DENVER — The Yankees’ Rachel Balkovec probably expected the loud ovation Sunday as she was introduced at Coors Field as the first female coach for a Futures Game. The second round of applause, however, she did not anticipate.
That’s because it came after Balkovec, the first-base coach for the AL squad, was struck squarely on the left calf by a line drive off the bat of the Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic -- only the second batter of the game.
Not only did Balkovec joke about it afterward, she proudly displayed the imprint of the ball on her pant leg -- and the nasty bruise beneath it. But the pain couldn’t measure up to the enormous pride she felt taking the field Sunday as a baseball pioneer.
"It’s a responsibility," said Balkovec, the first female hitting coach in Yankees’ history. "I think about it literally every single day. There’s not a day that it doesn’t cross my mind. I think about my actions and what my responsibility is -- how can I move it forward? And to hear that [ovation], it’s totally shocking. Honestly at this point, after 10 years in the game, and I’m like, it matters ... It makes it all worth it when you know that you’re making a change like that."
Balkovec also spent some of Sunday working with her Yankees pupil Jasson Dominguez, as the 18-year-old outfield prospect -- dubbed "The Martian" for his otherworldly talent -- also is under her tutelage in Tampa. Dominguez, who went 0-for-3 Sunday with two strikeouts, said before the Futures Game that his goal for a Bronx arrival was "three to four years" -- he has only seven rookie-league games under his belt so far this season (4 singles in 27 PAs, 1 RBI, 2 stolen bases).
"Everyone talks about his baseball skills, but I want people to know that this kid is a special person," Balkovec said. "His work ethic is incredible. He does things the right way. His aptitude is incredible ... Yeah, he’s a special talent on the field, but what’s really unique is he has that talent and also he has 10-out-of-10 makeup. And that’s extremely rare."
Back to Futures for Kelenic
Jarred Kelenic’s professional career has taken some surprising turns, but nothing like finding himself once again in Sunday’s Futures Game, only six weeks after his MLB crash-and-burn with the Mariners landed him back at Triple-A Tacoma.
Kelenic, the former Mets’ first-round draft pick who played in the 2019 Futures Game, flamed out earlier this season after his May 13 call-up, with a slash line of .096/.185/.193 and 26 strikeouts in 23 games before the Mariners had no choice but to send him back down.
"Just understanding what I can and can’t control," Kelenic said Sunday. "Failure is a part of this game and I think the sooner that all players recognize the things you can and can’t control, the easier it’s going to be on your mind and the better you’re going to play."