By Morgan Smith
Alyssa Nakken made history at Oracle Park in San Francisco Tuesday night when she became the first woman to coach on the field during a Major League Baseball game.
Nakken, an assistant coach for the San Francisco Giants, stepped in for Antoan Richardson as the team’s first base coach when he was ejected from their game against the San Diego Padres at the bottom of the third inning. The Giants beat the Padres 13-2.
“I was prepared for this moment,” Nakken, 31, said, according to NBC News. “Never knew if or when it would happen, but [I] was ready to step in when the team needed me to. So yeah I think it means a lot. It’s a fun start to the season so far.”
The former Sacramento State softball star became the first full-time female coach in the league when Giants manager Gabe Kapler hired her in January 2020.
After graduating from Sacramento State, Nakken earned her master’s degree in sports management from the University of San Francisco (USF). She joined the Giants as an intern in 2014, overseeing the organization’s health and wellness initiatives.
Nakken’s groundbreaking moment came a few days after another milestone for women in baseball: On Friday, Rachel Balkovec became the first woman to manage the affiliate of an MLB team when she took the field with the New York Yankees’ Class A Tampa Tarpons for the first time, leading them to a 9-6 victory over the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
“It’s been 10 years of just working to this point,” Balkovec told reporters before the game, according to the Associated Press. “Things have evolved. I was blatantly discriminated against back then. Some people say not to say that, but it’s just part of what has happened, and I think it’s important to say because it lets you know how much change has happened.”
She continued: “So, blatant discrimination, that was 2010-ish, and now here we are 12 years later and I’m sitting here at a press conference as a manager,” she said.
While the MLB has made strides toward gender parity, professional sports have yet to create an equal playing field for women.
According to the 2021 Racial and Gender Report Card released by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, the MLB holds a C grade for gender diversity, as women make up about 30% of the organization’s professional staff. The NFL and NBA, by comparison, received C+ and B grades, respectively.