The San Francisco Giants coach became the first woman to take an on-field role in a Major League Baseball game. “This is my job,” she said.
It was an unusual scene at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Tuesday. The Giants’ first-base coach was ejected in the third inning, and after his replacement took the field, Eric Hosmer, the first baseman for the San Diego Padres, came over to shake her hand.
Hosmer clearly understood the significance of the moment: Alyssa Nakken had become the first woman to coach on the field in a Major League Baseball game.
Nakken, 31, is no stranger to firsts. An assistant coach on Manager Gabe Kapler’s staff since 2020, she was already the first woman to have a full-time coaching role in the majors.
After Tuesday’s game, which the Giants won, 13-2, she talked about the significance of the move while also making it clear that it was well within the scope of her job duties.
“I think we’re all inspirations doing everything that we do on a day-to-day basis, and I think, yes, this carries a little bit more weight because of the visibility,” she told reporters after the game.
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“Obviously there’s a historical nature to it,” she added. “But again, this is my job.”
Nakken’s ascent through the Giants’ ranks is part of a growing trend of women earning larger roles in the game. In the past few months, Rachel Balkovec of the Tampa Tarpons, a Yankees farm team, became the first woman to manage a team in affiliated baseball; Genevieve Beacom, a 17-year-old pitcher, began playing professionally in Australia; and Kelsie Whitmore, a 23-year-old pitcher, signed a contract to play with the Staten Island FerryHawks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Last year, Kim Ng became the first woman to lead an M.L.B. team’s front office as its general manager.
In San Francisco, Kapler has said that Nakken, in addition to her work on the team’s base running and outfield defense, helps keep things in order for his unusually large staff of 13 coaches. He said on Tuesday that she had prepared for taking the field by working with the team’s usual first-base coach, Antoan Richardson. She had also previously coached first base during spring training games.
“It’s not a foreign spot on the field for her,” Kapler said. “She does so many other things well that aren’t seen. So it’s nice to see her kind of be right there in the spotlight and do it on the field.”
Unfortunately, Nakken’s big moment was prompted by an incident in which Richardson got into an argument with Mike Shildt, the Padres’ third-base coach. The argument most likely started because a Giants player stole a base with a nine-run lead. But in the course of the disagreement, Richardson said that Shildt told Kapler that the Giants manager needed to “control” Richardson, using an expletive to describe the coach, who is from the Bahamas. Richardson told reporters after Tuesday’s game that he believed the incident had “undertones of racism.”
After the two talked ahead of Wednesday’s game between their teams, Richardson said there were lessons to learn from the incident.
“I don’t believe he’s a racist,” Richardson said. “I think, though, to the important point, he’s recognizing that some of his words, our words, are powerful and they’re impactful. And we just want to bring awareness to a situation that I think is important for our community.”
While the argument between the coaches was unfortunate, the importance of Nakken’s taking the field was clear for all involved: The orange helmet she wore is on its way to Cooperstown, N.Y., to be added to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s permanent collection.
“It’s a big deal,” she told reporters. “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.”