Skip to main content

Dillon Lawson Expects More Big Things From ‘Undeniable’ Rachel Balkovec

The Yankees’ new hitting coach and Low-A manager are close.

Rachel Balkovec made history earlier this month when she was named affiliated baseball’s first female manager.

Balkovec will lead the Yankees’ Low-A affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons, in 2022. The historic promotion has Dillon Lawson, the Yankees’ new MLB hitting coach, ecstatic.

“She’s an amazing leader,” Lawson said Wednesday during a Zoom call. “What she has accomplished up to this point is very well-deserved.”

Lawson’s praise actually came a day after he and his family hosted Balkovec for dinner. The two coaches are close, and Lawson knows first-hand that Balkovec had to overcome years of discrimination before her baseball career took off.

Balkovec had been a Yankees organizational hitting coach since 2019. After her promotion was announced, she recalled how she didn’t start receiving interest from MLB clubs until she changed her name from “Rachel” to “Rae” on job applications. Calls followed, but rejection wasn’t far behind once teams realized they were speaking to a woman. Balkovec ultimately changed her name back, realizing she wouldn’t want to work for such people anyway.

Balkovec got her first job with St. Louis in 2012 as a strength and conditioning coordinator. Similar positions with the White Sox and Astros followed; she first worked with Lawson in Houston. Balkovec’s career took her to the Dominican Republic, Australia and the Netherlands, and she interned at Driveline, the analytics-heavy training center in Washington. A former catcher at Creighton and New Mexico, Balkovec, 34 has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and master’s degrees in sports administration and biomechanics. She taught herself Spanish in her free time.

READ: Rachel Balkovec Embracing Visibility as Part of Her New Job

Balkovec’s résumé is littered with diversity and experience, and Lawson wants to make sure people know that’s why she’s the best person for the job.

Scroll to Continue

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

“With the way that the world works, there’s probably preconceived notions because she’s a woman when she walks into a certain job,” Lawson said. “You see some of the comments that are out there now about whether she’s qualified or not qualified, things like that. I can promise you that she’s qualified. I can promise you that she’s extremely good at her job.”

Lawson highlighted Balkovec’s ability to galvanize people, her bilingual skills, and her knack for connecting with players. However, it seems clear to everyone that she won’t stay in Tampa too long.

When Balkovec was named Tarpons manager, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that “the sky is the limit” when asked if he could picture her managing a big league team one day. Balkovec, meanwhile, said that her ultimate goal is to one day be a major league general manager. The Marlins’ Kim Ng became the first woman to hold such a position in November 2020.

"Right now, I'm a manager," Balkovec said earlier this month. "This is where I'm gonna stay. I don't really have a timeline for when I would leave, but I just know in the future, that leadership and the front office is definitely present in my mind."

Like Cashman, Lawson thinks it would be foolish to put a cap on what Balkovec can achieve. Whatever the job, he’s confident she will continue to ascend.

“She’ll go wherever she wants,” Lawson said when asked if the majors are in Balkovec’s future. “At this point, she’s been undeniable. She’s earned that. I think the world of her.”

MORE:

Follow Gary Phillips on Twitter (@GaryHPhillips). Be sure to bookmark Inside The Pinstripes and check back daily for news, analysis and more.