Rachel Balkovec cheers on historic debut as manager of New York Yankees minor-league team

LAKELAND, Fla. — Rachel Balkovec signed autographs and received a standing ovation after she was introduced. She also took a picture at home plate.

The time came to start working. The manager of a New York YankeesA minor league team was given a game.

Balkovec, who was the first woman in Major League Baseball to manage an affiliate team, deserved more recognition on Friday night. As she ran to the Class A Tampa Tarpons dugout to coach the first baseman, there was a chant at Joker Marchant Stadium.

“Let's go, Rachel!”

It was the result of a group consisting of girls, as the Tarpons faced the Lakeland Flying Tigers during the Florida State League.

The Detroit TigersFoundation — The Lakeland Club is an affiliate — donated tickets for female athletes in Polk County Schools. 1,200 tickets were distributed.

Balkovec, 34 years old, spoke earlier in the day at the Yankees' complex in Steinbrenner Field, Tampa, about her life. As she spoke to reporters, her parents were also present.

She said, “It's been ten years of just working up to this point.” Things have changed. Back then, I was discriminated against blatantly. Although some people may not want to admit it, it is part of the story and it allows you to see how much has changed.

She said, “So, blatantly discrimination, that was 2010ish, and here we are twelve years later, and I'm here at a conference as a manager,”

Balkovec was joined by the Tarpons on a 40-mile bus ride and arrived at the stadium 90 minutes before the game.

Balkovec, wearing Yankees' Road Gray pants and a blue Tarpons jersey and helmet, signed autographs at the right-field lines and near Tampa's third-base side dugout. Planes from the Sun ‘nā€™ Fun Aerospace Expo flew overhead.

During the pre-game introductions, she was cheered on by the crowd and then shook hands during a long lineup card exchange and review of ground rules.

After taking a group picture, the Flying Tigers took over the field. History was made.

Balkovec has overcome many barriers to her success in this position. Balkovec was the first woman to become a full time minor league strength and conditioning coach. She also became the first female to be a full time hitting coach in the minors.

In January, the Yankees announced her hire as a manager of the minor leagues.

Balkovec was a former Creighton and New Mexico softball catcher. She got her first professional baseball job with the St. Louis CardinalsIn 2012, as a minor-league strength and conditioning coach.

Balkovec was a member of the Houston AstrosIn 2016. In 2016, she was appointed Latin American strength- and conditioning coordinator. Later, she was the strength- and conditioning coach at Double A Corpus Christi.

In 2019, she joined the Yankees as a minor-league hitting coach.

Balkovec missed her spring training managerial debut due to being struck in the face with a batted baseball during a drill on March 22. Balkovec arrived at Friday's media session 10 minutes earlier than expected.

Balkovec said, “Overall, I feel really excited.” “I feel excited because I have a lot of these people last year and I already know them,” Balkovec stated.

She said, “I'm excited about the night because of the events but also excited for the season because these are my guys.”

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