As any Twitter search for “Carlos Beltrán’s niece” or “José Altuve buzzer” quickly reveals, Major League Baseball could really use a feel-good story right now. With all of the talk about sign stealing scandals currently embroiling Houston and Boston (including this week’s episode of 3 Strikes, You’re Out!), the sport is yearning for a win.
And given that the Giants finished last season at 77-85 and their biggest offseason move to date has been signing Drew Smyly, you’d think the last place the league would look for a win would be San Francisco.
Yet that’s exactly what just happened. The Giants have altered the landscape of baseball by announcing the hiring of Alyssa Nakken as the first female coach in major league history. Nakken has been named to the title of assistant coach under new manager Gabe Kapler.
As this story was published, it’s unclear how Nakken identifies. What is clear, however, is that her story marks a seismic moment for diversity and inclusion in MLB. There are currently four full-time female coaches in the NFL, including 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers, who was featured in a Microsoft TV ad during Wild Card Weekend. There are 11 full-time female assistants in the NBA.
Nakken was already bringing an impressive resumé to the table, even before she could add “baseball trailblazer” to it. In college, she starred on Sacramento State’s softball team, finishing with a career .304 batting average and .379 on-base percentage while being named an all-conference honoree in each of the four years she played.
Following graduation, Nakken enrolled in grad school at the University of San Francisco and landed an internship in the Giants baseball operations department in 2014, spending her days editing video from scouts and inputting scouting reports in the team’s database. She also earned a World Series ring that fall when Madison Bumgarner decided that the Royals were done scoring during a classic Game 7.
Since then, Nakken has remained with the organization, helping to coordinate the team’s Giant Race program. Additionally, Nakken was charged with “developing, producing, and directing a number of the organization’s health and wellness initiatives and events,” according to ESPN,
While Nakken won’t be one of the coaches in the dugout (MLB rules only allow seven of the 13 members on the Giants staff to be on the field during the game), she will still be visible every day. Nakken will be in uniform, throwing batting practice, and hitting fungoes before all games, as well as traveling on every road trip.
According to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly, Nakken’s further coaching tasks will vary throughout the year and will include streamlining practice “with an aim toward making on-field work shorter and more intense in duration” and “developing offseason programs for players.”
Nakken’s hiring is part of San Francisco’s organizational commitment to inclusion. As Baggarly noted, the Giants were “seeking to put together a staff that embraced diversity in every aspect.”
As Nakken breaks through one of baseball’s glass ceilings, hopefully her success will help convince MLB to allow potential trailblazers to break through others—including those from the LGBTQ community.
But it is a start.