September 27, 2022

Yankees’ Rachel Balkovec hit in face by batted ball during drills, will miss Tampa Tarpons spring opener

Rachel Balkovec will miss time after being hit in the face by a batted ball during a hitting drill on Tuesday. (Gregory Bull/AP)

TAMPA — The next glass ceiling will have to wait. Rachel Balkovec, who will become the first woman to manage an affiliated baseball team, was injured in a hitting drill on Tuesday and will not be in the dugout on Thursday when her team plays its first spring training game.

Balkovec, named the manager of the low Class-A Tampa Tarpons, was hit in the face with a batted ball during hitting drills at the indoor cages at the minor league complex. She experienced swelling and the initial diagnosis does not include a concussion.

“All things considered, I feel very fortunate,” Balkovec said. “The doctors have asked me to be smart about limiting my activities over the next several days, and I plan on following their guidance. As much as I already miss being around the players and staff, I do not anticipate this affecting my role and responsibilities for the regular season.”

Balkovec is scheduled to make history on April 8 when the Tarpons open the season at Lakeland. She has already crashed through several glass ceilings.

Balkovec joined the Yankees organization in November 2019 as a minor league hitting coach, becoming the first woman to be named to that role in the history of professional baseball. She was followed a few days later by Rachel Folden of the Chicago Cubs organization and there will be 19 women in uniform this season in baseball.

Prior to joining the Yankees, Balkovec spent three seasons with the Houston Astros organization, serving as the strength and conditioning coach for Double-A Corpus Christi in 2018 and the Rookie-level GCL Astros in 2017. She also worked as the Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator from 2016-17. Prior to that, she was the minor league strength and conditioning coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2014-15.

Balkovec was also the first woman to be hired as a full-time strength and conditioning coach in affiliated baseball.