San Francisco Giants' Alyssa Nakken, 31, makes major league history as first woman to coach on field in regular-season game

ESPN

By Espn News Service

Alyssa Nakken was hard at work in the batting cage, just a few steps from the dugout, when suddenly the call came: The San Francisco Giants needed her to coach at first base.

She quickly pulled off her sweatshirt, grabbed her No. 92 jersey and found a bright orange batting helmet.

A few minutes later, Nakken made major league history as the first woman to coach on the field in a regular-season game when she took her spot Tuesday night in a 13-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

"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, obviously there's a historical nature to it," she said. "But again, this is my job."

Nakken came in to coach first base for the Giants in the third inning after Antoan Richardson was ejected.

When she was announced as Richardson's replacement, Nakken received a warm ovation from the crowd at Oracle Park and a congratulatory handshake from Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer.

"Right now in this moment as I reflect back, I reflect back to somebody needed to go out, we needed a coach to coach first base, our first-base coach got thrown out. I've been in training as a first-base coach for the last few years and work alongside Antoan, so I stepped in to what I've been hired to do, is support this staff and this team," Nakken said.

The Baseball Hall of Fame was ready, too. Her helmet is already on its way to the shrine in Cooperstown, New York.

San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler said Nakken had "prepared for this moment" while working with Richardson and others.

"So it's not a foreign spot on the field for her. She does so many other things well that aren't seen," he said. "So it's nice to see her kind of be right there in the spotlight and do it on the field."

Richardson, who is Black, told reporters his ejection stemmed from an exchange with Padres third-base coach Mike Shildt, whom he accused of yelling an expletive that "reeked undertones of racism."

Despite feeling his ejection was unwarranted, Richardson praised Nakken and said he is "very proud" of her.

"I'm really excited that Alyssa got her opportunity to make her major league debut and I'm very proud of her," Richardson said. "I think she did a really wonderful job and we got a win, so that's the most important thing."

Nakken is an assistant coach who works heavily with baserunning and outfield defense. She watches games from an indoor batting cage near the steps to the dugout -- and keeps a Giants jersey nearby, just in case she needs it.

And in an instant Tuesday night, she needed it.

Nakken, 31, jogged onto the field four days after Rachel Balkovec became the first woman to manage a minor league affiliate of a Major League Baseball team. She guided the New York Yankees' Class A Tampa club to a win in her first game.

Nakken had previously coached the position in spring training and during part of a July 2020 exhibition game at Oakland against now-Padres manager Bob Melvin when he was skipper of the Athletics. She started at first again a night later against the A's in San Francisco as the teams prepared for the pandemic-delayed season.

"You feel a sense of pride to be out there," Nakken said at the time. "Me personally, it's the best place to watch a game, that's for sure."

The former Sacramento State softball star became the first woman to coach in the big leagues when she was hired for Kapler's staff in January 2020.

At Sacramento State from 2009 to 2012, Nakken was a three-time all-conference player at first base and four-time Academic All-American. She went on to earn a master's degree in sport management from the University of San Francisco in 2015 after interning with the Giants' baseball operations department a year earlier.

From day one with the Giants, Nakken embraced her role as an example for girls and women.

"It's a big deal," she said. "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."