LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Looking back on her journey before her first game with Class A Tampa, Rachel Balkovec reflected on the discrimination she experienced before becoming the first woman to manage a minor league affiliate of a major league team.
The 34-year-old Balkovec held a pregame media session at Steinbrenner Field on Friday before the New York Yankees’ minor league affiliate worked out ahead of its 40-mile bus ride for its Low-A Southeast opener at the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
“It’s been 10 years of just working to this point,” Balkovec said. “Things have evolved. I was blatantly discriminated against back then. Some people say not to say that but it’s just part of what has happened, and I think it’s important to say because it lets you know how much change has happened.”
“So, blatant discrimination, that was 2010-ish, and now here we are 12 years later and I’m sitting here at a press conference as a manager,” Balkovec added.
Balkovec has broken several barriers on her way to the position. She was the first woman to serve as a full-time minor league strength and conditioning coach, then the first to be a full-time hitting coach in the minors with the Yankees.
The Yankees announced her hiring as a minor league manager in January.
Balkovec, a former softball catcher at Creighton and New Mexico, got her first job in professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals as a minor league strength and conditioning coach in 2012.
Balkovec joined the Houston Astros in 2016. She was hired as the Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator and later was the strength and conditioning coach at Double-A Corpus Christi.
She joined the Yankees organization as a minor league hitting coach in 2019.
Balkovec, who missed out on her spring training managerial debut after being hit in the face by a batted ball during a drill March 22, arrived 10 minutes early for Friday’s media session. Her parents also attended.
“Overall I feel really excited,”Balkovec said. “I feel excited because it’s like, thankfully, I’m in the best case scenario to accept a role like this because I had a lot of these players last year and I already know them. I’m excited for the night because of what’s going on but also just excited for the season because it’s like, these are my guys.”