The Yankees appoint Rachel Balkovec as First Woman Manager in Minors

Rachel Balkovec, a pioneering baseball coach, will become the Yankees minor league team manager, becoming the first woman to lead an affiliated professional baseball team.

The 34-year-old Balkovec will run the Tampa Tarpons, a low-ranking Yankees in Class A, for the 2022 season, which begins in April. The Yankees hired her in November 2019 as a strike coach in their minor leagues. She was believed to be the first woman to be hired as a full-time strike instructor by a major league team.

The news of Balkovc’s promotion to manager was first brought by The Athletic and confirmed by a representative of the Yankees.

Balkovec started working in professional baseball in 2012, on a temporary contract as a strength and fitness trainer for the St. Louis Cardinals in the minor league in Johnson City, Tenn., Where she was the strongest coach of the year in the Appalachian League. In 2014 and 2015, she was the strength and conditioning coordinator of the minor League Cardinals and the first woman to hold a full-time position in the field in baseball affiliated with the major league.

In 2016, she was the Latin America Strength and Fitness Coordinator at the Houston Astros. Two years later, she became a strength and fitness trainer for Astros’ Class AA Corpus Christi Hooks.

Balkovec caught on to the softball teams at Creighton and the University of New Mexico. He holds a master’s degree in kinesiology from the state of Louisiana. In 2018, she left Astros to pursue her second master’s degree in human science at the University of Vrije in the Netherlands. While there, she also served as a punching assistant for baseball and softball programs in the country.

She learned Spanish to be a more effective communicator. And before she was hired by the Yankees, she worked at Driveline Baseball, a Washington-based baseball data training center. At Driveline, she studied eye tracking for whips and hip movement for pitchers.

Balkovec faced resistance when she applied for strength and fitness work in baseball years ago. When she changed her first name to “Rae” from “Rachel” in her resume and applications, the teams called her back. However, she said officials at the other end of the line were taken aback when they found out she was a woman. Some did not respond and some said they would not employ the woman.

“I see my trip as an advantage,” she said in December 2019. “I’ve probably had to do a lot more than my male counterpart, but I like it because I’m much better prepared for the things and challenges he may face. And I want to encourage young women or women in general that it may not be fair that we have to work a little harder. Okay, fine. But I’m glad I had to, because now I’m well and much better prepared than if it had been given to me soon. “

Balkovc’s promotion to manager represents the continuing rise of women in this male-dominated industry, especially in the industry. This progress has come with considerable obstacles.

In 2020, Alyssa Nakken became the first woman to work as a full-time coach in the major leagues of the San Francisco Giants. Kim Ng, a former assistant general manager of the Yankees, became the first woman to become a general manager in the Miami Marlins. And Bianca Smith was hired as a minor league coach at the Boston Red Sox, making her the first black woman to serve as an associate professional baseball coach.

As of January 1, 2021, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, there were 22 women who had either a field coach or a player development role, compared to three in 2017. Despite progress, the Institute Baseball and its 30 teams score C for hiring by gender.

As a manager, Balkovec will be responsible for leading coaches, players and team staff; helps players develop; and make tactical decisions in the game, including leading the pitching staff. This last step may be one of several others in her career. Last year, she told the “Locker Room Talk” podcast that she had dreamed of becoming a general manager.

“I hope it will happen within 10 years, but it is clearly a role that many long for. I don’t know when, where, how or anything, “she said, later adding,” As a punching coach, I have a lot to learn, but it’s definitely a North Star. “

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