WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Rachel Balkovec made a mark in baseball history as the first female hitting coach hired in a major league team.
- Hired by the New York Yankees, Balkovec is set to begin spring training February next year.
- According to Yankees hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson, Balkovec was hired simply based on her qualifications and for being an ‘elite’ hitting coach.
When Rachel Balkovec reports to Tampa on February 1, she will be the first woman to join a major league organization as a full-time hitting coach.
The New York Times reports that Balkovec, 32, had been hired as a roving minor-league instructor for the New York Yankees earlier this month.
“She’s a good hitting coach, and a good coach, period,” Yankees hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson told The Times, adding that he never gave a second thought to the fact that Balkovec is a woman.
“It may be initially different because she’s a woman, but you quickly realize that she is simply an elite coach and you see her for that.”
Club officials also said that Balkovec was hired based on her qualifications that included two master’s degrees in the science of human movement as well as experience at various minor league clubs.
But prior to the Yankee job, she was also the first female strength and conditioning coordinator in minor league, having worked for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, she was the Houston Astros Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator, where she taught herself Spanish to be a more effective coach. In 2018, Balkovec became the strength and conditioning coach for the Astros’ Class AA club in Corpus Christi.
While Balkovec had broken barriers in baseball, she told the Times that being a woman has always been the largest obstacle to her success.
She said her messages were not answered when she first applied for jobs in baseball. But when she changed her name on her applications to “Rae”, the phones started ringing. She told the Times that many were surprised to hear a woman’s voice on the phone, and one team even told her outright that they would never hire a woman.
Baseball has long since been scrutinized for issues with diversifying. However, the MLB has been slowly taking steps to include more women in on-field roles such as coaches, scouts, umpires and trainers.
When Justine Siegal joined the Oakland A’s as a fall guest instructor in 2015, she became the first female coach in MLB history. And last Friday, the Chicago Cubs just hired Rachel Folden as the lead hitting lab tech and fourth coach for their Rookie League Mesa affiliate.