Rachel Balkovec barely had time to soak up everything before a line workout from Seattle Mariners’ top prospect Jarred Kelenic bounced off her leg and brought it all back to reality.
At this point in the start of the first inning, Balkovec was not a trailblazer or a history maker, she was a first baseman signaling to the player standing in the batter’s box that all was well.
“I had to play the game, let’s be honest,” the first coach in Futures Game history joked to the MLB Network later in the game. “I think I can say publicly that I am the first woman to be absolutely smoked in the Futures Game. This is a big moment in my career and I will remember it forever.
Much like the players on the pitch, Balkovec, 34, is trying to climb the ranks to the big leagues, working with the game’s rising stars on the diamond and alongside former Vault legends. It was a moment that happened suddenly but lasted for years.
Circumstances related to COVID-19 pushed Balkovec’s 2020 season with the Yankees organization into a winter with the Sydney Blue Sox in the Australian Baseball League as Minor League games were called off across the country. She returned to the United States this season and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Yankees, tasked with helping Yankees’ top prospect Jasson Dominguez, 18, as he begins his journey through the farming system. Bombers.
“He’s a particular talent in baseball,” added Balkovec. “But I think the real story and the real thing people don’t know about him is that he’s an amazing person with an amazing work ethic… everyone knows he’s a special talent. on the field but I think (everything) outside the field makes him the most unique. “
Balkovec’s breadth of experience with young talent from around the world caught the attention of Futures Game manager LaTroy Hawkins, who led the American League team and helped make the momentous event possible. Sunday.
“He basically mentioned he wanted a diverse staff,” Balkovec told Yankees writer Bryan Hoch earlier this month. “He saw that I went to Australia and some things that I posted on my accounts there. We didn’t know each other before, but when we got on the phone it was kind of like, ‘Nice to finally meet you!’ ”
Balkovec and the American League All-Stars fell to the National League by a final score of 8-3, Dominguez going 0-for-3 at plate. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum collected Balkovec’s cap to archive and display at Cooperstown.