Rachel Balkovec reported to the New York Yankees’ Spring Training complex in Florida, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 as the team’s minor league hitting coach, but just 10 years ago the 32 year old was living in Albuquerque as a Lobo.
“I loved living in Albuquerque,” Balkovec said. “The culture there is so rich and beautiful.”
Balkovec, a Nebraska native, graduated from The University of New Mexico in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. She also played softball for the University for two years. She said she credits UNM for helping shape not only her career, but her life.
"Make sure that the voices you are listening to aren’t giving you reason to not follow your dreams." - Rachel Balkovec, UNM Alumna
“One of the instructors I had, Chris Frankel, is still a strong mentor for me,” Balkovec said. “He really pushed me to go the extra mile and take non-traditional internships at the start of my career. He was such a blessing as well as the entire UNM Exercise Science Program. I’m fortunate to have had such a strong beginning like I did at UNM.”
In November, Balkovec is believed to have become the first woman hired as a full-time hitting coach by a major league organization.
“It’s great to see that there will be a handful of women in different coaching roles this year,” she said. “I’m excited to get started and to start learning.”
Before coming over to the Yankees, Balkovec served as the Astros Latin American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for two years.
“My boss with the Yankees was a mentor of mine with the Astros and he is one of the best hitting coaches in the game,” she said. “His ideas and tactics are incredibly cutting edge and I’m just excited for an opportunity to learn from him as well as others with the Yankees.”
Balkovec admits she never envisioned herself working in baseball. She said she didn’t even grow up following baseball, it’s the coaching and teaching she enjoys the most.
But now she’s associated with one of the most recognized organizations in all of sports.
“I’m very thankful to have a job with any organization,” Balkovec said. “I’m excited not for the logo, but because the Yankees are in a time in their history in which they are really making some aggressive improvements in the way that they approach player development. It’s exciting to see the organizational philosophy that they are using.
Balkovec said when she first dived into her baseball career in 2012, many people including friends and family questioned her ability to succeed. She said while all of those people had her best intentions in cautioning her against the difficulties of what she could face, she’s happy she never listened. She said although the journey has not always been easy, she has words of encouragement for all Lobos.
“Practice selective hearing,” she said. “Make sure that the voices you are listening to aren’t giving you reason to not follow your dreams. If you want to do something out of the ordinary, sometimes the only person you can truly listen to is yourself. Just be aware of other peoples’ limiting beliefs that they put on to you, and make your inner voice is heard loud and clear.”