Thanks To San Francisco Giants’ Alyssa Nikken, Women Coaching In MLB Is More Possible...

Throughout its history, Major League Baseball has been a man’s sport, both in the dugout and front office. The times are changing as evident by assistant coach Alyssa Nikken stepping onto the field following an ejection.

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When Alyssa Nikken took to the field during the April 12 matchup between the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres in the top half of the third inning, she wasn’t just simply taking over for ejecting first base coach Antoan Richardson.

Instead, she was making history by becoming the first woman to coach during a Major League Baseball game, a major milestone for the 146-year-old baseball organization.

Of course, you wouldn’t know that from Nikken, who viewed the situation as just a normal routine. “Right now in this moment as I reflect back, I reflect back to somebody needed to go out, we needed a coach to coach first base, our first-base coach got thrown out.”

“I’ve been in training as a first-base coach for the last few years. I work alongside Antoan, so I stepped into what I’ve been hired to do,” she told MLB.com. She did just that as the Giants went on to win the game, 13-2.

Still, others recognized the groundbreaking achievement. Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer congratulated Nikken on the basepaths, while Giants catcher Curt Casali gave her a huge in the dugout. Oracle Park — with a total attendance of over 25,000 — celebrated Nikken with a standing ovation.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler spoke on Nikken’s triumph, stating that not only was her taking of the field important in terms of normalizing the occurrence, but that more women should be actively involved in MLB’s staffs.

“It was important for Alyssa to be present on the field, in uniform, actively coaching in a way that felt familiar for fans. We need more, because the game is better with more women in the game. Coaching staffs are better with more women on coaching staffs.”

Richardson shared similar sentiments to Kapler, noting he was proud of the way Nikken took over following his ejection. “I think she did a really wonderful job and we got a win, so that’s the most important thing.”

While the thought of manning first base might be intimidating, Nikken’s past experience clearly helped her rise up to the challenge. She played first base for Sacramento State’s softball team from 2009 to 2012, where she was a three-time All-Conference player and four-time Academic All-American. She earned a master’s degree in sports management at the University of San Francisco in 2015.

Nikken, 31, first interned with the Giants in 2014 before joining the team’s operations as the chief information officer. She would then be promoted to the coaching staff in 2020, becoming the first women to do so in the major leagues.

Also helping Nikken was the fact that it wasn’t the first time she’s coached at the position. She previously worked the role during spring training, as well as part of a July 2020 exhibition game between the Giants and Oakland Athletics. As ESPN noted, Nikken currently serves as an assistant coach who works with baserunning and outfield defense.

Nikken’s helmet will now be heading to the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, where it can be viewed by fans of all ages for the historic role it played.

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“If I was a young girl in the stands that game and then I saw, ‘Oh, there’s a girl coaching first base?’ then maybe when I was 7 I would’ve had this thought that I could be a coach in the big leagues one day.”

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Nikken is just one of many women making their marks in America’s past time. Back in January, the New York Yankees hired Rachel Balkovec to be the minor leagues’ first woman coach. In early April, her debut with New York’s Single-A affiliate, the Tampa Tarpoons, resulted in a 9-6 victory.

Meanwhile, the Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng in November 2020 as the sport’s first female general manager, who has helped to replenish the team’s farm system. Women like Jean Afterman and Raquel Ferreira have taken up assistant general manager roles for the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, respectively.

Other organizations, like the Houston Astros, New York Mets, and Baltimore Orioles have given prominent front office roles — from director of player development to director of major league operations — to women as well.

It’s a growing trend that shows no signs of slowing down, though it still has some ways to go. Only 11 women total coach on staffs across the major and minor leagues, while gender stigmas continue to remain to this day. Those barriers, however, will be broken down thanks to moments like Nikken’s that remind us that anything is possible.

“It’s a big deal. I feel a great sense of responsibility and I feel it’s my job to honor those who have helped me to where I am,” she said. “You feel a sense of pride to be out there. Me personally, it’s the best place to watch a game, that’s for sure.”