TAMPA, (WFLA) — For Rachel Balkovec, the history-making opportunity to manage the Tampa Tarpons was summed up in one word.
“I think the first word that comes to mind is just gratitude,” Balkovec said.
The 34-year-old said she’s focusing on a very specific goal as she takes on her manager role with the Tarpons.
Simply put, she wants her players to be successful and her way of doing that, she said, is by leading with honesty.
“I really think as a coach of young men, and young people in general, being direct and being clear about your standards and being clear about what you want is probably going to end up well,” Balkovec said. “Being honest is probably my style.”
Balkovec said her parents raised her to be a competitive athlete, aggressive with a will to win. She wants the public to see that rather than her gender
“People who haven’t met me who don’t understand how a woman would get the respect of these young guys, that’s fine,” she said. “I don’t need that, I have players texting me right now saying congratulations how happy they are. I don’t need to have other people understand it.”
The Nebraska native grew up playing softball in high school, then at the college level where she played for Creighton University in Omaha and the University of New Mexico.
After earning two masters’ degrees, she later began working with both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros. She also taught herself Spanish to connect with all players.
The Tampa coach also wants her team to have fun. After all, in the end, she says, that’s what it all about.
“They can definitely expect some loud music in the clubhouse,” Balkovec said. “They already know that. It’s a fun environment.”