LAKELAND, Fla. — Looking back on her journey to her first game with the Class A Tampa team, Rachel Balkovec reflected on the discrimination she experienced before becoming the first woman to manage a minor league affiliate of a team. Big leagues.
Balkovec, 34, held a news conference at Steinbrenner Field on Friday before the New York Yankees’ minor league affiliate held a practice session ahead of their 40-mile bus ride for their season opener. in the Florida State League, at the home of the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
“It’s been 10 years of hard work to this point,” Balkovec said. “Things have evolved. I was openly discriminated against back then. Some people tell me not to say that, but it’s just part of what happened and I think it’s important to say that because it lets me know how much has changed.”
“So, blatant discrimination, that was in 2010, 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 through several barriers on his way to office. She was the first woman to work as a full-time minor league strength and conditioning coach, and then the first full-time minor league hitting coach with the Yankees.
The Yankees announced his hiring as minor league manager in January.
Balkovec, a former softball catcher at Creighton and New Mexico, landed her first professional baseball job 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 strength and conditioning coordinator for Latin America and later was the strength and conditioning coach at the Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi.
She joined the Yankees organization as a minor league hitting coach in 2019.
Balkovec, who missed her spring training coaching debut after being hit in the face by a ball during practice on March 22, arrived 10 minutes early for Friday’s news session. Her parents also attended.
“Overall, I feel very excited,” Balkovec said. “I feel excited because, fortunately, I am in the best possible case 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 what’s going to happen tonight, but also excited for the season because I feel like these are my guys.”
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