LAKELAND – Just like Jackie Robinson, history will be made when Rachel Balkovec steps on to the field.
Opening night at the Lakeland Flying Tigers, April 8, will be Balkovec’s first game as manager of the visiting Tampa Tarpons, making her the first full-time female manager in the history of affiliated baseball.
Baseball shapes history
When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier for baseball in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, it heralded an end to racial segregation in professional baseball.
But that wasn’t the first, or the last, societal issue baseball had faced.
From rallies to advance the idea of women voting to “Until There’s A Cure Day” events during the height of the AIDS epidemic, baseball has sought, through the power of the nation’s nation pastime, to heal societal wounds.
Women changing the sport
This may be the first full-time woman manager, but not the first women involved. The first woman baseball coach was named in 2009. She also threw batting practice to six Major League teams in the following years. In 2021, the Boston Red Sox hired the first black woman to coach in professional baseball. And since 1989, the women broadcasters have helped those not at the park experience the game.
See history live
Game time is 6:30 p.m., April 8, with the gates scheduled to open an hour before the game.
For additional information, visit www.milb.com/lakeland or visitcentralflorida.org.