Nakken first fe­male MLB coach

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By JANIE McCAULEY

SAN FRAN­CISCO — Alyssa Nakken stole a quick glance out a win­dow high above the ball­park to­ward McCovey Cove on a pic­ture-per­fect day and grinned.

She is hon­ored to take on the chal­lenge — and em­brace the re­spon­si­bil­ity — of be­ing the first fe­male ma­jor league coach, hav­ing joined new San Fran­cisco Giants man­ager Gabe Kapler’s staff last month.

“I’m most com­fort­able at a base­ball field,” she said.

It’s a good thing, since she will be spend­ing count­less hours over the com­ing eight months in this very set­ting. Nakken will be in uni­form and help­ing the Giants with ev­ery­thing from cage work to in­field prac­tice.

For Nakken, mak­ing his­tory means be­ing ready each day to make an im­pact in her own dis­tinct way while ig­nor­ing the crit­ics and any­one who fig­ures she is un­fit for an on-field base­ball job based on her gen­der.

“No turn­ing back now, you’re in it,” she said. “Here we go.”

She does ac­cept her role as an ex­am­ple for girls and women that they can work in base­ball.

“It’s a big deal. I feel a great sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and I feel it’s my job to honor those who have helped me to where I am,” she said.

Kapler and Giants pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions Farhan Zaidi have all the con­fi­dence in Nakken’s abil­ity to help build club­house con­ti­nu­ity through stronger bonds be­tween young play­ers and vet­er­ans.

“I think why it’s dif­fi­cult for me to put it into words is be­cause through­out the in­ter­view process and get­ting to know Gabe and Farhan a lit­tle bit more, it was never about this,” Nakken said. “It was never about be­ing a fe­male. It was never about be­ing the first.

“It was about, ‘Hey, we have a brand new staff, there’s a lot go­ing on, we need some­body to come in here and make an im­pact in this club­house, for this staff, for the team and help us win, some­body who knows base­ball, is a good com­mu­ni­ca­tor, can build re­la­tion­ships, can build trust and that’s what it was about.’”

A pol­ished speaker who has be­come adept at hid­ing any nerves, Nakken is tak­ing ini­tia­tive early. She put on a two-day coaches re­treat this week that in­cluded a “culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence” — much more than “a food tour,” she said — through San Fran­cisco’s his­toric and di­verse Mis­sion District.

“For the record, I won the poker tour­na­ment,” she noted. She also got a shout-out from re­tired man­ager Bruce Bochy when they crossed paths Thurs­day. He is now a se­nior ad­viser for the fran­chise.

Nakken doesn’t claim to be an ex­pert on hit­ting or pitch­ing. She plans to as­sist coaches on both sides, and will also work a lot on out­field de­fense and baserun­ning. Nakken will be in uni­form but not in the dugout dur­ing games, rather work­ing with play­ers in the cage to keep them ready.

She’s felt wel­comed by play­ers so far, with spring train­ing set to start next week.

“I’ve been ready for a chal­lenge like this, some­thing new,” she said.

Cleve­land Cava­liers as­sis­tant coach Lind­say Got­tlieb, the former Cal­i­for­nia women’s basketball coach in nearby Berke­ley, hopes Nakken paves the way for more women to work in prom­i­nent base­ball jobs — and not just be­hind the scenes.

“That’s great news for the Giants and for base­ball,” Got­tlieb said. “Any or­ga­ni­za­tion ben­e­fits from di­verse opin­ions and ex­pe­ri­ences, and base­ball is no dif­fer­ent. I don’t know Alyssa but I’m sure she’ll be a fan­tas­tic ad­di­tion to the Giants staff, and that in turn should make the hir­ing of women and base­ball some­thing ev­ery team con­sid­ers to en­sure they have the strong­est pos­si­ble staff.”

At Sacra­mento State from 2009-2012, Nakken was a three-time all-con­fer­ence player at first base and four-time Aca­demic All Amer­i­can. She went on to earn a master’s de­gree in sport man­age­ment from the Uni­ver­sity of San Fran­cisco in 2015 — af­ter in­tern­ing with the Giants’ base­ball op­er­a­tions depart­ment a year ear­lier.

As­so­ci­ated Press

NEW­COMER San Fran­cisco Giants coach Alyssa Nakken speaks to re­porters at Or­a­cle Park in San Fran­cisco on Thurs­day.

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