Closing The Gap

Yankees’ Rachel Balkovec makes history as the first female manager in minor league baseball

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Hitting coach Rachel Balkovec of the Yankees looks on during the Florida Complex League (FCL) game between the FCL New York Yankees and FCL Detroit Tigers on July 9, 2021 at the Tigers Minor League Complex in Lakeland, Florida.
Joe Robbins | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

Rachel Balkovec will become the first female manager in affiliated professional baseball after the Yankees tapped her to lead the Tampa Tarpons, their Low-A affiliate team, according to the Athletic

This isn't the first glass ceiling the 34-year-old has shattered in baseball, either. The Omaha native has been a professional baseball coach for 10 years and has often been the first woman to hold different jobs within the sport. 

The announcement comes after a series of other firsts for women in baseball over the last two years. Last year Bianca Smith made history as the first Black woman to coach in professional baseball after joining the Boston Red Sox staff and in 2020, Kim Ng became first female general manager of the MLB for the Miami Marlins. 

Balkovec started her career in 2012 as a strength and conditioning coach for the St. Louis Cardinals' minor league team. She left in 2015 to be the Houston Astros' Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator, making her the first woman to hold that position.

She took a few years off from American professional baseball to complete a master's degree in biomechanics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands and was hired by the Yankees shortly after graduating in 2019 as a minor-league hitting coach, becoming the first female full-time hitting coach in an MLB organization. 

Her interest in biomechanics has helped Balkovec better understand how to use science to improve players' swings and movements. "For example, if there is a restriction in movement, can they spot those types of things,'' Balkovec said in 2019, according to the New York Post

She continued: "How is that going to affect their swing mechanics and the ability to get something done in a game situation? Also, the visual side of things, what are the best strategies of things [like] picking up the ball for recognizing a pitch?"

Balkovec, who was a catcher for the softball teams at Creighton University and the University of New Mexico, has called the challenges she has faced while working in a male-dominated sport "an advantage." 

"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," she told the Associated Press in 2019. 

It's also important, Balkovec added, to be persistent and not lose hope in the face of unequal opportunities. 

"My mom always used to say, life's not fair," she told the Associated Press. "So is it fair? No. Does it matter? No. You have to keep standing at that door banging on it."

This article has been updated. An earlier version misstated the name of the Miami MLB team.

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