TAMPA — The Low-A Tampa Tarpons are scheduled to open the regular season on April 8 in Lakeland, Fla., against the Tigers’ affiliate.
It will be the managerial debut of Rachel Balkovec, who is the first woman to manage an affiliated minor league team.
But Balkovec, named to the position last month, isn’t focused on that date. There’s too much work to be done first.
“I’m grateful for this time to practice with the guys that are here,’’ the 34-year-old said Wednesday during the Yankees’ minicamp at their player development complex. “We’re here studying every day, watching video. I go through my day learning aspects of defense, learning our philosophies inside and out on defense that I haven’t been really close to as a hitting coach. I’m not worried about the beginning of the season right now.”
After working her way up professional baseball on the strength and conditioning side, as well as the hitting side, Balkovec said she’s embracing the broader role as a manager.
“I’ve gotten so much support from players,’’ Balkovec said. “They’re calling me ‘Skip.’ It feels really natural, to be honest with you.”
She already has garnered plenty of attention since getting the new role, and that will continue — and perhaps intensify — once the season starts in April (the minor league season is not impacted by the MLB lockout).
“It’s just a part of the job,’’ Balkovec said of the added spotlight. “Definitely, with where I’m going and want to go in my career, I don’t really have a choice. Is it extra time? Is it possibly a distraction? Sure. But if I don’t know how to manage that, then I’m never gonna be where I want to be. … I just view it as another part of my job. I have to hone those skills myself and be good at those things. … As soon as I signed on the dotted line, that’s the responsibility you accept.”