By Jennifer Roback
Rachel Balkovec once recalled a time when she changed her name on her resume from "Rachel" to "Rae" in an attempt to hide her gender and have a better change of getting a professional strength and conditioning job, now she has became the first-ever female manager in affiliated baseball history after the New York Yankees hired her to manage the Low-A Tampa Tarpons this season.
"It's hilarious to me," Balkovec said, according to ESPN. "Because it's the American dream.
"If you know my story and you have a pulse, I think it's pretty hard not to get behind what's going on here," she added.
This is not the first time the 34-year-old has shattered glass ceilings, en route to her new position, she also became the first woman to serve as a full-time minor league strength and conditioning coach as well as the first to be a full-time hitting coach in the minors.
Balkovec's career with the Yankees dates back to 2019 when they hired her as a minor league hitting coach, prior to that she worked in strength and conditioning with the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros.
She is also believed to be the first woman hitting coach employed by a major league team, according to The Associated Press.
"There wasn't a ton of debate as to whether baseball was ready or the world was ready," vice president of player development Kevin Reese, who made the decision to promote Balkovec added. "We're trying to find the best people and put them in the best position to have an impact here."
Prior to Balkovec's MLB career, she played NCAA D1 softball at the University of New Mexico and obtained a pair of master's degrees in sport administration and biomechanics while also reportedly learning to speak Spanish.
While abroad studying at the Vrije University in the Netherlands, she also worked with the country's national softball and baseball teams.
"My goal is really to know the names of the girlfriends, the dogs, the families of all the players," Balkovec continued. "My goal is to develop them as young men and young people who have an immense amount of pressure on them. My goal is to support the coaches that are on the staff.
"We're going to be talking more nuts and bolts of pitching and hitting with them, and defense. It's really just to be a supporter, and to facilitate an environment where they can be successful."
Other notable women in the MLB include Kim Ng of the Miami Marlins, who became the first woman to be named general manager of a Major League team in 2020, and Bianca Smith of the Boston Red Sox who became the first Black woman to coach in professional baseball history in 2021.