Rachel Balkovec was named the first female manager in affiliated professional baseball after she was tabbed by the Yankees on Tuesday to manage the Low-A Tampa Tarpons this season.
“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Rachel on this historic milestone," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "As manager of the Tampa Tarpons, she will continue to demonstrate her expertise and leadership in the Yankees’ organization. We wish Rachel well in this new capacity and appreciate her mentorship to the growing network of women in baseball operations and player development roles.
“When Kim Ng was hired as the general manager of the Marlins prior to the 2021 season, it was a meaningful step forward. I am pleased to see the game continue to make important progress at various levels. Major League Baseball is committed to providing a supportive environment for women and girls to pursue our sport as players, coaches, umpires and executives. We are proud of Rachel, new director of player development Sara Goodrum of the Astros and all the women across our sport who are setting a positive example for our next generation of fans and proving, on and off the field, that Baseball is a game for everyone.”
Balkovec, 34, was serving as a hitting coach in the organization's rookie-level Florida Complex League. She has been a coach in professional baseball for 10 years, becoming the first female full-time hitting coach in an MLB organization when she took on her previous role in 2019.
"I'm not the first woman to have a position in baseball, but I know this is a little different," Balkovec said when she was tabbed as the FCL team's hitting coach. "I'm a product of the women who have come before me in sports. If somebody thinks I'm a trailblazer, great, because hopefully that's creating an opportunity to think it's possible for [others]."
Balkovec coached in the Australian Baseball League after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 Minor League season, and was named to the coaching staff for the 2021 All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field prior to last season's Midsummer Classic.
Balkovec has an extensive background in cutting-edge analytics, researching eye tracking for hitters and hip movement for pitchers at Driveline Baseball, a data-driven performance center in Washington State. She also has a pair of master's degrees in the science of human movement.
With the FCL Yankees, Balkovec worked closely with several of New York's top prospects, including the franchise's No. 2 prospect (and No. 17 overall) per MLB Pipeline, center fielder Jasson Dominguez. Dominguez was promoted midseason last year to Low-A Tampa, the club Balkovec will reportedly be managing.
“It’s no secret, but Mr. Dominguez has been a fun one to work with,” Balkovec said when she and Dominguez were both named to the Futures Game roster. “He is incredibly intelligent, and his aptitude is high. I would consider him a leader among the group here. He’s very young, obviously, but he carries himself in the right way. I’ve been able to work with him pretty closely, and he’s just a joy to work with as far as his mannerisms and the way he acts.”
As she has ascended through the Yankees' organizational ranks, Balkovec has received rave reviews from colleagues, including senior director of player development Kevin Reese and Minor League hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson, who strongly recommended Balkovec to general manager Brian Cashman for the FCL hitting coach position.
"[Lawson] was extremely impressed about her background in strength and conditioning and the biomechanics side," Cashman said at the time. "When I had Kevin Reese and Dillon rave to such a level about her as they did, that was all good enough for me."
Balkovec was asked in a Jan. 2020 Q&A with MiLB.com what challenge she was looking forward to most about becoming the FCL Yankees' hitting coach.
"Swing mechanics are right up my alley; this is something I feel very confident in," Balkovec said. "So what I'm looking forward to is sitting next to the manager and also leaning on the other hitting coaches that will be there for game strategy and approach."
Now, Balkovec will have a chance to fill out the lineup card herself.
“I’m having a blast,” she said in July. “I’m being pushed here, and hopefully pushing some people along the way.”