The Yankees have hired what is believed to be the first female full-time hitting coach hired by a major league organization, Rachel Balkovec.
In this day and age, it may seem on the surface that this move by the Yankees was more political than strategic; however, that could not be further from the truth. Rachel Balkovec has a laundry list of professional and academic accolades including degrees in kinesiology, sports management and biomechanics. Balkovec, 32, has also been researching eye tracking for pitchers and hip movement for hitters at Driveline Baseball, a data-driven performance training center, that instantly put her on the Yankees’ radar this past Summer.
This won’t be Balkovec’s first stint with a Major League organization as she had previously worked as the Astros’ strength and conditioning coordinator and the Cardinals’ latin america strength and conditioning coordinator–a role in which she taught herself Spanish so that she could become a more effective coach. In 2012, working as the strength and conditioning coordinator for the Cardinals Single-A affiliate, Balkovec won the Appalachian League’s Strength Coach of the Year award.
Lindsay Berra of the New York Times writes:
Club officials said they had hired Balkovec based on qualifications — including two master’s degrees in the science of human movement and experience at several minor league clubs — that were a natural fit with the coaching crew being assembled for next season.
The Yankees’ Hitting Coordinator, Dillon Lawson, told Berra “It’s an easy answer to why we chose Rachel for this role, she’s a good hitting coach and a good coach period. 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. 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.”
After doing some research, I could not be more impressed by Rachel Balkovec and her dedication to the game of baseball. From teaching herself a new language so she could communicate better with her players to earning multiple master’s degrees, she has dedicated her entire life to get to where she is today. Credit to the Yankees for breaking the mold and hiring a female hitting coach but even more credit to Rachel for putting in the blood, sweat and tears to earn this position.