The Yankees have made a groundbreaking hire in their minor league ranks, as The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler (Twitter link) reports that Rachel Balkovec will manage the organization’s lower-A team in Tampa next season. Balkovec will become the first woman to ever manage an affiliated minor league club.
This is the latest of several barriers broken over the course of Balkovec’s decade-long career in baseball. Beginning as a strength and conditioning coordinator in the Cardinals’ farm system from 2011-15, she then moved to a similar role with the Astros from 2016-18, working with both Houston’s Latin American prospects and then the Astros’ Double-A affiliate. She has spent the last two seasons working within the Yankees’ minor league system as a hitting coach, following some time spent working with Driveline and in the Netherlands working with the Dutch national teams.
Along the way, Balkovec has routinely been noted as the first woman to be hired in these positions, whether in her strength/conditioning jobs or as a hitting coach. The 34-year-old will now take yet another step forward managing some of the Yankees’ top young prospects, and Balkovec is undoubtedly already familiar with many of these players due to her coaching work.
As Balkovec told The Associated Press’ Ronald Blum in 2019, “I have aspirations of being in a more leadership role from a broader standpoint,” mentioning the possibility of one day being hired as a “director of baseball operations or farm director or GM.” Such goals aren’t as remote as they once seemed for women in baseball, considering that Kim Ng is the Marlins general manager, Eve Rosenbaum is the Orioles’ director of baseball development, and Sara Goodrum was recently hired as the Astros’ director of player development. As for on-field personnel, Alyssa Nakken is a member of the Giants coaching staff, while Bianca Smith (Red Sox) and Rachel Folden (Cubs) have worked coaching jobs in the minor leagues for their respective teams.