Having worked extensively with Driveline Baseball, a date-driven performance center in Washington, Rachel Balkovec has made an art of tracking the eyes of hitters and their subsequent hip movement based on different types of pitches thrown. It’s something she intends to bring to the Yankees.
The Yankees, as an organization, are trendsetters. The first AL club to add pinstripes in 1915 (they briefly wore them in 1912), the Yanks also became the originator of making digits permanent on the back of jerseys in 1929. Cleveland used numbers on the left sleeve of the home jerseys in 1916.
While the Yanks still hold their no facial hair policy in high regard (except for a neatly trimmed mustache that doesn’t extend past the corner of the lips), and have yet to introduce a third jersey, to be worn during the regular season, the Yankees have evolved with the times.
Fast-froward to the end of 2019, and the Bombers have hired, what is believed to be the first female hitting coach in Major League Baseball history.
Rachel Balkovec, 32, will serve as a roving hitting instructor based out of the organization’s minor league facility in Tampa, FLA. However, according to Yankees director of player development, Kevin Reese, she will also work with players in the Dominican Republic — per the NY Post:
“She will be working with hitters in both Tampa and the [Domincan Republic],” said Kevin Reese, the Yankees’ director of player development. “Her background should help integrate ideas from Performance Science and Strength and Conditioning as well.”
A former collegiate catcher, first at Creighton and then New Mexico, where she earned two masters degrees in kinesiology and the science of human movement, Balkovec is no stranger to breaking barriers.
In 2012, the Nebraska native was hired part-time by the Cardinals to act as a strength and conditioning coach. Balkovic was then promoted as the Cards’ minor league strength and condition coordinator during the 2014-15 seasons — thereby becoming the first woman to hold such a position in baseball.
Balkovec served as the Astros’ Latin America strength and condition coach in 2016 — and in 2018, held the same role for Houston’s Double-A affiliate, Corpus Christi.
While with Houston, Balkovec met Dillon Lawson, who now works with the Yankees as their hitting coordinator — and he recommended her to the Yanks. Speaking with Lindsay Berra of the NY Times, Lawson made it clear that Balkovec was the right candidate for the job.
“It’s an easy answer to why we chose Rachel for this role,” Yankees hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson told the Times. “She’s a good hitting coach, and a good coach, period.”