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      MLB News

      Giants' Alyssa Nakken: 'I'm here for a reason'

      @mi_guardado
      February 6, 2020

      SAN FRANCISCO -- It’s been three weeks since Alyssa Nakken made history by becoming the first full-time female coach to join a Major League coaching staff. She has prudently avoided social media since then, but she’s been made aware of the scope of her impact thus far. After the Giants

      SAN FRANCISCO -- It’s been three weeks since Alyssa Nakken made history by becoming the first full-time female coach to join a Major League coaching staff. She has prudently avoided social media since then, but she’s been made aware of the scope of her impact thus far.

      After the Giants announced her historic hire, Nakken received text messages from friends with screenshots of tweets from the likes of tennis legend Billie Jean King and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of whom congratulated her for breaking down barriers.

      “It's a big deal,” Nakken, 29, said Thursday. “I feel a great sense of responsibility. ... 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. But also, I'm excited that now girls can see there is a job on the field in baseball. It's really cool.”

      A former softball player at Sacramento State, Nakken will serve as a Major League assistant coach on new manager Gabe Kapler’s 13-member staff. She will assist first-base coach Antoan Richardson with baserunning and outfield drills, as well as throw batting practice and hit fungoes before games. She will not be one of the seven uniformed coaches in the dugout during games, but she plans to be in the cage helping players get ready every night.

      Nakken will also work on fostering a winning clubhouse culture and plans to lead morning meetings during Spring Training and bring in guest speakers to inspire and motivate team personnel.

      “It's energizing and refreshing to see her bringing this attitude,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. “It's not accurate to call her an outsider because of her athletic career and because she's been in this organization. But maybe an outsider in the sense of the default clubhouse culture and how things are done.”

      Nakken, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Sacramento State and a master’s degree in sports management at the University of San Francisco, originally joined the Giants as a baseball operations intern in 2014. She worked on a variety of special projects relating to the Draft, international operations and player development, though she ended up drifting more toward the business side, most recently directing a number of the organization’s health and wellness initiatives.

      Last year, however, Nakken began to feel like she was ready for a new challenge. She expressed a desire to return to the baseball side in some capacity and saw an opportunity for change when Zaidi hired Kapler to succeed Bruce Bochy. Nakken began initiating conversations with team executives on the status of the organization, eventually earning an audience with members of the front office, including general manager Scott Harris and Kapler.

      “I felt after each conversation, I think there could be an opportunity for me to come in and help make an impact for this team and the staff,” Nakken said. “What role? I don't know, but I want to be there. Title? I don't care, but let me help.”

      Shortly thereafter, Kapler reached out to ask Nakken her thoughts on the transition that was taking place within the organization. Over the next month, they had a series of conversations in which Nakken shared perspective gleaned from her background in softball and her experience working with the Giants. One morning, Kapler asked to meet for coffee in the Inner Sunset and offered her one of the final jobs on his new staff.

      “I didn't really know that I was being interviewed throughout that entire time,” Nakken said. “But I was really inspired from day one when he reached out. It was very energizing, so that was a really good feeling. And then we got to the title part, and that kind of knocked me off my feet a bit.”

      Nakken is well aware of the criticism and scrutiny she will face from naysayers as she settles into her new trailblazing role, but she’s confident in her ability to block out the noise and make a difference for the Giants.

      “I know that there are haters and people that criticize,” Nakken said. “Everyone gets it at some point in their life, but I understand why I'm here. I understand my value and my work. Gabe understands my value and my work. I'm here for a reason. I'm here to make an impact.”

      While she has a strong network of friends and family to lean on, Nakken has also developed a friendship with Rachel Balkovec, who joined the Yankees as a Minor League hitting coach in November.

      “She's an All-Star,” Nakken said of Balkovec, who also drew interest from the Giants this offseason. “There's some funny things that could happen in a clubhouse, and we're going to be kind of each other's resources. But her advice to me is just stay strong, fight. It was a really good conversation, so I'm excited to keep in touch with her and see how far she can go.”

      While her coaching tenure remains in its nascent stages, Nakken has already shown plenty of initiative on the job. Realizing that many of her fellow coaches are new to the Giants and the city of San Francisco, Nakken led a two-day coaches’ retreat this week that included a food tour of the Mission District. She also staged a poker tournament at the Gotham Club at Oracle Park and defeated her male colleagues to take home the prize money.

      Just another way she’s beating the odds.

      Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.

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