Rachel Balkovec made history by becoming the first-ever female hitting coach in MLB when she joined the New York Yankees staff in November 2019. If you knew her future plans, she’s just getting started in the baseball world.
When she saw Giants assistant coach Alyssa Nakken taking over first base coaching responsibilities and making history of her own last July, she wasn’t surprised. It was something she expected from president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler.
“When I see Alyssa, I see Farhan and Gabe,” Balkovec said on Balk Talk. “Really, hats off to them because just like in my career, I would have never had these opportunities. Yeah, you can work hard, you can be the right candidate, you can be the right person, but I would have never had these opportunities if it wasn’t for the men that were behind them.”
Balkovec actually interviewed with the Kapler and Zaidi for a position with the Giants. It was a different position than the one Nakken accepted -- more of a quality control type of job -- but Balovec noticed how much they embraced diversity in their interview process.
“The first time I met Farhan was on a diversity panel at the MLB Winter Meetings, I think he was one of the first people to ever mention to me being in the front office,” Balkovec said.
Balkovec had heard about Kapler when he was with the Dodgers' organization working in player development. She was working as a strength and conditioning coach at the time. He was -- and still is -- a nutrition nut, and took his organic, healthy ways to the next level with the younger players. That was something that stood out to her.
“People were upset he was like catering at Whole Foods for all of these minor league players which was unheard of, and I just thought, ‘Who is this guy, what’s he doing over there?’ And also Farhan was behind him that whole time,” Balkovec said.
Zaidi also encouraged Balkovec about having a future in an MLB front office down the line as well. Her dream is to work as a general manager in such surroundings.
“For me, I watch front offices like more people watch teams, so I think it just goes back to I look at Gabe Kapler and Farhan, they’re forward thinkers in that way if you follow their trajectory.”
As Balkovec continues to break barriers and achieve her dreams, it's clear that Kapler and Zaidi will be admiring, and encouraging, from afar.