She hesitated, wondering what she was allowed to say. The best part of Alyssa Nakken’s job did not happen in plain view at first base, where the Giants assistant coach made some more history in serving as the starting base coach Tuesday.
The eye-opening moments occurred behind closed doors, talking to two people she could not publicly name. Two Giants now know a dream is fulfilled.
“I got to be a part of telling players that they were joining our Opening Day roster,” the trailblazer said, the first female full-time coach in the majors. “And that to me was such an amazing thing to do, to tell those guys and look them in the eye and say, ‘Look, you’re coming to LA.'”
As is Nakken, another improving member of the Giants. With a club awaiting its future to pan out through its prospects, “development” is one of the words constantly on Gabe Kapler’s and Farhan Zaidi’s tongues. The same applies for coaches, the manager recently complimenting his assistant coach’s progress through the first few months of her professional career.
She’s been glued to Antoan Richardson, the Giants’ first-base, outfield and baserunning coach, all of which Nakken has assisted with. It was Richardson who pushed for her to debut, to take his place at first, in Monday’s exhibition. It was Richardson who pushed for her to start on Tuesday. A prospect getting a chance to show what she could do.
The development is ongoing. Nakken said her confidence grows every day, from conversing with the fellow coaches to asking a player what he saw on a particular play. She entered spring training in February wanting to know everything, she said, a total willingness to be a sponge and absorb every aspect of baseball. Five months later, she has learned that learning everything is impossible.
She has realized it’s more important to have “the conversation [with players] rather than this feeling of needing to give them something that’s going to totally change their game,” Nakken said over Zoom, two days before the season opener and after the Giants’ 4-2 win over the A’s. “It’s more about just the conversations that are being had and then helping provide those nuggets as they come up.
“Every day I go home and I’m like, Wow, I learned so much or I grew so much. And that’s an awesome spot to be in.”
She can thank the uncomfortable spots for the awesome spots. She credited Kapler and Richardson for their willingness to throw her anywhere, “stepping far outside your comfort zone,” she said, which has made her a better coach. They watched her lead outfield drills, and now they’ve watched her coach runners at first base in big-league games.
There were a few moments that stuck out Tuesday, Nakken sharing a laugh with Hunter Pence at first because the outfielder has either been homering or not running the bases in the intrasquad scrimmages when Nakken has coached first.
“I was like, ‘I think this is the first single you’ve had since I’ve been here,'” Nakken relayed.
There was a quick exchange with Oakland manager Bob Melvin.
“He said hello and congratulations.”
And there was a woman looking perfectly in her element on a Major League Baseball field that has not welcomed one in the past.
“You feel a sense of pride to be out there,” Nakken said. “For me personally, it’s the best place to watch a game.”