Balkovec: More women to rise in MLB

February 4th, 2021

There was a time when Rachel Balkovec wondered whether baseball’s most important jobs would ever be open to women. Pleased by recent progress in that regard, the second-year Yankees Minor League hitting coach believes that there is more change to come.

“My journey in sports and working in sports has been pretty treacherous at times, so it’s really cool to see women in sports being so widely celebrated,” Balkovec said.

Balkovec appeared Wednesday on MLB's Instagram Live channel to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day, discussing the impact of women in athletics with Diamond and Delino DeShields, Jessica and Jo Adell, and Lauren Chamberlain.

Currently in Sydney, Australia, where she has been coaching for the Sydney Blue Sox, Balkovec said that she is preparing to return to the United States and will participate in Yankees’ Spring Training in Tampa, Fla.

“When I first got in, [2012] was kind of the Dark Ages with women in sports,” Balkovec said. “It was pretty lonely. I was on a little bit of an island. The advice that I would give to women just getting in is, ‘Have patience.’ It’s something I may have not have had early on in my career, but I’m getting a lot more of it. Hopefully, 10 years in the game has changed a little bit.”

A product of Omaha, Neb., Balkovec played college softball at Creighton University and the University of New Mexico, where she earned a degree in exercise science. After receiving a master’s degree in kinesiology from Louisiana State University, she made the jump to professional baseball as a strength and conditioning coach, hired by the Cardinals as a full-time Minor League coordinator in 2014.

Balkovec worked with St. Louis for three seasons -- crossing paths with , whom she called “one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen” -- and the Astros for three years before being hired as a hitting coach by the Yankees last January.

Though Balkovec prefers to focus on her tasks of helping players improve -- “Hit the weights, whether you’re a pitcher or a hitter,” she advises -- she believes that visibility is also important for women in professional sports, proving that jobs like hers are available and necessary.

She looks forward to continuing to advance that mindset, along with such other trailblazers as Marlins general manager Kim Ng, Yankees assistant general manager Jean Afterman and Giants Major League assistant coach Alyssa Nakken.

“When I first got into the game, it was pretty empty as far as women in player development and on-field positions,” Balkovec said. “I think we’re just going to see more and more women in high-level positions.”