Breaking Barriers: Women of the Diamond, Rachel BalkovecBreaking Barriers: Women of the Diamond, Rachel Balkovec – Rachel Balkovec may well be the barrier breaker of the summer. She became a big name in the sports world in January when the Yankees made a big announcement. Balkovec had been named manager of the Low-A Tampa Tarpons for the 2022 season, making her the first woman to manage in MLB affiliated baseball

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Balkovec grew up playing basketball, soccer, and softball. She would go on to play softball for Creighton and then the University of New Mexico as a catcher. She earned a degree in exercise science and then went on to get two master’s degrees. The first in kinesiology from Louisiana State, and the second in biomechanics from Vrije University in the Netherlands. She worked as an assistant hitting coach with the Dutch baseball and softball programs while in the Netherlands. 

Those degrees and her experience in the sport made her the perfect person to train ball players. However, it wasn’t easy getting into the clubhouse back in the states. After being rejected by several organizations, Rachel changed her first name to Rae on her resume. Even then, once interviewers heard her voice on the phone, she still got rejected because she was a woman. She has said that she doesn’t love having to mention that, but she also wants people to be able to see how far things have come in the last several years.

Balkovec has worked hard to be the best in every job she has held, but she stands out with her players for what she can get out of them. In a research and development fellowship at Driveline Baseball in Seattle, she was known for setting a tone that got the best out of the players.

In 2012, Balkovec was hired as a temporary strength and conditioning coach for the Johnson City Cardinals. There, she won Strength Coach of the Year for the Appalachian League. In 2014, she became the first woman in baseball to take the role of full-time strength and conditioning coordinator for that same club.

In 2016, the Houston Astros hired her as the strength coordinator for their Latin American team. In 2018, she moved up to Houston’s AA team. Again, both firsts for a woman.

Balkovec was announced as a  hitting coach for the Yankees in November of 2019. But as we all know, the 2020 minor league season didn’t happen. Balkovec made the most of it and went to coach in the Australian Baseball League. Back in the US in 2021, she was on the coaching staff for the All-Star Futures game. 

In April, Balkovec and her Tarpons took home a win in her managerial debut. The Tarpons (and all of baseball) know they have something special in Coach Balkovec. Collectors are going crazy for the cards and other merch featuring this woman of the diamond.

 

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Libby Koch

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