The San Francisco Giants are the first Major League Baseball team to break the coaching gender barrier. And their first female coach is a graduate of Woodland High and Sacramento State.
As a softball pitcher, Alyssa Nakken won more than 70 percent of her games and had 25 shutouts during her four years at Woodland High School, graduating in 2008. She went on to be named all-conference three times at first base for the Sacramento State Hornets.
Those accomplishments are still a source of pride in the Nakken home, where her mom, Gaye, has a poster of her daughter on the wall. But history will likely remember her daughter for being the first to do what no woman had done before: join a big league club’s coaching staff.
Gaye Nakken says her daughter will be on the field for batting practice before games and will work with another coach to focus on clubhouse culture.
"It's been very exciting. It's what she's wanted," Gaye Nakken said. "I've been a Giants fan since 1958. So, it's very special."
Sac State Softball Head Coach Lori Perez agrees. She says she got chills when she heard of the hiring. Perez was an assistant under Kathy Strahan when Nakken was recruited more than a decade ago.
"She was a competitor who could pitch, could throw the ball with good velocity and good movement and she could swing the bat," Perez recalled. "I mean, she just had power. And, when I saw her, I had to have her at Sac State."
For Perez, the hiring is an important message to young women.
"I think a lot of women when they read this today and see this are going to know, 'Hey, I could have a career in baseball,’” Perez said.
To have her school be a part of the story is also exciting.
“To have Sacramento State be at the forefront of that and have one of our own be the first… there are no words right now for how amazing it is," Perez said.
Nakken was getting her master’s degree when she interned with the Giants in 2014. She was hired after she graduated. She most recently was coordinator of the San Francisco Giant half marathon, 10K, and 5K race.
According to USA Today, the Oakland Athletics were the first to hire a woman to coach in the minor leagues. The Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees hired women two months ago to fill minor league positions.
MLB.com says seven of the Giants' 13 coaches will be in uniform during games, but Nakken won't be one of them.
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