On July 20, a historic moment took place when Alyssa Nakken became the assistant coach of the San Francisco Giants, making her the first ever female coach in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Similar to most other sports, baseball has historically not been a welcoming place for women. In 2018, the MLB Association earned a gender grade of C on the yearly report card issued by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. This means that only 30 percent of employees in pro-baseball are women.
“I feel a great sense of responsibility,” said Nakken in an interview in February with the MLB. “Coaching, I never saw it. This job has kind of been hidden for so long. I’m so excited to be in this role for the challenge and the opportunity to make an impact for this organization that I love. … I’m excited that now girls can see there is a job on the field in baseball [for women as well]. It’s really cool.”
Originally from Woodland, California, Nakken graduated from the California State University, Sacramento, where she was a three-time All-Conference first baseman and a four-time Academic All-American. In 2015 she earned a master’s degree in sports management from the University of San Francisco. Nakken first joined the Giants in 2014 as an intern in the baseball operations department. Later on, she oversaw the organization’s health and wellness initiatives.
Nakken is stepping into this position at a time of great uncertainty in MLB — and across all major sports franchises. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the season finally kicked off in late July with frequent virus testing and temperature checks for players and staff, as well as a complicated system of safeguards.
Games played in stadiums empty of fans, regularly sanitized balls and equipment, and six-foot social distancing guidelines are only some of the many changes made to MLB during this unprecedented season.
Although MLB is not using a “bubble” model like the NBA and other sports leagues to limit travel distances, teams will play a majority of games against their division opponents, with the rest of their games being against their geographic counterpart in the other league. Each team will play only 60 games this season, far fewer than past seasons, which typically have more than 160 games.
Celebrating the historic moment of Alyssa Nakken taking the field for the first time can be difficult during these unusual times. However, despite the fact that it may not look like what many fans expected — with Nakken wearing a face covering and a silent stadium — it is important to recognize the magnitude of the moment.
This is still just the beginning. The structure of many sports franchises has been, and still is, predominantly male. Even with the hiring of Nakken, there is a long way to go to make the MLB, and major league sports in general, representative of the world we live in.