TAMPA, Fla. — With just a few steps, Rachel Balkovec made history Friday as the first female manager in affiliated baseball history. She took the field to lead the Tampa Tarpons after being named to the position by the New York Yankees in January.
It's a moment that came under the watchful gaze of young female fans, like Kacey Woodruff.
"That's like my dream and that she's living it, is amazing," she said.
Woodruff added that Balkovec's new role, makes her feel like her future MLB management dreams are closer than ever.
"It's an inspiration. Now that one can do it hopefully more in the future can," she said.
Balkovec blazed a very tough trail to get her first managerial job. After her college softball career ended, Balkovec, 34, took paying and non-paying jobs in baseball for more than a decade. She worked at LSU, Mexican leagues, and in Europe.
Rachel slept on a mattress she pulled from a dumpster while earning her Master's in the Netherlands. She worked in the minor leagues as a strength coach and hitting coach before the Yankees promoted her to minor league hitting coordinator in 2019.
Balkovec recalled one phone conversation when a team official told her management wouldn't hire her because they weren't comfortable with a woman on the coaching staff. There were plenty of chances for her to quit, but she kept pushing forward.
"You can either choose to shy away from that or just not do a good job of it. Or you can just to lean into it and be there for that, and show up for them," Balkovec said Friday. "Because somebody showed up for you before. And many women have done many things before I got this role to make sure that I could be here."
The weight of her role, as the new Tampa Tarpons manager, isn't lost on Balkovec.
"I know that I’m capable of doing this. I know I’m the right person for it. I know that being a woman, I can get respect in any room that I walk into. So if I choose not to do that and I know I have the opportunity, then it’s disrespectful to other women who’ve come behind me and done that for me," she said.
Her skill and inspiration motivated not only her team but also others at Friday's game who used the moment as a lesson for the next generation.
"For me, it's amazing to have opportunities for women on the field, especially with two daughters here. And even teaching my son that women can do anything," said Carly Kubasa.