still want to be the best strength coach, period, regardless of gender. I do not take it lightly, but I also do not want an individual platform. I am not successful because I am a female. My success is not independent of the Twins.”

Hayden noted she is “grateful” for the opportunity to be a part of the Twins’ organization. She enjoys working and serving the organization every day.

Although she is unique in being the first woman to hold a job like hers, Hayden does not think of herself as a pioneer in any way.

“I get asked a lot what it is like working in a male-dominated industry,” Hayden said. “I kindly ask them: ‘Do you know the definition of dominate?’ [It’s] commanding, superior, overpowering … I do not work in an environment like that. I am not around men who behave that way. I work in a male-majority environment. There are just more of them than me. That’s it.

“If I am to be a pioneer, it would be to spread this message — I want women to continue to feel like they have a seat at the table because they have taken pride in being great at their craft. I am thankful to have been around amazing men who have always made me feel valued and appreciated, never less than, or inferior because I am a female.”

Her path to a job in professional baseball was not a straight line.

Growing up, Hayden played select fastpitch softball for the St. Peter’s Royals. She also played basketball and soccer through middle and high school. When she graduated, Hayden did not attend college right away. She went to work.

“School did not come easy for me. I was not the best student,” Hayden said. “[I] only kept good grades to keep me eligible to play school sports. Continuing education after high school did not appeal to me.”

So, Hayden became a certified personal trainer. She was good, too. Hayden worked her way to being a manager for a couple of private personal training gyms in the St. Charles and O’Fallon area. It was hard work.

“After a few years, I started getting burnt out from training the general population, and really desired to get back into athletics,” Hayden said. “At the age of 24, I humbled myself and went to school [Missouri Baptist University] to start this journey.”

After getting a degree in exercise science, Hayden went to Lindenwood, where she earned a master’s degree in human performance. She also worked as a graduate assistant and as an athletic performance coach.

Hayden knew this field of study would help her grow in her knowledge of exercise physiology, human anatomy and sports psychology.

Minnesota Twins coach Andrea Hayden

Lindenwood promoted Hayden to full time. She worked with a variety of the school’s sports from synchronized swimming to women’s basketball as well as men’s lacrosse, women’s volleyball, field hockey, men and women’s soccer, and women’s ice hockey.

“I was in charge of implementing and writing the training programs for each team,” Hayden said.

The experience benefited her greatly.

“It would be impossible to put a value on what I learned while at Lindenwood University,” Hayden said. “The personal and professional growth I had while there is a huge part of the success I have currently. The athletic performance department and staff became family.

“My goal [was] and still my current goal [is] to inspire, motivate and serve elite athletes by fostering an environment that demands an authentic commitment to details, excellence and effort.”

Hayden also had internships at EXOS in San Diego and the University of Louisville. In the summer of 2017, she went to China to work with the Chinese women’s professional ice hockey teams.

A friend of a friend helped guide Hayden to professional baseball. She earned an MLB fellowship in February 2019 and received a call from Ian Kadish, the director of strength and conditioning for the Twins.

“Ian and I had a mutual friend in Aaron Rhodes [the Minor League coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals]. Aaron and I used to intern together back in 2015,” Hayden said. “We kept in touch over the years. He reached out to me and encouraged me to talk to Ian.

“At the time, I wasn’t interested in leaving Lindenwood. I was very happy there, near my family, enjoying what I was doing. I had no interest in leaving.”

However, Hayden agreed to Rhodes’ request to talk to Kadish and she’s glad she did. The call changed everything for her.

“After an hour-long conversation of Ian painting the vision of the organization and the strength and conditioning department, I knew this was something I couldn’t pass up on,” Hayden said. “I hung up the phone and a week later my car was packed up and I was headed down to Fort Myers, Florida, for spring training.”

It was a big step for Hayden but she knew it was the right move to make.

“I have chosen to live my life by the motto ‘courage over comfort.’ It was a bit unsettling to leave the comfort of Lindenwood to pursue this,” Hayden said. “Leaving the security of a full-time job and benefits to chase after an hourly paid fellowship, it felt like a step back in my career but I refused to see it that way. I was going to do everything in my power to make this opportunity propel me forward.

“I have been very fortunate to have a strong network of coaches who have taken risks on me and put their name on me. Any success I have had is because of people willing to refer me to others. I take that very seriously. I feel like I wear a jersey with hundreds of different names on it.”

Minnesota Twins coach Andrea Hayden

After completing her fellowship, it was a seamless transition to move to a full-time role with the Twins, Hayden said. Throughout the 2019 season, it looked like Hayden would be kept on in her role. The organization was encouraging; however, nothing was promised or official.

Hayden came back to the area following the 2019 season and remained here during the offseason. Then, a phone call changed everything for her.

“Receiving the official phone call and [being] offered the contract was an exciting day,” Hayden said.

As the assistant strength and conditioning coach, Hayden works alongside Kadish to ensure every player is taken care of and kept on the field playing. She serves them in any way she can.

“This is the best job. [There’s] nothing better than getting to be a part of this organization,” Hayden said. “Our players are top notch men who show up every day with the desire to compete and get better. The culture of the clubhouse is rooted in respect, and being a good teammate is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”

She had no problem relating to the players and they quickly accepted her as a coach.

“The players have turned quickly into big and little brothers to me,” Hayden said. “I have the utmost respect for who they are as people before players. They have never questioned my ability or passion to want to get along side of them and help them. They have allowed me to be myself. We can joke and laugh just as hard as we work and get after it in the weight room.

“I am in my second year with the Twins, and only recently has news got out about my being the first female [coach]. The biggest compliment I’ve received from the players is them recently picking on me [about] why I didn’t tell them. They had no idea that I was the first, and good, cause they shouldn’t know. It’s not their job to know, and I am doing mine if they aren’t aware.”

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down baseball. Everything stopped.

“We had a great spring training. Everyone was focused and diligent to get their work done,” Hayden said. “Though we are not physically together, everyone is still continuing to take pride in their preparation, and I have no doubts that when we resume, we will pick right back up with where we left off.”

Like everyone else, Hayden is sheltering in place. She spends her time reading, networking and communicating with others in her field.

“Though it is unknown times, I do not want to waste time,” Hayden said. “Every day is a chance to grow and impact people, even from a distance.

Naturally, she is optimistic about getting back on the job.

“I do believe we will get back to baseball soon,” Hayden said. “But as an organization, we are treating that secondary. Right now we are focusing on the health and safety of our players and staff, and making sure everyone is taken care of and supported during this time.”

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