With years of work in professional baseball under her belt, Rachel Balkovec has already broken multiple barriers. Now, she’s about to do it again, this time as the first female manager in the history of the minor leagues.
According to a report in The Athletic, the New York Yankees plan to name Balkovec, 34, as manager of their Low-A squad, the Tampa Tarpons.
Balkovec broke into professional baseball in 2012, when she took a job as a strength and conditioning coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in the minor leagues. From there, she went on to work for the Houston Astros, where she became their first female Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator.
In 2019, she made another trailblazing move when she joined the Yankees organization as a hitting coach; she is believed to be the first woman hitting coach employed by a major league team, according to The Associated Press.
During the 2021 season, Balkovec worked as a Yankees minor league hitting instructor in Tampa. The Tarpons, which as a Low-A team play four levels down from the major leagues, finished first in the Southeast West Division last year.
Balkovec says her unique path has given her an edge
Before working in professional baseball, Balkovec was a catcher for softball teams at Creighton University and the University of New Mexico.
In 2018, she pursued a second master’s degree in human movement sciences at Vrije University in the Netherlands. While abroad, she worked with the country’s national softball and baseball teams. She has also worked for Driveline Baseball, a data-driven baseball center.
“I view my path as an advantage,” Balkovec told The Associated Press in 2019. “I had to do probably much more than maybe a male counterpart, but I like that because I’m so much more prepared for the challenges that I might encounter.”
Reports of Balkovec’s hiring come at a moment of other important firsts for women in professional baseball. In 2020, Kim Ng of the Miami Marlins became the first woman to be named general manager of a Major League team. In 2021, the Boston Red Sox hired Bianca Smith as a minor league coach. Smith is the first Black woman to coach in professional baseball.
The Yankees and the Tarpons did not immediately respond to requests for comment.