Inside Nakken’s 1st days as a Giants coach
Assistant is 1st woman to join a major league staff
SAN FRANCISCO >> Of the 13 coaches filling out manager Gabe Kapler’s first staff with the San Francisco Giants, only two can consider themselves “insiders.”
Eleven of the baker’s dozen are picking up their lives and moving to a new city while two have devoted most of their professional careers to the franchise.
One is third base coach Ron Wotus, 58, who joined the Giants in 1991 and will now serve his fourth different manager, Kapler. The other is Alyssa Nakken, 29, who makes history as the first woman to be named a full-time coach on a major league staff.
“It’s just not accurate to call her an outsider because of her athletic career and because she’s been in this organization,” Giants president of baseball operations Far
han Zaidi said. “But maybe an outsider in the sense of the default clubhouse culture and how things are done.”
Most members of baseball’s largest coaching staff know little about life in San Francisco, so as they prepare for a new adventure, Nakken coordinated one of her own. The Outer Sunset resident spent two days this week leading a coaches’ retreat that featured a tour of San Francisco’s Mission District complete with stops at Myriad Gastropub, Tacolicious and a churro shop.
They ended the event with a Texas hold ’em game at Oracle Park’s Gotham Club, which ended with Nakken counting her winnings as the champion.
“Bruce Bochy is in the clubhouse right now and that was the first thing he said to me, ‘I hear you’re really good at poker,’” Nakken said Thursday. “That’s the first thing you say? I hadn’t seen him in awhile. That was pretty cool.”
When it comes to her new job, Nakken doesn’t have much of a poker face. She’s all-in, all the time.
“It’s a big deal,” Nakken said. “I feel a great sense of responsibility and I feel it’s my job to honor those who have helped me get to where I am.”
Nakken joined the Giants in 2014 as a member of the baseball operations department after earning her master’s in sports management at the University of San Francisco. A three-time AllConference softball player at Sacramento State, Nakken worked on projects relating to the amateur draft, player development and international operations before rising to a leadership role where she developed and coordinated health and wellness initiatives.
Nakken said the work was fulfilling, but by the end of the 2019 season, she was eager for a different kind of test. To gauge where she might fit in, Nakken spent the months of October and November walking into each executive’s office and asking them to evaluate “the status of our organization.”
“I felt after each conversation, I think there could be an opportunity for me to come in and make an impact for this team and this staff,” Nakken said. “What role? I don’t know, but I want to be there. Title? I don’t care, but let me help.”
Eventually, the question was flipped on her. Kapler, a newcomer to the organization, was curious to hear Nakken’s thoughts on the transitions taking place with the Giants. After several weeks of conversation, Kapler and Nakken met for another discussion over a walk in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District.
That’s when she received an offer that blew her away. Nakken said the significance of her decision to
join the coaching staff still hasn’t set in, but her life changed immediately.
“Your phone starts to blow up and then you turn on the TV and there are news reporters in the childhood bedroom you grew up in your parents house. It was like, ‘God, that escalated quickly.’ But it’s an incredible feeling.”
Nakken won’t be one of the seven coaches in the dugout during games, but she will be in uniform and on the field for pregame drills. She’ll assist first base coach Antoan Richardson, who was promoted from his position of minor league field coordinator, with outfield and baserunning instruction and she’ll hit grounders and throw batting practice.
She’ll also help coordinate morning staff meetings for Kapler, who targeted Nakken for a job in large part because of her impressive communication and preparations skills.
“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,’” Nakken said.
Over the next few days, the whirlwind will continue. Nakken will be a sought-after interview at Giants Media Day, a participant at meet-and-greets at FanFest and a passenger on a flight to spring training.
That’s where history will start to be made.
Giants assistant coach Alyssa Nakken, right, chats with President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi after speaking with the media at Oracle Park on Thursday.