A Major Minor Move
The Off-Season: A Major Minor Move
by Tim Kabel
January 15, 2022
Earlier this week, the Yankees officially hired Rachel Balkovec as the manager of the Tampa Tarpons, their Class Low-A affiliate. Normally, such a move would result in a response of “big deal”. However, in this case it is a big deal, a very big deal. Rachel Balkovec becomes the first woman to manage a Major League affiliated team. She has been working on and off in professional baseball for ten years. She has been with the Yankees since 2019, as an organizational hitting coach. Her hiring has garnered a great deal of attention. That is totally appropriate.
During her press conference, Balkovec mentioned some negative criticism that had been directed toward her in regard to her being hired as the manager. Let’s take a look at that. There are going to be people who say or think that as a woman, she can’t possibly relate to male professional ballplayers. Well, I don’t agree with that line of thinking. Balkovec has been coaching on some level for several years. She was a competitive collegiate athlete. She has worked with male athletes for quite some time. In addition, she has two master’s degrees and learned Spanish on her own time, to better communicate with her Latino players. She appears to be focused, extremely intelligent, driven, and dedicated to her job and her players. In addition, Rachel Balkovec realizes that she is something of a trailblazer and a role model. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that she will do everything possible to succeed as the manager.
That leads us to another question. How do you judge success for a Low-A manager? Is it wins, or player development? I heard some of Rachel Balkovec’s press conference, and she stated she would put more of an emphasis on winning than one might normally expect at that level. Certainly, she is focused on player development but, she stated that teaching players to win is also part of their development. I don’t think it’s an accident that two of the Yankees top prospects, Jasson Dominguez and Trey Sweeney will most likely be on the Tampa roster this season. If the Yankees did not have faith in Rachel Balkovec, they would not entrust her with the development of these two and other potential stars. In her press conference,
Rachel Balkovec also addressed the development of Jasson Dominguez, not only in the terms of his baseball abilities. As she stated, “everyone knows he can hit the ball very hard.” She addressed the fact that he is working diligently to learn English so he can communicate with all his teammates and assume more of a leadership role. She also indicated that she is working with Dominguez on this, which speaks to the character of both of them.
We currently have a female vice president, and nine women serving as governors in this country. There are several women serving in the Senate and the House of Representatives. I have worked in state, government for almost thirty years. During the entirety of my career, every commissioner of my department has been a woman. Of my direct bosses, nine of the fourteen have been women. Of those fourteen bosses, most were excellent, but a few were not. Gender was not the determining factor. Competence, leadership and decisiveness are much more important than which restroom a person uses. If my direct supervisor is well prepared, thorough, fair, and reasonable in their decisions, I will happily go about my job. I have had issues with a few of my bosses but, it was never due to their gender. Major League Baseball, at least on their minor league levels, is catching up to the rest of the world. It’s about time.
I am not a fan of motorcycles but, I have nothing against those folks who are. I always told my daughter that although I would prefer that she not ride motorcycles, if she had to ride one, I would not want her to be the “girl on the back of some man’s motorcycle.” I would want her to be on her own motorcycle. Rachel Balkovec stated in her press conference that she wants to be a role model for young girls and also for fathers in regard to their daughters. I agree with that sentiment but, I will take it a step further. I believe Rachel Balkovec should be a role model for everyone. She referenced that at one point, she slept on a mattress she pulled from a dumpster in Amsterdam while she was pursuing her second master’s degree. While she was a coach in the minor leagues, she had to study her flash cards for physics on the floor of the ladies’ room because they were not adequate facilities for a female coach. That determination and work ethic should be admired by everyone, not just females.
For years, I have worked with adolescents in the foster care system. One of my favorite theories to discuss with them is that as a young adult, life can be best described as walking through a door into a virtually endless corridor, which is lined on both sides with doors. Those doors represent opportunities. As you stand at the end of the corridor and look down, you will see that many of those doors are open to you. Sometimes, some of the doors are closed for any number of reasons. I always tell the youths that the key to success is to not close doors yourself. In other words, sometimes through our own actions or behaviors, such as lack of effort or dedication to academics or poor choices which results in negative consequences, we close those doors ourselves. There are some people who will see hundreds of doors in that corridor but only a handful are open. They may not like the one they ultimately enter. The key is to have so many open doors that you can choose which doorway you enter.
Rachel Balkovec, through the choices she made, and her hard work and dedication will now be walking through the door to the manager’s office of the Tampa Tarpons. That is to be applauded. She is not in that position because she is a novelty. The Yankees didn’t hire her simply to break a barrier or make a statement. They hired her because they believe she is the best candidate for the job. Will she be a successful manager? I have no idea. However, I feel extremely confident that she will make every effort and be as prepared and professional as possible to have an opportunity to be successful.