It’s difficult to imagine being the first in anything; over the past years, women have been breaking barriers in the news, fighting for bodily autonomy, and showing that women are capable of so much more than they are given credit for. With this, comes the fight for the same respect in sports whether it be on the field or in the announcer’s booth.
Rachel Balkovec is just one of these strong women. In January, it was announced that Balkovec would become the manager for the Tampa Tarpons, a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees. However, this feat did not come without its challenges.
Throughout high school, Balkovec played softball, basketball, and soccer and continued to play softball as a catcher at Creighton University. She went on to transfer to the University of New Mexico and graduate with a bachelor’s in exercise science in 2009. Balkovec continued her education at Louisiana State University, completing a master’s degree in kinesiology.
After earning her master’s at LSU, she went abroad to Vrije University in the Netherlands to pursue her second master’s degree. While in the Netherlands, she was a hitting coach for Dutch baseball and softball teams. When she moved back to the states, she got her first Major League job as a minor league strength and conditioning coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012.
In 2016, she took up a position as the Latin American strength and conditioning coach for the Houston Astros. By spring training 2020, she had a full-time position as the New York Yankees hitting coach, the first woman to ever hold this position. Unfortunately, the pandemic canceled the 2020 Minor League Season, so she moved to coach in the Australian Baseball League.
However, on April 8th, the Tampa Tarpons defeated the Lakeland Flying Tigers 9-6, giving Balkovec her first managerial win in her debut. Tampa currently has a 7-3 record and is first in their affiliates division. Balkovec went through many interviews and hurdles to get to where she is now. In an interview just before her debut, she said, "It's been ten years of just working to this point, things have evolved. I was blatantly discriminated against back then. Some people say not to say that, but it's just part of what has happened, and I think it's important to say because it lets you know how much change has happened."
Still, Balkovec has opened a door for women in sports. She continues to show that women are just as capable of managing a baseball team as men. It’s exciting seeing a woman succeed in sports, creating a path for so many women to follow. She will leave a legacy not just on the Yankees organization, but in the sports world.
For more information, you can check out Rachel’s website here!