One of the most important baseball coaches in the world, Rachel Balkovec, is going to be manager of a team in the Yankees’ minor league system. This will make her the first woman to be in charge of an affiliated professional baseball team.
Balkovec, 34, will be the manager of the Tampa Tarpons, the Yankees’ low Class A team, for the 2022 season, which starts in April. As a hitting coach for their minor leagues, the Yankees will hire her in November 2019 to work with them. She was thought to be the first full-time hitting coach hired by a major league team to be a woman.
The news of Balkovec’s promotion to manager was first reported by The Athletic and was confirmed by a Yankees official.
As a strength and conditioning coach for the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league affiliate in Johnson City, Tenn., Balkovec worked on a short-term deal in 2012. She was named the Appalachian League’s strength coach of the year. For two years in 2014 and 2015, she worked for the Cardinals as their minor league strength and conditioning coordinator. She was also the first woman to hold a full-time job in that field with a major league-affiliated baseball team.
This is what she did for the Houston Astros in 2016. She was their Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator. Two years after that, she became the strength and conditioning coach for the Astros’ Class AA Corpus Christi Hooks, who play in Texas.
This means Balkovec was on the softball teams at Creighton and New Mexico. For example, she has an M.S. in kinesiology from Louisiana State University. Afterward, she went to Vrije University in the Netherlands to get her second master’s degree. It was a human movement science degree. During her time in the country, she also worked as an assistant hitting coach for the country’s baseball and softball teams, as well as M.L.B.’s Hot Stove and Off-Season News.
She learned Spanish on her own so that she could be a better communicator. Because Driveline Baseball, a data-driven baseball training centre in Washington State, hired her before the Yankees did, she worked there before they hired her. At Driveline, she was studying how hitters looked at the ball and how pitchers moved their hips.
Balkovec had a hard time getting hired as a strength and conditioning coach in baseball years ago. When she changed her first name on her résumé and applications from “Rachel” to “Rae,” teams called her back and said they were interested in her. Then, she said that when she told them she was a woman, the people on the other end of the line were shocked. Some people didn’t answer the phone, and some said they wouldn’t hire a woman.
I see my path as a good thing. That’s what she said in December 2019. “I had to do a lot more than maybe a male counterpart, but I like that because I’m better prepared for the things and the challenges that I might come across.” For young women and women in general, I want to say, “Maybe we should work a little more.” OK. But I’m glad I had to, because now I’m healthy and better prepared than I would have been if it had been given to me early.
Balkovec’s promotion to manager shows that women are still rising in this male-dominated industry, especially on the field. That progress has come with a lot of problems.
In 2020, Alyssa Nakken became the first woman to work as a full-time coach in the major leagues. She worked for the San Francisco Giants, who are in the league. Kim Ng, a former assistant general manager for the Yankees, became the first woman to become general manager of a major league team. She worked for the Miami Marlins. She became the first African-American woman to work in affiliated professional baseball as a coach when the Boston Red Sox hired her as a coach for minor league teams.
A group at the University of Central Florida called the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport says that as of January 1, 2021, there were 22 women who had either on-field coaching or player development roles. This is up from three in 2017. Even though there has been a lot of progress, that institute gave Major League Baseball and its 30 teams a C grade for hiring women.
As a manager, Balkovec will be in charge of guiding the team’s coaches, players, and staff; helping players grow; and making game-time tactical decisions, such as running a pitching staff, for the team. This may be one of many steps she takes in her job. Before last year, she told a podcast called “Locker Room Talk” that her dream was to become a general manager one day.
“I hope that happens in the next 10 years, but it’s a job that many people want.” Afterward, she said she still has a lot to learn about being a hitting coach. “I don’t know when, where, how, or anything else,” she said.