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Yankees’ new minor league manager once disguised her gender. Now the MLB is celebrating her for it

January 13, 2022, 2:02 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Female founders once again get 2% of venture capital funding, Ronnie Spector dies at 78, and Rachel Balkovec makes MLB history. Have a thoughtful Thursday.

– Changing the game. When Rachel Balkovec applied for strength and conditioning jobs in men’s professional baseball in 2012, she heard back from one team, and even that contact said his organization would never let him hire a woman for such a job. ESPN reports that on her sister’s suggestion, Balkovec changed her name to “Rae Balkovec” on resumes, and that tactic—one women in other male-dominated fields have also tried—earned her a few more call-backs, but hiring managers still demurred when they learned she was a woman. Fast forward ten years and Balkovec is still in baseball, and now her gender is being celebrated, not counted against her. The Yankees this week named Balkovec head of their minor-league team, the Tampa Tarpons, making her the first female manager in affiliated professional baseball.

“If you know my story and you have a pulse, I think it’s pretty hard not to get behind what’s going on here,” she said at a press conference yesterday.

Balkovec’s own accomplishments earned her the job. She played college softball and earned two masters degrees—one in kinesiology and another in human movement sciences. She worked as a minor league strength and conditioning coach for the St. Louis Cardinals and later for the Houston Astros. Along the way, she taught herself Spanish to better communicate with Spanish-speaking players and spent time at a data-driven baseball training center. The Yankees hired her as a hitting coach in their farm system in 2019.

Rachel Balkovec at Yankees Training Camp
Rachel Balkovec at the New York Yankees Player Development Complex on Feb. 25, 2020 in Tampa, Florida.
New York Yankees—Getty Images

Balkovec also attributed her historic hiring to other female pioneers in the sport like Kim Ng, whom the Miami Marlins hired as the MLB’s first female general manager in 2020, and Jean Afterman, the Yankees’ longtime assistant GM.

Another factor in Balkovec’s milestone is growing recognition in Major League Baseball that playing men’s baseball is not a prerequisite for coaching the sport.

In the past, “there weren’t necessarily as many opportunities for people—men, even—who didn’t have a playing background,” said Kevin Reese, the Yankees’ vice president of player development, according to the New York Times. “More and more of those people are showing up today and showing that they have a lot of value.”

Balkovec sees herself as having “two jobs”—first, running the Tarpons’ clubhouse, and second being a “visible” role model. She wants to proves to young girls that they too can work in baseball—no pseudonyms needed.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Be my baby. Ronnie Spector, the leader of the Ronettes who sang "Be My Baby," died at 78 yesterday. The 1960s music legend is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the group and has also shared her story of abuse by her ex-husband, Phil Spector. Her family said in a statement that Spector "lived her life with a twinkle in her eye [and] a spunky attitude." AP

- Dismal stats. Female founders got 2% of U.S. venture capital funding in 2021, according to a Pitchbook report. The share of money that went to women-only founding teams shrank in 2021 even as the total dollar amount awarded to female founders rose. Bloomberg

- Ads for a cause. An anonymous group of ad industry creatives and professionals called the Change Collective released a visual campaign meant to draw attention to sexual harassment in the advertising industry. The "welcome to advertising kit” imagery features a gift bag that contains antidepressants and a DNA evidence bag like those used after reports of sexual assault. Adweek

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Variety promoted president and group publisher Michelle Sobrino-Stearns to CEO. Stephanie Garcia, former PayPal and Salesforce HR executive, joined cloud communications company 8x8 as chief human resources officer. The National Geographic Society added new members to its board of trustees: Claudia Madrazo, Deborah Lehr, Dina Powell McCormick and Paula Kahumbu

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Good idea!! Should women use fewer exclamation points in their work emails... or should men use more? This piece argues that men are "imprisoned by the fear of appearing enthusiastic" and women, who tend to use more enthusiastic punctuation, have the right idea. MEL Magazine

- National news. A #MeToo story is dominating the news in Iceland, after 24-year-old Vitalia Lazareva said that three prominent business leaders groped her in a hot tub. The three male executives have all stepped down from their positions or gone on leave since she shared the allegations on a podcast. Two have not commented and one, Hreggvidur Jonsson, founder of health care company Veritas Capital, said he "regretted not stepping out of the situation." Bloomberg

- Security law. Hong Kong will introduce its own national security laws, following the Beijing-imposed national security law that prompted citywide protests in 2020, chief executive Carrie Lam said this week. Lam plans to use the two months left in her term to build a "constructive and interactive relationship" between government and the legislature. Guardian

ON MY RADAR

Anna Marie Tendler turns the lens on herself Harper's Bazaar

Hanya's boys Vulture

Janet Jackson is still in control Allure

PARTING WORDS

"I think I’m ready to go back and do my own thing."

-Country star Maren Morris on achieving fast success with her song "The Middle" 

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