The New York Yankees officially introduced Rachel Balkovec as the manager of their Low-A affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons, on Wednesday afternoon. News of Balkovec's appointment had first been reported by The Athletic's Lindsey Adler on Sunday night. Balkovec, who will be the first woman to manage a team in affiliated ball, spent the previous two seasons working at the complex level with the Yankees.
Prior to joining the Yankees, she had completed stints as a strength and conditioning coach with both the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros organizations. Balkovec has also ventured into international waters, spending time coaching in the Australian Baseball League and with the Dutch national team.
"If you know my story, and you have a pulse, it's pretty hard to not get behind what's going on here," Balkovec said during her press conference when asked about her critics. "The negativity, it's hilarious to me because this is the American Dream."
Balkovec added that she wants to be a "visible" role model to young women.
Rachel Balkovec: "I don't think you sign your name on the dotted line to do something like this and say, 'I don't want to be a role model.' I want to be a visible idea. I want to be out there." #Yankees @TampaTarpons #YankeesZoomRoom pic.twitter.com/NxV0jpvaRE— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) January 12, 2022
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred released the following statement in response to Balkovec's hiring:
"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Rachel on this historic milestone. As manager of the Tampa Tarpons, she will continue to demonstrate her expertise and leadership in the Yankees' organization. We wish Rachel well in this new capacity and appreciate her mentorship to the growing network of women in baseball operations and player development roles.
"When Kim Ng was hired as the General Manager of the Marlins prior to the 2021 season, it was a meaningful step forward. I am pleased to see the game continue to make important progress at various levels. Major League Baseball is committed to providing a supportive environment for women and girls to pursue our sport as players, coaches, umpires and executives. We are proud of Rachel, new Director of Player Development Sara Goodrum of the Astros and all the women across our sport who are setting a positive example for our next generation of fans and proving, on and off the field, that Baseball is a game for everyone."
While it's too early to know who Balkovec will manage next season in Tampa, she was asked about one Yankees prospect in particular: teenage outfielder Jasson Dominguez, who appeared in 49 games with the Tarpons last season. (He hit .258/.346/.398 with five home runs and seven stolen bases in those contests.)
Dominguez, nicknamed "The Martian" because of his physicality and his apparent promise, signed with the Yankees as an international free-agent in 2019. He received a $5.1 million signing bonus. Balkovec praised Dominguez's ability to impact the baseball while praising him as a human being and clubhouse presence.
It's worth noting that Major League Baseball's owner-imposed lockout should not affect Balkovec's managerial debut. Rather, the minor leagues should continue on as normal since the players are not represented by MLB's Players Association.