Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
Rachel Balkovec, the first woman to coach an MLB-affiliated team, picked up a win for the Tampa Tarpons on Friday.
Balkovec, 34, has shattered glass ceiling after glass ceiling. She was the first woman to serve as a full-time minor league strength and conditioning coach, and later became the first woman to serve as a full-time minor league hitting coach.
When the New York Yankees-affiliated Tarpons played the Lakeland Flying Tigers — which are affiliated with the Detroit Tigers — on Friday, the crowd cheered his name. Balkovec Tarpons defeated Flying Tigers 9-6.
“I’ve never heard my name chanted like that,” Balkovec said, according to The Associated Press. “It was so much fun. Again, I just see, it’s like I saw myself sitting in the stands, 15 or 20 years ago, and so that’s really cool.”
Prior to his professional baseball debut, Balkovec played college softball. In January, she told NPR that she wasn’t much of a baseball fan, which might “shock a few people’s ears.” Rather, it was the minor league system that fascinated her.
When she was a strength and conditioning coach at Louisiana State University, she remembers hearing players talk about the underage.
“Their stories of experiences in the minor leagues and eating hot dogs before games and working out at YMCAs in random cities around the country,” Balkovec began. “And I just thought, ‘Wow.’ Like, I had no idea, even as a college softball player, of the long, incredibly long, winding journey that these athletes go through.”
Fireworks and an autograph session marked the end of Friday night’s game in Lakeland, Florida.
“Strangely, it’s like I’ve always had a very strong vision, not specifically this one maybe, but I’ve always had a strong vision for my life and I understood that I could have an impact really huge, no matter what field I’m in,” says Balkovec.