Sports | January 10, 2022 12:11 pm

The Yankees Just Hired the First Female Manager in Minor League History

Rachel Balkovec has a more impressive resume than the majority of her male counterparts

Rachel Balkovec managing a minor league game.
Rachel Balkovec will manage Jasson Dominguez, the Yankees' number-one prospect.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rachel Balkovec will make history this April, as the first-ever female manager of an MiLB ballclub.

She’ll be managing the Tampa Tarpons, the Low-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, where she’s been the hitting coach since 2019. As Baseball Reference points out, the appointment actually makes Balkovec the first woman to lead a team at any level of “Organized Baseball” — a term that refers to MLB and its associated minor leagues, but excludes amateur and independent leagues.

When Balkovec was selected to the coaching staff at the Futures Game in Denver last July (MiLB’s take on the All-Star Game) her first reaction to the opportunity, according to MLB.com, was uncertainty. She said: “I’ve been in the game for more than 10 years, so this is something that’s been a long time coming … [but I wanted] to make sure that this is something I have earned and that I’m getting it for the right reasons, not maybe just because of my gender.”

At the time, Dillon Lawson, the Yankees’ minor league hitting coordinator (now their new hitting coach at the big league level) assured her that she’d more than earned the distinction. After all, Balkovec’s resume speaks for itself.

The 34-year-old played catcher at Creighton and New Mexico, graduating in 2009 with a degree in exercise science. After earning a masters in sports management at LSU, she worked as a minor league strength and conditioning coordinator and coach for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2011-15. She then worked as the Latin-American strength and conditioning coordinator for the Houston Astros, teaching herself Spanish on the fly, before going to Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit to earn another masters, this time in human movement sciences. She also worked with Dutch baseball players while there.

From there, she was hired as the Tampa Tarpons hitting coach, earning rave reviews from Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone during the interview process. Was she overqualified for that job? Is she overqualified even for today’s historical hiring? Yes, and most likely yes. It’s difficult to remember a CV that impressive for a Low-A manager. (Or the last time, mind you, that the New York Post published a photo of a minor league coach in a bathing suit. We won’t link to it here. But that’s a real thing that happened this morning.)

For her part, Balkovec seems determined to turn the extra scrutiny into an advantage. “My mom always used to say, life’s not fair,” she said after signing her first contract with the Yankees. “So is it fair? No. Does it matter? No. You have to keep standing at that door banging on it … 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.”

For those ultimately unimpressed by the appointment, keep in mind that Balkovec will be managing the Yankees’ most surefire prospect since Derek Jeter, the 18-year-old Jasson Dominguez, who the team signed for a record $5.1 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2019. The kid has been compared to the likes of Mike Trout, Bo Jackson and Mickey Mantle, and goes by the nickname “El Marciano,” or “The Martian” for his otherworldly skillset.

Balkovec has been working one-on-one with Dominguez for years now, and will play a crucial role in promoting him up the Yankees minor league ladder.