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Rachel Balkovec improving after being struck by batted ball, nearing return to New York Yankees' Class A team

TAMPA, Fla. -- Rachel Balkovec, hired by the New York Yankees as the first woman to manage a minor league affiliate of a Major League Baseball team, is nearing a return after being hit in the face by a batted ball during a drill last week.

Balkovec was struck on March 22, causing her to miss her first scheduled spring training game two days later with Class A Tampa.

"I saw her last night; she's starting to feel better," Kevin Reese, Yankees vice president of player development, said Wednesday. "I think she's getting close to being back on the field."

The 34-year-old Balkovec didn't suffer a concussion but had facial swelling that included the area around an eye. She was involved in a hitting drill in an indoor cage at the minor league complex when she was hurt.

Reese did not think the injury would prevent Balkovec from managing her first regular-season game on April 8 at Lakeland.

"Just knowing Rachel the way I do," Reese said. "The doctors have to sign off on some things and whatnot, but I think she's eager to get back out there."

Balkovec has broken several barriers on her way to the position. She was the first woman to serve as a full-time minor league strength and conditioning coach, then the first to be a full-time hitting coach in the minors with the Yankees.

The Yankees announced her hiring as a minor league manager in January.

Balkovec, a former softball catcher at Creighton and New Mexico, got her first job in professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals as a minor league strength and conditioning coach in 2012.

Balkovec joined the Houston Astros in 2016. She was hired as the Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator and later was the strength and conditioning coach at Double-A Corpus Christi.

She joined the Yankees organization as a minor league hitting coach in 2019.