Giants coach Alyssa Nakken has hit ground running after making history


SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants' new 13-person coaching staff gathered last week in the clubhouse at Oracle Park, one thing that stood out was just how varied their previous homes were. 

The Giants grabbed a bench coach from the Cleveland Indians. One of their hitting coaches is from the Cincinnati Reds, the other spent last season with the Great Lakes Loons in Midland, Michigan. The pitchers will work with new coaches who spent 2019 working for teams like the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. 

It's a group that's not all too familiar with San Francisco, so Alyssa Nakken decided to take her new coworkers deep into the city. To cap off a two-day retreat, she set up a culinary tour of The Mission. 

The tacos might have been the highlight of the retreat for the rest of the coaches, but for Nakken, it was winning the staff's poker tournament. Word got around, and when she saw Bruce Bochy -- now a special advisor -- the next day, his first question was about her card skills.

This is what Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler envisioned when they brought Nakken on as an assistant coach. They want to improve the culture of the clubhouse, and that isn't limited to players. Nakken heard that Kapler had a retreat for his coaches in Philadelphia and took the idea and ran with it, getting them together for two days on the eve of FanFest. 

"It's so energizing and refreshing to see her bringing this attitude," Zaidi said. "It's just not accurate to call her an outsider because of her athletic career and because she's been in this organization, but maybe she's an outsider in the sense of the default clubhouse culture and how things are done. 

"Maybe coaches (have just texted) each other over the offseason rather than bringing everybody in and having a two-day event like they had. I think her perspective of how we can get better, how we can make the processes better, how we can support each other better -- that's a motivation and focus for Gabe, and she just fits in so well for that."

Of course, helping Kapler overhaul some clubhouse practices isn't the only reason the Giants brought Nakken on staff. When the players and coaches take the field this week at Scottsdale Stadium, Nakken will be with them, making history as the first female coach on a Major League staff. 

Nakken said she'll spend much of her time this spring in the cages, throwing batting practice and tossing flips to players who are working on their swings. She'll work with Antoan Richardson, the new first base coach, during baserunning and outfield drills. Nakken was a good softball player in college and is eager to put that background to use during workouts. 

She also plans to take the lead in helping young players get acclimated. The Giants plan to bring in special guest speakers throughout the spring.

"That's something I'll champion given my background from an operational standpoint," she said.

Nakken, who previously was instrumental in running the Giants Race series, comes from the business side of the organization. Zaidi said he had heard she was doing a great job on that side but had shown an interest in returning to baseball operations, where she started as an intern in 2014. He said he appreciated the initiative she took this offseason in making that goal a reality. 

The hire was a highlight for the Giants during a quiet offseason, and Nakken was a star at FanFest, where fans lined up for photos and autographs. But she said last week that she's eager to get to the grind, and she's ready to be back in uniform. The Giants are still figuring out how to deploy their massive staff during games, but the current plan is for Nakken to spend most of her in-game time this season in the cage, helping hitters get prepared and warmed up for pinch-hit at-bats. 

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Nakken already has met players like Buster Posey, Mike Yastrzemski and Jeff Samardzija, and starting Tuesday, she'll be part of a new staff that will try to form bonds with a team that has an equal mix of experience and youth.

"These guys are ready for some new blood," Nakken said. "They're excited for what this coaching staff can bring to them. We're focused on player development and I think this is what the players really want and they're excited that we're going to be challenging them every single day."

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