With the inclusion of Kim Ng and Jean Afterman in prominent positions of the front office 20 years ago, the New York Yankees were at the forefront of gender diversity in MLB front offices. Two decades later, the team is among the first to hire a woman for an on-field instruction role.
According to the New York Times, the Yankees hired Rachel Balkovec as a roving minor league hitting coach earlier this month. She will report to spring training in Tampaon Feb. 1 before traveling to the various Yankees farm system clubs during the season.
“It’s an easy answer to why we chose Rachel for this role,” Yankees hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson told the Times. “She’s a good hitting coach, and a good coach, period.”
Balkovec began her baseball coaching career in 2012 with the St. Louis Cardinals’ rookie-level affiliate in Johnson City, Tennessee. The 32-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska became the first full-time female strength and conditioning coach in affiliated ball in 2014, a role she held with the Cardinals for two seasons. She and Lawson met while both were working for the Houston Astros organization in 2016, when Bavkovec was the Latin American strength and conditioning coach and he was the minor league hitting instructor.
Balkovec is the latest woman who has been hired by a major league franchise. On Friday, the Chicago Cubs hired Rachel Folden to the lead the hitting lab for its rookie club in Arizona. In 2015, the Oakland Athletics brought on Justine Siegal as an instructor in the Arizona Fall League, making her the first woman to serve as an MLB coach.