Balkovec: breaking barriers


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Rachel Balkovec, the first professional female baseball manager for the Tampa Tarpons, a low Class A affiliate for the New York Yankees, has been shattering sports stereotypes for years, as she initially became involved with the Yankees organization in 2019. Balkovec was hired as the first full-time female hitting instructor in the MLB for the Yankees farm system, which began her career in professional baseball and has allowed her to acquire significant success in pursuing her dreams to become a professional baseball manager. Her hard work and perseverance in a field dominated by men will hopefully inspire young women and girls around the country to believe in themselves.

Makayla Martindale, Sports Editor

Attracting about 2.7 million viewers during the regular season and 14.3 million viewers during the 2021 World Series games, baseball remains one of America’s favorite pastimes. With 120 Minor League teams and 30 Major League teams, Major League Baseball has been ingrained in American culture since its start in 1869. In the 153 years that the MLB has been around, it has grown to be one of the most watched sports in America, yet continues to be primarily male-dominated. Everything from coaching staff and players to commentating is done by men for a male audience, which I find disheartening considering the growing female viewership, myself included. 

It is no secret that the field of sports management represents a major discrepancy in the ratio of women to men involved, as you could turn on any sports network and find little to no female coaching or inclusion in most aspects of the game. This disproportionality is especially prevalent in professional baseball, as the MLB has been one of the slowest sports organizations to begin to integrate women onto coaching staffs. 

On Jan. 12, Rachel Balkovec was introduced as the first female manager for an MLB affiliate team and will coach the New York Yankees’s low-A affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons, during the upcoming 2022 season. Balkovec is effectively opening the door for women looking to work in the MLB and providing hope for girls around the nation who love baseball. Although this is a significant step in the right direction for lessening the inequalities between men and women in professional baseball, more needs to be done to resolve the issue. 

I grew up playing travel softball and watching baseball every Sunday afternoon with my dad, and I had always dreamed of working for the MLB when I was younger. I admired the players, their commitment to the game and their work ethic. But as I got older, it became evident that my hopes of working for the MLB were more of a dream than a worthy pursuit. The MLB’s lack of resolve to create a more diverse staff essentially crushed my childhood aspirations. My hope is that by pioneering in MLB team management, Balkovec will provoke more females to get involved with professional baseball and overcome the preconceived notion that females should not be involved in male-dominated sports.

One female manager out of 120 Minor League teams will not create an immediate shift in the 153-year strong culture regarding women’s place in baseball. This being said, I believe that Balkovec’s advancement in professional baseball is just a fraction of what needs to continue to take place in order to make the gender disparity within the MLB (and all professional sports) less extreme. I can confidently say that if I had someone like Balkovec to look up to as a child, I would have believed that my adolescent dreams were not so unrealistic or unattainable. As a baseball fan, I welcome Balkovec and am excited to see what she brings to the sport. More importantly, as a woman, I am more than thrilled to see someone living out my childhood fantasy.