Rachel Balkovec

From BR Bullpen

Rachel Balkovec

Biographical Information[edit]

Rachel Balkovec was named a minor league hitting coach by the New York Yankees in November 2019. This came at a time when a number of women were making breakthroughs in organized baseball, most notably Alyssa Nakken, who was named a coach with the San Francisco Giants around the same time. She became the first female minor league coach, at the same time as Nakken became the first one in the majors.

Balkovec's first jobs in baseball were strength and conditioning internships with the Johnson City Cardinals in 2012 and AZL White Sox in 2013. She was hired full-time in 2014 when she was named minor league strength and conditioning coordinator by the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2016, she moved to the Houston Astros as Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator and strength and conditioning coach for the GCL Astros. After two years in those roles, the Astros promoted her to strength and conditioning coach for the Corpus Christi Hooks in AA. She then worked for the Royal Netherlands Baseball and Softball Federation as an assistant hitting coach while earning a graduate degree in the Netherlands.

She explains that when she was first looking for a job in baseball, she used the nickname "Rae" on her resumé and made all of its entries gender-neutral, as applying as a woman would have led nowhere. She then changed her mind because while the strategy would get her an initial phone call, teams that were bent against hiring a woman in the first place would not be swayed, so she figured she had to be upfront about being a woman. She eventually was offered an internship by the Cardinals, which led to her being hired full-time, although that was a struggle as well.

She has two master’s degrees in human movement sciences, an area that teams have been greatly interested in starting in the late 2010s. She played college softball at Creighton University and at the University of New Mexico - she was a catcher - and speaks fluent Spanish. Her graduate degrees come from Louisiana State University and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

While working for the Astros Balkovec became interested in transitioning to a hitting coach role. This was part of her motivation for pursuing a second master's degree in the Netherlands. In 2020 she was scheduled to be a hitting coach for the GCL Yankees before the minor league season was cancelled due to COVID-19. Over the winter months Balkovec worked as a coach with the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League. In 2021, she was finally able to work as a coach in a regular minor league context, working with the Yankees' affiliate in the Florida Complex League, the FCL Yankees. That summer, she was named to the American League coaching staff for the 2021 Futures Game, having been hand-picked by manager LaTroy Hawkins, who said he had been following her career for a while and wanted to have a diverse staff working with him at the showcase event.

In 2022, she achieved another major first on January 9th when she was named the manager of the Tampa Tarpons, the Yankees' affiliate in the Low-A Southeast. That made her the first woman to manage a team in organized baseball history. A couole of women, including Justine Siegal, had worked as guest managers in the independent leagues, but none had ever held the job full-time in the professional ranks. Her first game came on April 8th, a 9-6 win over the Lakeland Flying Tigers. This came after she had suffered a scare in spring training when she was hit in the face by an errant foul ball and had to sit out a few days while recovering.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Betelhem Ashame: "Balkovec latest in line of women shattering baseball's barriers", mlb.com, January 24, 2022. [1]
  • Molly Burkhardt: "It's just the beginning for women in baseball: Balkovec hire provides road map, optimism for women seeking similar career paths", mlb.com, January 12, 2022. [2]
  • Alyson Footer: "These women are taking their turn at bat: Coaches Nakken, Balkovec setting new trend in MLB", mlb.com, May 14, 2020. [3]
  • Bryan Hoch: "NYY's Balkovec to be 1st woman Futures Game coach", mlb.com, July 6, 2021. [4]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Rachel Balkovec to manage in Yanks' system", mlb.com, January 10, 2022. [5]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Balkovec out 'to be a visible idea' in baseball", mlb.com, January 12, 2022. [6]
  • Dawn Klemish: "Barrier broken: Balkovec 'highly aware' of impact of her managerial debut", mlb.com, April 9, 2022. [7]
  • Ben Rohrbach: "Yankees' Rachel Balkovec to become first female manager in minor league history", Yahoo! Sports, January 9, 2022. [8]

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