Tampa Tarpons' Rachel Balkovec will debut this season as first female manager of an affiliated baseball team

click to enlarge Tampa Tarpons' Rachel Balkovec will debut this season as first female manager of an affiliated baseball team
Photo Via Rachel Balkovec/Website

The Tampa Tarpons have a new full-time manager and she knows baseball very well.

Rachel Balkovec is the first-ever full-time female manager in the history of affiliated baseball, and she'll make her debut when Tarpons play the Lakeland Flying Tigers on April 8. 

Balkovec's walked a long road to get this opportunity. The former college softball player has multiple degrees in exercise physiology and even then she had to rely on small deceptions to get a leg up. She started using "Ray" instead of "Rachel" on her resumes to get callbacks from teams.

"That just shows the level of desperation that I was in just to get a look — like literally just to get a phone call. And my resume was phenomenal at the time for a young coach, and I just was not getting anything," Balkovec said in an interview with NPR.

Eventually, the St. Louis Cardinals gave her the shot she was hoping for.  In 2014, she became their strength and conditioning coordinator. She oversaw 200 athletes and 10 coaches. Come 2019, she was hired by the New York Yankees as a hitting instructor as a batting coach.

Balkovec credited the opportunities to an expansion of coaching roles in baseball organizations.

"I think it's easy to forget now that 10 years ago there weren't nutritionists, there weren't mental skills coaches, there weren't analysts walking around. And so opportunities for women to be in those roles just weren't there," said Balkovec.

Balkovec has her sights set on the very top of baseball's front office ladder: the role of general manager. That trail has been blazed by Kim Ng, current Miami Marlins GM.

Ng is the highest-ranking woman in professional baseball and the first woman to hold her title in men's pro sports in North America.

"Long term, my goal is to be a general manager down the road, of course. And so this is only going to help me personally," said Balkovec.

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