By Race Opell
The New York Yankees have made history by naming Rachel Balkovec the first female manager in affiliated professional baseball after she was picked to manage the Class A Tampa Tarpons.
The 34-year-old Balkovec began her career in 2012 as a temporary contract strength and conditioning coach for the St. Louis Cardinals’ Johnson City, Tennessee, minor-league affiliate. In that role, she won the Appalachian League’s award for strength coach of the year. In 2014, she assumed a full-time role as the Johnson City affiliate’s strength and conditioning coordinator, the first time a woman had held that role in baseball.
According to reports, in 2013, she was waitressing and working at Lululemon, hoping to advance her coaching career, but after applying to 15 different teams in Phoenix and not hearing back, she changed her name on her resume and her email address from “Rachel” to “Rae”. Rather than emphasize she had been a Division I college softball catcher, she only said she had been a Division I college catcher. This led to phone interviews, but once people heard her voice, the only offers were for women’s sports, Balkovec says. One team, she says, told her they would never hire a woman.
In November 2019, Balkovec was announced as the New York Yankees’ newest hitting coach, to start in spring training 2020, again the first woman to hold such a position full-time. She also interviewed for a position as a quality control coach with the San Francisco Giants in fall 2019 but decided to take the Yankees’ role.
Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred Jr. issued the following statement regarding Rachel Balkovec’s promotion to manager of the Tampa Tarpons, a Minor League affiliate of the New York Yankees’ organization:
“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Rachel on this historic milestone. As manager of the Tampa Tarpons, she will continue to demonstrate her expertise and leadership in the Yankees’ organization. We wish Rachel well in this new capacity and appreciate her mentorship to the growing network of women in baseball operations and player development roles.
“When Kim Ng was hired as the General Manager of the Marlins prior to the 2021 season, it was a meaningful step forward. I am pleased to see the game continue to make important progress at various levels. Major League Baseball is committed to providing a supportive environment for women and girls to pursue our sport as players, coaches, umpires and executives. We are proud of Rachel, new Director of Player Development Sara Goodrum of the Astros and all the women across our sport who are setting a positive example for our next generation of fans and proving, on and off the field, that Baseball is a game for everyone.”