Representation can go a long way. There were few women in baseball when Rachel Balkovec began making her way through the ranks in 2012, and they were some of the figures who helped lead her to where she is today as a Minor League manager in the Yankees' organization -- and the first full-time female manager in affiliated baseball history.
Now, she can only hope to do the same for the next generation of female leaders through MLB’s Take the Field program.
“There were plenty of women in the front office at the time, but very, very few on the field. And so, there were a couple women that I kind of clung to as visible ideas of what was possible for myself,” Balkovec said. “Knowing how impactful that was, it's just really on my heart to be here for the women who are getting into the game to be that visible idea for them and really just giving back. Because I know there are plenty of women who paved the way for me, and so it's just important for me to do the same.”
Take The Field -- which concluded its first in-person gathering since 2019 over the weekend in San Diego -- is an annual event designed for women interested in on-field careers in baseball.
Throughout the two-day event, participants met with club representatives, participated in career workshops and breakout coaching sessions and had the chance to hear from a number of leaders in the league, including Marlins general manager Kim Ng, as they networked and honed their résumés.
For those couple of days, attendees like New York native Madeleine Calick were surrounded by women with similar passions and goals for the first time.
“I don't know any women that like to talk baseball besides my mom and my sister, and at some point, we just regurgitate the same things. So, it's really nice to meet a whole new group of people, new women, new friends [to talk baseball with],” Calick said. “I've never been in this community before and I'm so grateful.”
At one point, Calick stopped to write Ng a letter to share how much she inspired her. Calick and Arizona native Gabriela Diaz remember exactly what they were doing the day Ng was hired.
It was a moment that showed them, “If she can do it, I can do it” -- a sentiment that has been echoed throughout the years while people like Balkovec, Mets director of Major League operations Elizabeth Benn, Rockies player development and pro scouting assistant Avery Griggs and many others have made their way through the ranks.
“To know that people I admire and want to emulate are in the same room as me right now -- Oh my God,” Calick said. “Just hearing them talk, I just want to absorb it all. I'm never going to forget it. … Through this whole experience, I’ve become my Major League self.”
Ten years ago, Balkovec was being told that women don’t belong in baseball. Obviously, times have changed. The women around the league, the women paving a path for the younger generation and the women participating in the Take The Field program are a testament to that.
“Now it's just this incredible network of people in this community and something that MLB has invested in quite a bit,” Balkovec said. “I think sometimes people think change is so slow and there hasn't been too much change and we need more, but from my perspective the past decade, it's changed quite a bit.”