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Photo via TampaTarpons/Facebook
Rachel Balkovec first landed a job as a hitting coach for the Yankees in 2019, now she manages its Class A Tampa Tarpons.
A facial injury from a batted ball caused some swelling around Rachel Balkovec’s eye
, but she’ll be seeing the significance of the Class A matchup between the Tampa Tarpons and Lakeland Flying Tigers very clearly on Friday.
"I've thought about it plenty," Balkovec—the first woman to manage a minor league affiliate of a major league team—told ESPN, adding that she’s more focused on preparing her team for the game.
The game finds the 34-year-old officially becoming the first non-man to manage a game in affiliated baseball, but she’s long been ready for the role after being a strength and conditioning coach for the Cardinals’ minor league team in 2012 and landing a job as a hitting coach for the Yankees in 2019 (she did a stint with the Astros in 2016 and worked with the Dutch national baseball and softball teams, too).
"I view my path as an advantage," Balkovec, a former softball catcher at Creighton and New Mexico told the Associated Press in 2019. "I had to do probably much more than maybe a male counterpart, but I like that because I'm so much more prepared for the challenges that I might encounter."
“This may be the first full-time woman manager, but not the first woman involved,” Polk County Sports Marketing wrote in a press release. “The first woman baseball coach was named in 2009. She also threw batting practice to six Major League teams in the following years. In 2021, the Boston Red Sox hired the first black woman to coach in professional baseball. And since 1989, the women broadcasters have helped those not at the park experience the game.”