In­side Nakken’s 1st days as a Gi­ants coach

As­sis­tant is 1st woman to join a ma­jor league staff

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - SPORTS - By Kerry Crow­ley

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.

NHAT V. MEYER — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Gi­ants as­sis­tant coach Alyssa Nakken, right, chats with Pres­i­dent of Base­ball Op­er­a­tions Farhan Zaidi af­ter speak­ing with the me­dia at Or­a­cle Park on Thurs­day.

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