Yankees hire female hitting coach, believed to be a first

When Rachel Balkovec reports to spring training on Feb. 1 in Tampa, she will make baseball history. Balkovec was hired by the New York Yankees as a hitting coach earlier this month, according to The New York Times, and she is believed to be the first woman to join an MLB organization as full-time hitting instructor.

Balkovec, 32, will serve as a roving minor league instructor, per MLB.com.

She has broken barriers in baseball before. Balkovec was also the first woman to be hired in a full-time strength and conditioning position in baseball when she worked for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2014-15. She joined the Houston Astros in 2016 as the Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator, where she learned Spanish. Last year, Balkovec was the strength and conditioning coach for the Astros’ Class AA club in Corpus Christi.

Balkovec is more than qualified to serve in her capacity. She has two master’s degrees in the science of human movement, and Yankees hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson told The Times that Balkovec was hired because “she’s a good hitting coach, and a good coach, period.”

Balkovec faced obstacles

Balkovec said to The Times that she did face discrimination when applying for jobs in baseball as a woman. She only started receiving interest after changing her name on her applications to “Rae” instead of “Rachel,” and prospective employers were surprised to hear a woman’s voice. According to The Times, one team told her it would “never hire a woman.”

Balkovec is not the only woman coaching in baseball, though the number is sparse. In 2015, Justine Siegal was the first female coach in MLB history, joining the Oakland A’s as a guest instructor for fall instructional league.

Last Friday, the Chicago Cubs hired Rachel Folden as the lead hitting lab tech and fourth coach for their Rookie League Mesa affiliate.

“There's no way we can be as good as we want to be unless we have women contributing,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said last year, via MLB.com.

Baseball has long faced issues with diversifying. The majority of fans are white and men over the age of 55. It might take longer than more progressive sports leagues for MLB to integrate more women into the sport. But hires like Balkovec are a step in the right direction.

Related: New Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge

23 PHOTOS
New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge
See Gallery
New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge
MIAMI, FL - JULY 10: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates during the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Marlins Park on July 10, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 20: Outfielders Aaron Judge #99 (L) and Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees celebrate after the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 20, 2016 in Anaheim, California. The Yankees won 5-1. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees congratulates teammate Greg Bird #33 after Bird drove them both in with a home run in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 16, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Apr 12, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) is congratulated by Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka (38) and Yankees first baseman Chris Carter (48) after hitting a two-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 07: The 5' 10' Ronald Torreyes #17 stands next to the 6' 7' Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees for the national anthem before a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on September 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Aaron Judge #99, Ronald Torreyes #74 and Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees stand during the national anthem before their Opening Day game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on April 10, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Rays 8-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 26: Brett Gardner #11, Jacoby Ellsbury #22, Aaron Judge #99 and Matt Holliday #17 of the New York Yankees looks on during the National Anthem before a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 26, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Starlin Castro #14 and Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrate the 9-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on April 16, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
May 21, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) is congratulated in the dugout after he made a diving catch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 11, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a two run home run to right center during the seventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 30: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees is greeted in the dugout after scoring during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 30, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: Brett Gardner #11leaps high to celebrate his home run with teammate Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees during an MLB baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on April 29, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Yankees won 12-4. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Starlin Castro #14 of the New York Yankees celebrates his second inning three run home run against the Baltimore Orioles with teammates Aaron Judge #99 and Matt Holliday #17 at Yankee Stadium on June 10, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Apr 19, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Hicks (31) celebrates his solo home run against the Chicago White Sox with New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) during the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 27: Aaron Judge #99, Starlin Castro #14 and Ronald Torreyes #74 of the New York Yankees high five each other after their victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 27, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees in action against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on June 10, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Orioles 16-3. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates his 2nd home run of the game in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on September 24, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees is congratulated by teammate Gary Sanchez #24 after hitting a solo homerun in the bottom of the first inning against the Minnesota Twins on September 18, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo By Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees watches a sacrifice fly against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium on September 19, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER-14: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees follows through watching his second home run of the game in the 6th inning of an MLB baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 14, 2017 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Yankees won 13-5. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees watches his team bat from the dugout during an MLB baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 12, 2017 at CitiField in the Queens borough of New York City. This game was scheduled to be played in Tampa Bay, but had to be moved to play in a neutral stadium because of hurricane damage in Florida. Rays won 2-1. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 09: Joey Gallo #13 of the Texas Rangers stands at first base with Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees during a game at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 9, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 09: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees bats against the Texas Rangers in a game at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 9, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

 

Read Full Story