TAMPA, Fla. — Rachel Balkovec is teaching at the New York Yankees’ minor league mini-training camps, where she is also a student.
Balkovec became the first woman hired as minor league manager of a team affiliated with Major League Baseball last month, when she was promoted by the Yankees as dugout manager for the Class A Tampa Tarpons.
Balkovec, 34, has broken down several barriers on his way to the position. She was the first woman to serve as a full-time strength and fitness coach for a minor league team. Later, she served as the first female hitting coach in the minors with the Yankees.
“I’m thankful for this time to practice,” Balkovec said after Wednesday’s practice. “These guys are here to prepare and I’m also here studying every morning and watching videos and learning defensive stuff. Learning our philosophies inside and out on defense.”
Balkovec was involved in batting practice and worked with prospects like Jasson Dominguez.
“It’s a bit of everything for now,” Balkovec said. “Like getting up to speed on defense and spending time in the batting cages and staying involved there. So it’s really being all over the place right now.”
Balkovec will be in charge of the clubhouse in Tampa, tasked with overseeing the development of Yankees major league prospects. He said that the support he has received from players and staff has been great.
“Players calling me ‘Skip’ and everything, it kind of sounds crazy to me, but I’ve been very well received and it feels natural, to be honest with you,” Balkovec said. “Having the opportunity to set the standards will always be a privilege and it’s something I’ve done my whole life and what I want to continue to do, and this role is a little bit of that.”
“In a way it feels like it’s more natural for me than being a hitting coach,” Balkovec added.
He stayed close to Dominican Dominguez when he gave an interview, most of the time in English, a language he is learning.
“Something that I’m really passionate about is helping these kids off the field and it’s something that I’ll continue to do all the time,” he said.
Balkovec, a former softball catcher at Creighton and New Mexico, has a master’s degree in kinesiology from LSU and another in human movement sciences from Vrije University in the Netherlands. He has worked on conditioning and strength with the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros since coming to professional baseball in 2012, and has also spent time at Driveline Baseball, a data-driven center where many major leaguers have trained. .
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Balkovec has found support in Yankees