Rachel Balkovec has vivid memories of the dark, lonely and challenging chapters in her historic journey to the Tampa Tarpons manager’s office.
Three years ago, she went to Amsterdam to work for the first time as an apprentice hitting coach with the Netherlands national baseball and softball teams while earning a master’s degree in physics and had to sleep on a mattress she pulled out of a dumpster.
The year before, as the strength and conditioning coach for the Astros’ Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas) team, she found herself studying physics flashcards on the floor of a stall in the San Antonio Missions’ women’s restroom because there wasn’t a spot for her in the visiting clubhouse.
A couple years before that, her search for a strength and conditioning job in the minors yielded nothing until she tried changing the name on her resume to Rae. She got multiple e-mail replies and eventually a call from a confused team executive expecting to hear a male voice. After a brief, awkward conversation, she didn’t hear from him again. (An official from another team expressed interest in hiring her before later saying his bosses told him no, because she was a woman.)
Even when she broke her first barrier in affiliated professional baseball — the first woman hired as a full-time strength and conditioning coach when the Cardinals made her a coordinator in 2014…