Balkovek, Folden, Whitlock: Female coaches landing jobs with MLB organizations

Balkovek, Folden, Whitlock: Female coaches landing jobs with MLB organizations
Rachel Balkovec (NY Yankees), Rachel Folden (Chicago Cubs) and Christina Whitlock (Cardinals) are following the route opened by San Francisco Giants' hiring of Alyssa Nakken.

Alyssa Nakken, the former Sacramento State softball star hired by San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, is not the only woman working as a coach for Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations.

Rachel Balkovec was named hitting coach of the New York Yankees' Gulf Coast League team, rookie level. Balkovec, a native of Nebraska, is the first woman to fill such a position. According to the Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, her hiring was "strongly recommended" by hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson. He met Balkovec when he was a Minor League hitting instructor for the Houston Astros and she was serving as a Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator.

"He was extremely impressed about her background in strength and conditioning and the biomechanics side," Cashman added.

Before the season the Chicago Cubs hired Rachel Folden as a lead hitting lab technician and fourth coach for their Rookie League team in Mesa, Arizona.

Folden enjoyed a career as a softball player. She played at the collegiate level for Marshall University in West Virginia. She then starred in the National Pro (Softball) Fastpitch league from 2008 to 2012. She later founded Folden Fastpitch, a company that offers "extremely progressive baseball and softball instruction".

"It always used to irritate me when I would go to some field for softball practice," Folden said in an interview, "and everyone would tell me, 'Oh no, that's a baseball swing.'"

Folden added that she had some questions to ask, before agreeing to terms with the Cubs: "I asked, 'How committed is the organization?' I didn't want to be a canary, right? I didn't want to be this check upon a diversity-hire box."

The St. Louis Cardinals hired Christina Whitlock as a fourth coach for their farm system.
Whitlock was a two-time collegiate All-American catcher in softball for the University of South Carolina. She also played in the Women's Professional Softball League in 1999.
She was then a head coach in NCAA softball second division before returning as an assistant coach to South Carolina.

Whitlock lost her husband Brian when the birth of their second son was nine days away.
“I specifically was trying to break into baseball,” explained Whitlock in an interview. "Whatever opportunity that it was going to be, I was going to evaluate it and see if it would be a good fit and worthy of transitioning out of my softball career."

Talking about her role, Whitlock said: "I’ll be out there hitting fungos to the defense and throwing some batting practice and possibly in the bullpen setting up technology."

Justine Siegal became the first woman to serve as a coach for a MLB organization when she was hired as an Oakland A's instructor in the Arizona Fall League.