Rachel Balkovic joins Yankees Affiliate

Lakeland, Fla. – Rachel Balkovek signed some autographs, a beautiful compliment when she was introduced and posed for a photo on the home plate.

Then it was time to get to work. The New York Yankees had a game to run the minor league team manager.

But this Friday night, the fact that she wants to become the first woman to manage an affiliate of a Major League Baseball team calls for more recognition.

So when he ran from the Tampa Tarpons dugout in Class A to the top of the second inning for the first base coach, a song started at the Joker Merchant Stadium.

“Let’s go, Rachel!”

It came from a group of girls who played in the Florida State League, the Tarpons Lakeland Flying Tigers.

The Detroit Tigers Foundation – an approved Lakeland Club – has donated tickets to female athletes at Polk County School and 1,200 have been distributed.

Earlier in the day, Balkovic, 34, gave a talk about his journey at the Yankees Complex in Tampere Steinbrenner Field. Her parents were present when she spoke to reporters.

“It’s been 10 years of working at this point,” he said. “Things have evolved. I was then shamelessly discriminated against. Some people say that it is not necessary to say, but it is a part of what happened, and I think it is important to say it because it lets you know how much has changed.”

“So, shameless discrimination, it was 2010-ish, and now we’re here 12 years later and I’m sitting here at a press conference as a manager,” he said.

Balkovek and Tarpons traveled 40 miles by bus and arrived at the stadium about 90 minutes before the game.

Dressed in Yankees road gray pants and blue tarpon jerseys and hats, Balkovek has signed autographs along the right-field line, and Tampa is buzzing overhead Sun ‘n’ Fun Aerospace Expo planes near the third-base side dugout.

He was enthralled by the crowd during the on-field pregame introduction and shook hands with umpires Chris Argueza and Connor McKenna and Flying Tigers manager Andrew Graham during the long lineup card exchange and ground rules review.

After four people posed for a group photo, the Flying Tigers took to the field and made history.

Balkovek broke several obstacles on the way to the position. She was the first woman to serve as a full-time minor-league strength and conditioning coach, then a full-time hitting coach among the minors with the Yankees.

The Yankees announced his appointment as a junior league manager in January.

A former softball catcher in Balkovac, Creighton and New Mexico, got his first job in professional baseball in 2012 as a small league strength and conditioning coach with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Balkovic joined the Houston Astros in 2016. He was hired as a Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator and later as a strength and conditioning coach at Corpus Christi in Double.

He joined the Yankees in 2019 as a minor league hitting coach.

Balkovic, who missed his spring training managerial debut after being hit in the face by a batted ball during a drill on March 22, arrived 10 minutes earlier for Friday’s media session.

“Overall I’m feeling really excited,” Balkovic said. “I’m excited because like this, fortunately, I’m in the best position to take on such a role because I had a lot of these players last year and I already know them.”

“I’m excited for the night for what’s going on, but also excited for the season because like this, they’re my son,” he said.

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