By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
2020 was an important year for the MLB when the San Francisco Giants signed Alyssa Nakken as the first full time female MLB coach and 2021 has become even more important now that the Giants, with Nakken helping pave the way, have reached the World Series Playoffs. Following a 9-1 victory over the Padres on Monday, the Giants grabbed the first spot in the 2021 postseason and their first appearance in the playoffs since 2016.
As the MLB’s first female coach, Nakken has been hailed as everything from a trailblazer to “barrier buster” and for Nakken herself, it’s about the passion for baseball, for coaching and knowing how she will inspire generations of young girls and women to succeed in traditionally male dominated roles. Nakken grew up playing softball in high school as well as college where she was a three time All-Conference selection and 2012 Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Her journey to the field at Metlife Stadium began back in 2014 when she interned for the Giant’s while finishing her degrees. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a masters in sport management she took on more responsibility with the team. Her hard work paid off in January of 2020 when she was promoted to assistant coach.
For Nakken, her pride and passion working with the Giants comes from being part of an organization that knows they don’t have all the answers and for her, it’s okay not to know. In an interview with USA Today, she explained,
“People getting out of college and trying to figure out, quote unquote, what their real job is going to be, I’m not too far removed from it,” Nakken said. “I remember the sleepless nights of being down on myself for not being sure what I wanted to do. Whether you want to coach or be in a male-dominated industry, this shows that if you continue to pursue careers or hobbies you like to do, and you put that passion behind it, doors will start to open.
“Now that women and girls will see it’s something they can do, hopefully it’s not this specific thing, but ‘Oh yeah, even if I don’t see that specific career, I can go out and create it or create that network around me to be who I truly want to be.’”
From the moment she put on the black, white, and orange uniform to step out on the field for her first game, Nakken knew she would make history. To the extent that immediately following the end of that first game, her jersey was donated to the MLB Hall of Fame.
The Giants first game of the playoffs happens on Saturday, Oct 9th.