Empty stands, cardboard cutouts and face masks are not the only new additions to the many baseball stadiums all over the country. If you’ve seen a San Francisco Giants game recently, jersey No. 92 might have caught your attention.
No. 92 belongs to Alyssa Nakken, the first woman to coach on the field during a major league game and the first full-time female coach on major league staff. The Giants announced that Nakken would be taken on as an assistant coach as part of Gabe Kapler’s staff Jan. 16. On July 20, she made her title and presence public when she took the field during the late innings of the club’s successful 6-2 win during its exhibition game with the Oakland A’s.
Promoting Nakken to this position is not only a bullet point in the MLB’s history books, but also a stepping stone for women working in sports everywhere. The idea that it’s taken the league this long to have a woman step on the field as a coach during a game is backward, but is still something to get excited about nonetheless.
Here’s why Nakken’s promotion made history, and why it deserves to be celebrated.
She’s incredibly talented
Nakken was a first baseman for Sacramento State’s softball team from 2009 to 2012. During her college career, she accumulated a .304 batting average, four National Fastpitch Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete awards and four All-Pacific Coast Softball Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll awards.
In 2012, she was named the conference’s scholar-athlete of the year for her academic and athletic accomplishments and community service involvement. During her junior and senior years, she served as the Hornets’ team captain.
Nakken joined the Giants as a baseball operations department intern in 2014, working on a variety of special projects related to the amateur draft, international operations and player development. A year later, Nakken earned her master’s degree in sport management from the University of San Francisco, where she also worked as the chief information officer for the baseball team.
She’ll contribute a lot to the team
When Nakken is not standing on first base, she is responsible for developing, producing and directing a number of the organization’s health and wellness initiatives and events. Other times, Nakken is sitting in team meetings or partnering with Antoan Richardson in overseeing outfield and baserunning instruction for the players.
After the Giants’ opening day matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Nakken reportedly planned to donate her jersey to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, to mark the historic moment. “It should make for a nice addition to our collection!” said National Baseball Hall of Fame President Tim Mead to Janie McCauley of the Associated Press in a text message.
The MLB has a poor record when it comes to hiring women
In such a male-dominated industry, it’s not surprising to learn that only 188 women work in baseball operation roles, such as finding the best players, negotiating contracts or searching data to improve a player’s skill set.
What’s more disappointing than surprising is that in the 2018 yearly report card issued by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the MLB earned a gender grade of C — this essentially means that women make up 30% of employees in pro baseball.
Acknowledging that major sporting leagues such as the MLB have a long patriarchal history is one step forward. The next (and more important) step is to do something about it.
Alyssa Nakken and the Giants shattered a glass ceiling. Now that it’s broken, other MLB teams should follow their example. The league recently stated that it’s trying to add more women to fields and front offices. This, in combination with Nakken’s promotion, makes the future for women in baseball look all that much brighter.
No. 92 stepped onto the field and changed the game, but now it’s time for other MLB teams and major sports leagues to step up alongside her.
Kiana Thelma Devera writes for Bear Bytes. Contact her at [email protected].