Rachel Balkovich celebrates her historic debut as the New York Yankees Minor League Team Manager

LAKELAND, Florida – Rachel Balkovich was cheered by the many fans who just came to see her make history, as she debuted with a Friday night win as the first woman to run a branch of a Major League Baseball team.

Balkovec led the New York Yankees’ Division I Tampa Tarpons over Lakeland 9-6.

“I’ve never heard my name chanted like that,” Balkovich said. “It was so much fun. Again, I just see, it’s like I was sitting in the stands, whichever was 15 or 20 years ago, so it’s really cool.”

Before the match, Balkovic, 34, signed some autographs and gave a standing ovation when she was introduced and photographed on the house board. Then it’s time to go to work. She had a game to play.

However, many of the crowd felt that the moment required more recognition. So when I ran from dugout to coach first base before the top of the second half, a cheer erupted at Joker Marchant Stadium.

“Let’s go, Rachel!”

She came from a girl group where the Tarpons played the Flying Tigers in the Florida State League.

The Detroit Tiger Foundation, Lakeland Club is a subsidiary, Math tickets for Polk County schools were donated, and 1,200 were distributed.

Tampa broke a 4-all tie in the seventh game at a major tournament by Anthony Garcia. The last bowlers in Balkovic tonight decided the victory.

Earlier in the day, Balkovich spoke at the Yankees Complex at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa about her trip. Her parents were present while she spoke to reporters.

“It’s only been 10 years of work up to this point,” she said. “Things have evolved. I was subjected to open discrimination at the time. Some people say not to say it, but it’s just part of what happened, and I think it’s important to say that because it lets you know how much has changed.”

“So, blatant discrimination, that was 2010, and now here we are 12 years later, and I’m sitting here at a press conference as a director,” she said.

The Balkovec and Tarpons made the 40-mile bus trip and arrived at the stadium about 90 minutes before the game.

Wearing gray Road Yankees and a blue Tarpons shirt and hat, Balkovic signed autographs along the right lane and next to the Third Side bunker in Tampa as planes flew from the nearby Sun ‘n’ Fun Aerospace Expo.

Encouraged by the crowd during pre-match introductions to the field, she shook hands with referees Chris Argueza, Conor McKenna and Flying Tigers manager Andrew Graham during an extended card exchange and a review of the ground rules.

After the quartet snapped a group photo, the Flying Tigers took the field and made history.

Balkovic broke many barriers on her way to this position. She was the first woman to work as a full-time minor league strength and conditioning coach, and then the first woman to work as a full-time hit coach in the minors with the Yankees.

The Yankees announced her appointment as the minor league manager in January.

Balkovec, a former softball player for Creighton and New Mexico, landed her first professional baseball job with the St. Louis Cardinals as a minor league strength and conditioning coach in 2012.

Balkovic joined the Houston Astros in 2016. She was hired as the Latin American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator and later became the Strength and Conditioning Coach at Double-A Corpus Christi.

She joined the Yankees as a minor league hitting coach in 2019.

Balkovic, who missed her first managerial training of the spring after hitting her in the face from a volleyball during a practice on March 22, arrived 10 minutes early for Friday’s media briefing.

“Overall, I’m very happy,” Balkovich said. “I’m excited because, fortunately, I’m in the best case scenario to accept a role like this because I’ve had a lot of these players last year and I already know them.”

“I’m excited for tonight because of what’s going on but I’m also excited for the season because it’s like, ‘These are my guys,'” she said.