TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Tarpons will make history this season as they will be managed by Rachel Balkovec, the first female manager in affiliated professional baseball, MLB.com reported Monday.
Balkovec was selected to manage the Tarpons by the team's parent organization, the New York Yankees. Prior to managing the Tarpons, the 34-year-old Balkovce was a hitting coach in the Yankees' rookie level.
She was named to the coaching staff for the 2021 All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field prior to last season's Midsummer Classic.
Rachel was passed up for multiple jobs in the minor leagues, and she was even told upfront that the reason she wasn't going to be hired is because she's a woman. At one point, Balkovec changed the name on her resume from "Rachel" to "Rae," and she removed the word "softball" from the description of her playing days at New Mexico from 2006-'09. She decided to change it back because she was willing to grind her way to get to the top.
"If they don’t want to hire me because I’m a woman, I probably don’t want to work for those people," Balkovec said via video chat. "And if this takes years, it takes years."
Balkovec has a decade of experience in pro baseball and is no stranger to breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling. She was also the first female full-time hitting coach for an MLB organization when she took the job in 2019.
She's been around the minor leagues for a decade, so players know her name. Balkovec said the feedback about her promotion has been positive, and that's exactly what she expected.
"Whether they like me, they don’t like me. They like what I’m saying, don’t like what I’m saying… I do feel like they respect me," Rachel said. "I have players texting me right now saying congratulations and how happy they are. It’s like okay, I don’t have to have other people understand it."
Balkovec said she's eager to embrace the leadership aspect of her position as a manager.
"My goal is to know the names of the girlfriends, the dogs, the families of all the players," She said with a grin. "My goal is to develop them as young men and young people. It’s more of a leadership position, and that’s what I’ll be focused on."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made history when he hired current Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng as his assistant in 1998. He says their organization cares about one thing: finding the right person for the job.
"The sky’s the limit," Cashman said of Balkovec's potential. "This is someone that will not be denied. She’s earned the opportunity, and the future obviously will be what she makes it."
This hire is sports history, and Balkovec embraces her role as the centerpiece of the story. She says she wants others to look at her story and follow her lead.
"I’m glad my path was difficult, and it still serves me to this day. If you’re feeling like you’re not welcome or it’s a difficult path… good. Try to look at yourself and go 'This is going to be good for me in the future, even if it doesn’t feel good in the moment.'"