Balkovec to be first female skipper in Minors
Rachel Balkovec has made history throughout her career. In 2022, she’ll do it again. Balkovec is set to be named manager of the Tampa Tarpons, the Low-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The initial report from Lindsey Adler of The Athletic was confirmed by Balkovec late Sunday night. The
Rachel Balkovec has made history throughout her career. In 2022, she’ll do it again.
Balkovec is set to be named manager of the Tampa Tarpons, the Low-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The initial report from Lindsey Adler of The Athletic was confirmed by Balkovec late Sunday night. The 34-year-old will be the first woman to manage a Minor League team on a full-time basis. Balkovec spent last year as a hitting coach in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League and has worked in the Yankees organization since 2019. She also served as the first woman coach in the Futures Game, working for the American League side in 2021 in Denver.
“I think it just speaks really well of the Yankees that sometimes you might view the Yankees or other organizations that also have really deep histories in baseball to be very traditional,” Balkovec told MiLB.com’s Rob Terranova in 2020 as she prepared for her first season with New York. “But I think this is just a great of example of how they are really pushing the boundaries. And not just by, oh, hiring a woman, but they're aggressively making some moves in their player development system that it just speaks to what kind of organization they are. So not only do they have this deep tradition and, yes, that means a lot to me to be considered as a candidate, but also like, wow, they're doing some really amazing things with developing their farm system and making progressive changes there.”
😂 Thanks brother.— Rachel Balkovec (@_rachelbalkovec) January 9, 2022
After serving as catcher in softball programs at Creighton and New Mexico, Balkovec began a career in strength and conditioning, earning a master’s degree in kinesiology from LSU. She first joined an MLB organization as an intern with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012 -- where she was named Appalachian League Strength Coach of the Year with Rookie-level Johnson City -- and working in a similar capacity with the Chicago White Sox the following season. In 2014, she was hired as the Cards’ Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator, the first woman to be hired as a full-time coordinator in professional baseball.
She moved to the Astros organization in 2016, serving as the franchise’s Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator. That year, she spoke with the MiLB podcast “The Show Before The Show” about her new position. In 2018, Balkovec was named strength and conditioning coach for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks in the Astros organization.
In November 2019, Balkovec joined the Yankees as the first female full-time hitting coach for a Minor League team. Then the coronavirus pandemic wiped out what would’ve been her first season in the Yanks’ system.
“I really can't say, 'Oh, I'm a trailblazer,’ she told MiLB.com’s Terranova in 2020. “I am benefiting from many other women. Even though this is the first time this is happening, there are many other women who have come before me in sports in general and also in baseball and even more specifically with the Yankees, and so do I want to be viewed as a trailblazer? No. I want to be a part of a bigger celebration of what's already happened in the game to allow me to be here.”
In addition to her time with MLB organizations, Balkovec has worked in the Australian Baseball League as hitting coach for the Sydney Blue Sox, as an apprentice hitting coach with the national baseball and softball programs in the Netherlands and as a research and development intern for Driveline Baseball.
Tampa is scheduled to open its 2022 campaign on April 8 at Lakeland.
Tyler Maun is a reporter for MiLB.com and co-host of “The Show Before The Show” podcast. You can find him on Twitter @tylermaun.