Rachel Balkovec used to change her first name on resumes to disguise her gender and hope a baseball organization would hire her as a strength and conditioning coach.
Now she is a modern-day pioneer as the first woman to be hired as manager of a Major League Baseball-affiliated team.
The 34-year-old Balkovec was introduced Wednesday as manager of Tampa Tarpons, the low Class-A Florida State League affiliate of the New York Yankees.
The person who used “Rae” on resumes no longer has to manipulate her identity to get noticed.
“It feels a little interesting to me that there’s so much attention now, but obviously, society’s changed, the world has changed,” Balkovec said. “We’re celebrating women in sports in general a lot more than we ever were in 2012 when I first got in.”
Balkovec’s first job in baseball was as a minor league strength and conditioning for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012.
Her big break came in 2019 when the Yankees hired as a minor league hitting coach.
Now comes a bigger step that will attract a lot of scrutiny — managing a club of players while being female and not having the traditional baseball playing background.
“The players that I’ve worked with, whether they like me or they don’t like me, they like what I’m saying or they don’t like what I’m saying — I do feel like they respect me,” Balkovec said. “At the very least, they know that I’m passionate, hard working and then I know what I’m talking about. Whether they like it or not is a different story. But every coach goes through that.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he looks forward to the day when gender isn’t part of the story with hires such as this.
“There is always a first,” Cashman told reporters on Wednesday. “There’s always someone who emerges who is not afraid, who wants it that goes after it, and is strong enough to take it. Unfortunately, in some categories, it takes longer than others. And unfortunately, society had failed to recognize the strength and power — and equal power, if not more power — that women possess.”
Balkovec is a native of Omaha, Neb. She played college softball at Creighton and New Mexico before pursuing a career in baseball.