The Yankees have hired Rachel Balkovec as a minor league hitting coach, the New York Times reported on Friday. Balkovec, who signed a contract earlier this month, is believed to be the first woman to serve as a full-time hitting coach in the history of professional baseball.
Balkovec, 32, has an impressive resume and has already broken barriers as a woman looking to move through the coaching ranks. After playing softball collegiately at both Creighton University and the University of New Mexico, she's worked in both the Cardinals and Astros organizations.
In 2014 and 2015, she was the Cardinals minor league strength and conditioning coordinator, the first woman in affiliated baseball to hold a full-time position in that role, as well.
Most recently, she was the strength and conditioning coach for the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Astros' Double-A affiliate.
Balkovec will likely take an analytics-based approach to her new position. She has two master's degrees in human movement sciences, and before joining the Yankees, was working with Driveline Baseball, a data-driven performance center based in Washington used by players at both the amateur and professional level.
"During the interview process, I was blown away by the Yankees hitting staff," Balkovec told the Times. "They are making aggressive operational changes to compete in the rapidly changing landscape of player development."
She also taught herself Spanish, which gave her the language experience necessary to serve as the Astros' Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator, and studied abroad at Vrije University in the Netherlands.
"I knew my passion was shifting from solely strength and conditioning to a more global view of the game, and I wanted to be able to have a bigger impact on player development by helping them get better from a scientific perspective," Balkovec said. "It's obvious the direction in which the game is headed, and I knew getting a better grasp of the research and analytics side of things would only be beneficial for my future in baseball."
It's her well-rounded background and coaching ability that stood out for the Yankees, and is why they are excited to have her on the coaching staff.
"When you work with Rachel as a player or a coach, it's clearly apparent that her investment in you and in her expertise in the field is only going to make you better," Yankees hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson told the Times. "It may be initially different because she's a woman, but you quickly realize that she is simply an elite coach and you see her for that."
"She's a good hitting coach, and a good coach, period."
Balkovec will be with the Yankees in Tampa when the team opens up Spring Training in February.