Rachel Balkovec to Manage Tampa Tarpons
By Tamar Chalker
January 11, 2022
In the offseason, I’ve used this space to look back at some interesting baseball history. History is again the focus today, but it is the type of history happening right now. The Yankees have tapped Rachel Balkovec to manage the Low-A Tampa Tarpons this season, making her the first female manager in affiliated professional baseball history. So, let’s meet the Tarpons new Manager, as I’m guessing we will hear quite a bit about her as her career continues.
Balkovec’s background is very impressive. She played softball for the University of New Mexico where she graduated with a degree in exercise science. She became a strength and conditioning coach after college. She also received a master’s from LSU in kinesiology and another from Vrije University (Netherlands) in human movement sciences. She has also researched batters’ eye-tracking and pitchers’ hip movement through Driveline Baseball at Washington State.
In 2012, she worked as an intern for the St. Louis Cardinals, but in 2013 she was struggling to find work in baseball. Balkovec changed her name and email on her resume to Rae and noted she was a Division college catcher, removing softball from the equation. That suddenly got her a lot of phone interviews, but it was clear her gender was holding her back.
Balkovec persisted and after short stints in the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros organizations, the Yankees made her the first female full-time hitting coach. When she was with the Astros she was the Latin American strength and conditioning coach, which prompted her to learn Spanish. This was probably quite helpful as she worked closely with highly-touted Yankees prospect Jasson Dominguez during his time with the FCL Yankees. He is likely to start the 2022 season with the Tarpons, so they will continue to work closely. Balkovec has
While Balkovec has spent a lot of time in the MILB system, she has some significant international experience as well. During her time working on her masters at Vrije, she worked with the Dutch baseball and softball programs. In 2020, when the minor league season was cancelled due to Covid, Balkovec wasn’t content to sit out the season, instead coaching in the Australian Baseball League.
She may have had a hard time breaking into baseball at times, but there is no doubt that Balkovec has proven time and again that she is where she is supposed to be. Yankees senior director of player development Kevin Reese and Minor League hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson have both sang her praises and she was named to the coaching staff for the 2021 All-Star Futures Game.
At only 34, Balkovec’s career is already quite impressive and it will be fun to see where she goes. Despite the early hurdles, she has persevered and managed to both garner praise and recognition, while building an educational resume that will continue to help her mold future major league players. Once baseball gets started this Spring, there will be a couple of exciting reasons to keep an eye on the Tampa Tarpons.