Power Hitter: Rachel Balkovec, MLB’s First Female Team Manager


When I was growing up in New York, my father, an immigrant from Poland, became an ardent New York Yankees fan.  Even in his 90s, no longer living in New York, he subscribed to the MLB cable channel so he would not miss a game. If you happened to visit while a Yankees game was underway, you were expected to sit patiently as he focused on his favorite team. If he were alive today, he would be 100 years old in July and still be one of the Yankees' staunchest cheerleaders. But I think he would be cheering especially loudly for his “home team” now. He would be delighted about their promotion of Rachel Balkovec to lead their minor-league team, the Tampa Tarpons, as the first female manager of an affiliated professional baseball team.

It is clear from news accounts that Balkovec’s path was neither smooth nor easy despite her stellar credentials. These include playing college softball, earning two master’s degrees – in kinesiology and human movement sciences - and even learning Spanish to communicate more effectively.  She faced many expected hurdles but did not quit. After serial rejections in her pursuit of player-facing positions in baseball, she changed her resume name from “Rachel” to “Rae” to get an interview,  but once they heard her voice, the teams would say they would not hire a woman for the strength and conditioning jobs she sought. She is one of a select group of women who are breaking barriers to attain coaching and player development positions in professional baseball. Her persistence paves the way for others to follow.

According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, baseball gets a barely passing grade for gender hiring. Professional baseball is not the only field in which women have either been excluded or lagged behind men. Women now nearly meet or outnumber men in professional schools, such as business, medicine, and law, which is a relatively new phenomenon.  Looking at the law, having joined those ranks four decades ago, the number of women in the profession and leadership roles has grown, but we are still trailing in many ways. Women are still far behind in terms of law firm partnership, general counsel positions, and judgeships. Women need more allies to reach the pinnacle of their chosen professions.  Kudos to the male colleagues who served that role for Balkovec.

Perhaps if more men thought about their daughters’ and granddaughters’ futures, they would welcome women into the ranks of traditionally male-dominated roles. My father, who did not have the benefit of higher education after surviving the Holocaust, was always a staunch supporter of women advancing. He was proud of my mother, who worked outside the home when my friends’ mothers were homemakers. As a young child, before I had any inkling of becoming a lawyer, my dad had even higher aspirations for me, nicknaming me “The Judge.” No one was prouder than he was when I launched my law firm 12 years ago.  In every conversation I had with him, from that day until he passed away in 2015, he asked about how “the business” was doing and whether he could do anything to help me.

If every father encourages their daughters and other people’s daughters, there is no limit to what we can achieve.