The Giants finished off their major league coaching staff announcements today in historic fashion. Alyssa Nakken becomes the first woman to coach at the major league level. She’ll join eleven other coaches on Gabe Kapler’s inaugural Giants staff as a “Major League Assistant Coach”.
That position, per the Giants’ press release, involves “assisting the rest of the coaching staff on the field” and “fostering a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team.”
Along with Nakken, named Salem-Keizer’s manager, Mark Hallberg, as another Major League Assistant coach.
He was drafted in the ninth round (283rd overall) of 2007 amateur player draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Florida State and played two years at the University of Illinois – Chicago and his junior year at Florida State. After his playing days in Arizona’s minor league system, he spent four seasons an assistant coach with the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod League.
Hallberg also served the past six years as a teacher/administrator at Dhahran High School in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (two years) and most recently worked for the American School of Dubai (Dubai, UAE, four years). He holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and BS in Health and Human Performance.
That’s a very interesting promotion for the Giants’ A-ball manager. Not only did he manage 2019 top draft pick Hunter Bishop and hot prospect Marco Luciano this past season and coach 2018 top draft pick Joey Bart the year before, he also escapes the potentiality of the Volcanoes ceasing to exist next season, should MLB’s scheme to cut costs by destroying the minor league system goes through.
Situating one of the first managers in the team’s player development pipeline in the major league clubhouse strongly suggests that we’re going to see a lot of the system’s prospects over the next couple of seasons.
Meanwhile, the Giants finally dragged Major League Baseball into the 21st century by hiring a woman as a coach. It should not be a surprise of any kind at this point. Communicable knowledge isn’t limited by the gender of the speaker and whatever experience a woman lacks in terms of actually playing Major League Baseball doesn’t limit a woman’s potential as a coach. The end goal is to make players better, whether that’s through clearly communicating information and/or instruction or creating/fostering an atmosphere conducive to success.
One rumbling I heard consistently during my brief tenure as the site’s managing editor was that the Giants’ clubhouse sucked. Not that people were mean to each other, but that everyone was sort of bored, a bit dull and lifeless. A lot of people in silos. In addition to taking a hose to the last 20 years of Giants Baseball, Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler have been very clear about their desire to change the culture of the clubhouse.
With so many immovable legacy players and a fan base that won’t stand for an overnight purge anyway, stacking up the coaching staff — indeed:
Here at Giants University, we pride ourselves in our 2-to-1 student to professor ratio.... https://t.co/m1Dg6H2NlJ— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) January 16, 2020
— looks like a good way of circumventing calcified clubhouse norms. It might wind up being little more than wrapping some Christmas lights around termite-riddled pillars, but it’s worth a shot. The Giants have not only been bad the past three seasons, they’ve been lifeless. Maybe the losing caused it, maybe the lifelessness caused the losing. Either way, the Giants have made sorting it out a priority.
The full staff:
Manager: Gabe Kapler
Bench coach: Kai Correa
Pitching coach: Andrew Bailey
Hitting coach(es): Justin Viele, Donnie Ecker
1st base, OF, and baserunning coach: Antoan Richardson
3rd base coach: Ron Wotus
Bullpen coach: Craig Albernaz
Pitching director: Brian Bannister
Assistant Pitching: Ethan Katz
Director of Hitting: Dustin Lind
Quality Assurance Coach: Nick Ortiz
Major League Assistant Coaches: Mark Hallberg, Alyssa Nakken
Nakken has been with the Giants since 2014, so she’s seen a fair bit of the rise and fall of that clubhouse culture; but also by virtue of being a team employee, she’s been engaged in a fan base whose fervor hasn’t diminished. It has been her job to stay excited about the team, even when the players have long since stopped caring.
Her full Giants background:
Nakken, a four-time Academic All American softball player for Sacramento State, joined the Giants in 2014, and is currently responsible for developing, producing and directing a number of the organization’s health and wellness initiatives and events, including coordinating the Giant Race series. She joined the organization in 2014 as an intern in the baseball operations department where she worked on a variety of special projects related to the amateur draft, international operations and player development. She currently chairs the Giants’ first Employee Resource Group — the San Francisco Giants’ Women’s Network “Momentum,” responsible for supporting an organizational culture that celebrates and promotes diversity and equity within the organization. Last month, Nakken was nominated by her peers and was co-awarded with the 2019 Sprinkles of Love Award. Named in honor of late front office employee Anita Sprinkles, the award is considered the “Willie Mac Award” of the Giants front office and recognizes individuals for ethics, professionalism and humanitarianism.
You know what stood out to me most? “... developing, producing, and directing a number of the organization’s health and wellness initiatives and events”. We need to get her on the record about Gabe Kapler’s unconventional approach to food consumption in the face of few healthy alternatives.
We’re probably not going to see Nakken very much as she figures to be one of the coaches not in uniform (MLB rules allow for a maximum of seven coaches in the dugout/bullpen during the game), but then again, we don’t really know how the Giants are going to approach any of this. Maybe they’ll rotate through on-field coaches every couple of weeks. They’re really blazing a new trail and approaching their roster and even their clubhouse in a way we’ve never seen before.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler says assistant coach Alyssa Nakken will travel full-time with the team, will be in uniform prior to games and will throw BP and hit fungoes. "Simply, I think she’s going to be a great coach. Merit and the ability to be a great coach trumps all."— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) January 16, 2020
As smart as they are these days, I never thought the Giants would be the first team to figure out how inefficient it is to ignore more than 50% of the population. It’s a relief. On the one hand, it’s a bit of good news for the Giants this offseason — maybe the best Giants news since 2014. It’s also good news for baseball, a sport that’s drowning itself in scandal.
Better yet, it’s great news for Alyssa Nakken, whose hard work pays off with genuine advancement. She becomes the next step after Melissa Mayeux and Justine Siegal. It’s slow, incremental progress in a sport that’s been stagnate on the cultural front for a very long time. We’ll still hear mostly from Gabe Kapler, but it’ll be nice to know Nakken’s there, not only working to make the Giants better but to set the stage for the next broken barrier.