The New York Yankees announced earlier this week that they would appoint Rachel Balkovec as the new manager of their Lower-A affiliate team – the Tampa Tarpons. Balkovec will be the first female full-time manager in any of the MLB affiliated leagues throughout North America.
Balkovec, 34, was previously the first woman to be named a hitting coach in any of the respective MLB leagues. The Yankees appointed her to a hitting coach within their system prior to the 2020 season, eventually leading to her promotion.
She started in the MLB in 2012, when she worked as a strength and conditioning coach with a minor-league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Balkovec then moved to the Houston Astros in 2016, working as the Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator. She then went on to become the strength and conditioning coach at Double-A Corpus Christi.
She spent last season coaching in the Florida Complex League – a smaller level minor league known as the Gulf Coast League. But, she was rewarded with a spot in the Futures Game during MLB’s All-Star Weekend soon before she was offered a spot with the Yankees.
Balkovec is inheriting a squad which that obtained a good level of success in recent years. The Tampa Tarpons finished 73-43 last season, first in their division and best within the Southeast League. The Tarpons made it all the way to the league championship, but fell short of a title via a 3-0 sweep at the hands of the Bradenton Marauders.
In an interview with the Associated Press in 2019, Balkovec mentioned that, “I view my path as an advantage,” adding that “I had to do probably much more than maybe a male counterpart, but I like that because I’m so much more prepared for the challenges that I might encounter.”
Her appointment comes after a recent run of history-making moves for women in baseball, including Kim Ng's hiring as general manager of the Miami Marlins in 2020 and Bianca Smith becoming the first Black woman to coach in pro baseball last year with the Boston Red Sox. The groundbreaking move is a step in the right direction for the MLB towards inclusion. Balkovec will serve as an inspiration for the next generation of coaches, and only at the age of 34, could make bigger strides in coaching as her career moves forward.