Much like the other male-dominated sports in the world, the roles of females in major league organizations are usually relegated to menial job responsibilities that do not directly affect the outcome of games and player output, sports training and corporate positions, aside. Enter Rachel Balkovec, who has just been hired as the first full-time female hitting coach for the New York Yankees organization. While this move sounds unprecedented, Balkovec has the credentials and previous experience to be successful at the MLB level. So, who is Rachel Balkovec and how did she get to this point?
The 32-year-old is a former collegiate softball player for Creighton and New Mexico where she excelled for those teams, while also maintaining a focus on strength and conditioning. Of course, there are countless differences between the games of baseball and softball, but the mechanics are similar in hitting and there is no doubt that strength and conditioning play a crucial role in the overall success of any athlete. Balkovec has fulfilled roles as a strength and conditioning coach for professional organizations such as the Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Chicago Whitesox. Additionally, she has had stints Louisiana State University, Arizona State University, and the Dutch national baseball and softball teams.
After having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, or the study of body movements, from the University of New Mexico, Balkovec then went on to obtain a master’s degree in sports administration from Louisiana State University, and subsequently, a master’s degree in biomechanics in Amsterdam. These degrees are important and highly applicable to the game of baseball due to the sensitive nature a swing can have on the overall success and health of a batter. Understanding sports administration is equally important for the dynamics and structure of a major league baseball organization, such as the New York Yankees.
Every professional sports league does things differently and according to a set of strict rules and policies, even within the same sport. Through the various stops in her career with other major league baseball teams, she has gained key insights into how the organizations operate, especially when considering two of them have continually challenged as World Series contenders, year after year, in the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals. The addition to the New York Yankees organization has now allowed Balkovec to continue the trend of working with highly successful franchises, supplementing an already deep resume of MLB experience.