When Alyssa Nakken took over coaching first base for the San Francisco Giants on July 20, 2020, it was a significant first in a sport that loves statistics. Nakken, who was already the first woman ever to join a Major League Baseball coaching staff full-time, became the first woman ever to coach on the field of play.
The appointment didn’t come easily. Back in March, 30-year-old Nakken and the Giants’ more experienced first-base coach Antoan Richardson took a walk together. They had a serious, candid heart-to-heart chat, as they made their way around a back field at Scottsdale Stadium for close to 45 minutes.
“Look, let’s not fool ourselves, you’re not ready,” Richardson told Nakken. Despite her love of baseball and her commitment to working hard behind the scenes for the team, Nakken didn’t yet have the maturity and experience to manage a position as important as first-base coach. Richardson knew it, and Alyssa knew it too.
So the two Giants coaches vowed to get back to work, realizing the importance of acknowledging all that Nakken still needed to learn. Their goal was not to be the first team to put a woman on the field unless it truly was the best decision for the ball club. When Nakken did take over for Richardson on the line, it was because she had earned the place and the confidence of the team and the rest of the coaching staff.
She was back out of the spotlight for the season opener at Dodger Stadium, making sure bench players stayed ready in the batting cage and giving advice on baserunning and outfield defense. Her contributions backstage are valuable too, and there is no plan for Nakken to replace Richardson as the regular first-base coach. That’s fine by her.
“I was always preparing and staying ready for whatever position I would be put in,” Nakken says. That included staying put where she was if it was where the team needed her. But Richardson believes in developing the staff as well as the players. He wanted to continue prompting the promising young athlete-turned-coach to move forward.
“We’ve talked about this opportunity before, but it kind of came quick. I was ready to go when Antoan Richardson encouraged me to go out there. It’s an awesome feeling to be out there,” Nakken says.
Plus, she loves the first-base line: “It’s the best place to watch the game, that’s for sure.”