The New York Yankees recently hired Rachel Balkovec as a full-time minor league hitting coach. That makes Balkovec the first ever full-time female hitting coach in any MLB organization. And hey, that’s pretty cool. But don’t just think of this as some PR stunt. Balkovec’s resume is quite impressive.
She holds not one but TWO master’s degrees in the science of human movement. She also has significant experience with several other minor league clubs. Balkovec was the minor league strength and conditioning coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014 and 2015, another first for women in baseball. She spent time in similar roles for the Chicago White Sox and then the Houston Astros for the past four years. She was also a strength and conditioning coach at LSU, ASU, and in the Arizona Fall League.
I mean, just look at this video and tell me you don’t think she’s got the strength and conditioning thing down.
Hitting Coaches: DYEL?
A little PAP for @slugfest2019 Day 1 in the sunshine state!
.#imnotdoneyet #isthisonplane #pvcsfordays #noteesallowed #DYEL #teamDYEL pic.twitter.com/jZmXIHWutR
— Rachel Balkovec (@damselndadugout) November 22, 2019
So then you’re probably wondering why the Yankees hired her as a hitting coach rather than a strength and conditioning one?
Well, that’s because of what she’s been doing more recently. Balkovec has been working at Driveline Baseball, a performance training center in Washington. It’s there, at this data-driven facility, that she’s been researching eye tracking for hitters and hip movement for pitchers. At the end of the day, that’s what really attracted the Yankees to her given their hard pivot towards data lately. The team obviously hopes her research yields big dividends down the line.
From what she’s shared on Twitter, Balkovec’s research seems pretty elaborate.
If you havin analyst problems I feel bad for you son, we got 99 problems but a nerd ain’t one. @DrivelineBB R&D team member @kylelindley_ getting markered up and jumping in the lab in the name of science #roadto90 #forthedatas pic.twitter.com/hIp8MHYphX
— Rachel Balkovec (@damselndadugout) November 6, 2019
Initial reactions around the league have been positive and why wouldn’t they be? This seems like a great hire for the Yankees, both because of her experience and knowledge, but also because of her work at Driveline Baseball. If there’s anything the Yankees could use after last year’s nightmare injury season, it’s fresh blood in the strength and conditioning department.
Hopefully she can start to improve the conditioning of some of these players coming up through the system and begin to lower the number of soft tissue injuries we’ve been seeing. I only hope her influence manages to extend up to the major league roster as well.
Best wishes for Balkovec and the Yankees moving forward. Let’s see what she brings!