NEW YORK -- The Yankees are preparing to make history with the addition of Rachel Balkovec, who will become one of the first female full-time hitting coaches hired by a big league organization, The New York Times reported on Friday evening.
The 32-year-old Balkovec signed her contract on Nov. 8, according to the Times, and is slated to report to the Yankees’ Spring Training complex in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 1. Balkovec is expected to be based in Tampa and will serve as a roving instructor throughout the organization.
Earlier on Friday, the Cubs announced the hiring of Rachel Folden as the lead hitting lab tech and fourth coach for their Rookie-league Mesa affiliate.
Yankees hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson told the Times that the club hired Balkovec based on her qualifications, which include two master’s degrees in the science of human movement and experience at several Minor League clubs.
“It’s an easy answer to why we chose Rachel for this role,” Lawson told the newspaper. “She’s a good hitting coach, and a good coach, period.”
A product of Omaha, Neb., Balkovec earned recognition as a part-time strength and conditioning coach in the Cardinals’ organization in 2012, prompting her appointment as the Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator for the Cardinals from 2014-15. As such, she became the first woman to hold a full-time strength and conditioning position in affiliated baseball.
Having previously played as a catcher on the softball teams at Creighton University and New Mexico, Balkovec served as the Astros’ Latin American strength and conditioning coach in 2016. Two years later, she advanced to become the strength and conditioning coach for Double-A Corpus Christi in Houston’s organization.
Since August, Balkovec has been researching eye tracking for hitters and hip movement for pitchers at Driveline Baseball, a data-driven performance training center in Washington state. The Yankees tabbed Driveline’s Sam Briend this past summer to head their organizational pitching blueprint, and Balkovec hopes to apply her expertise to the club’s hitters.
“During the interview process, I was blown away by the Yankees hitting staff,” she said. “They are making aggressive operational changes to compete in the rapidly changing landscape of player development.”