Balkovec, who began her Yankee journey in late 2019 as a minor-league hitting coach with the intent of making her debut in Spring Training 2020, became the first woman to hold a full-time position in that vein when her contract was finalized.
Now, just two short years (and a canceled 2020 season!) later, Balkovec has taken another huge step forward — and one that would’ve sounded quite unlikely at the time of her initial hire.
The venerated 34-year-old specialist has reportedly been named the manager of the Low-A Tampa Tarpons, checking off another significant box on her way towards a potential job with the big-league team.
To the doubters … what would you have said if we’d told you two years ago Balkovec would have already earned a management opportunity by Year 2? Exactly. Nothing sounds that impossible right about now, as the Yankees have clearly prioritized success and ambition over anything external detractors might say.
Yankees name Rachel Balkovec Low-A Tampa Tarpons manager.
From a minor-league gig at the lowest levels to a public showcase on the Futures Game coaching staff in 2021 to this.
What a monumental leap, one which Balkovec should be extremely proud of. It only goes to show you what can happen when one door creaks open in a long line of closed ones.
Balkovec ended up with the Yankees following the 2019 season after mulling over an offer from the San Francisco Giants, who ultimately hired Alyssa Nakken as MLB’s first full-time female coach.
The stories of her earlier hiring troubles are predictably fraught; in 2013, Balkovec altered her name to “Rae” on a series of applications and didn’t mention her connection to softball, referring to herself instead as a “Division I college catcher”. This valiant attempt revealed more ugliness; every phone interview turned into more opportunities in womens sports only, and one team reportedly told Balkovec they would never hire a woman in this capacity.
In 2016, though, Balkovec’s minor-league hustle got her to the Houston Astros, who named her their Latin American strength and conditioning coach, a position for which she learned Spanish.
That initial major-league opportunity led almost directly to Balkovec joining the Yankees and now being handed the reins for the Tarpons, a team that will give her the opportunity to mentor and mold many of New York’s upper-echelon 2021 draft picks and international prospects in their first taste of full-season ball.
Despite so much ugliness in baseball right now, this story still serves as a reminder of what can go right with so many available opportunities to live the dream. And, oh yeah — the minor leagues will start on time even if MLB is delayed, so all curious eyes will be on Balkovec no matter what transpires with ownership and the MLBPA.