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Giants’ Alyssa Nakken becomes the first woman to coach on an MLB field

Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer offered a handshake to Alyssa Nakken when she took over as first base coach in the third inning, becoming the first woman to coach an MLB team on the field. (Jed Jacobsohn/AP)

The call to take her place in baseball history, one that Alyssa Nakken had long prepared for, came in the third inning Tuesday night, when the San Francisco Giants’ first base coach was ejected for responding to what he said was a racist remark.

Nakken, an assistant who works with Giants players on baserunning and outfield defense, became the first woman in MLB history to coach on the field after the ejection of Antoan Richardson. When called upon, she left her spot in the batting cage, replaced her sweatshirt with her No. 92 jersey and grabbed a batting helmet.

“I think we’re all inspirations doing everything that we do on a day-to-day basis and I think, yes, this carries a little bit more weight because of the visibility, obviously there’s a historical nature to it,” she said (via the Associated Press) after the Giants’ 13-2 victory over the San Diego Padres. “But again, this is my job.”

Her helmet is on its way to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., not that Nakken needed a reminder of the significance of her appearance, which came days after Rachel Balkovec became the first woman to manage a major league team’s minor league affiliate.

“It’s a big deal,” Nakken said of her moment. “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.”

Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer welcomed her with a handshake as the crowd at San Francisco’s Oracle Park applauded.

“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 and work alongside Antoan, so I stepped in to what I’ve been hired to do, is support this staff and this team,” Nakken said.

Although the moment was historic, it also was no big deal because “it’s not a foreign spot on the field for her,” Giants Manager Gabe Kapler said. “She does so many other things well that aren’t seen, so it’s nice to see her kind of be right there in the spotlight and do it on the field.”

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A star softball player at Sacramento State, the 31-year-old Nakken was the first female coach hired by a major league team when Kapler brought her on board in January 2020. She holds a master’s degree in sport management from the University of San Francisco and had interned with the Giants’ baseball operations department in 2014.

Her moment arrived when Richardson was ejected for responding to what he said was a comment with “undertones of racism” by Padres third base coach Mike Shildt. Per Richardson, Shildt was looking into the Giants’ dugout for pitcher Alex Wood. After a brief back-and-forth, Richardson said Shildt told Kapler “you need to control that m-----------.” Richardson then climbed the Giants’ dugout steps and said “excuse me” to Shildt. He was promptly tossed by umpire Greg Gibson, Richardson said, for “instigating.”

“[Shildt’s] words were disproportionately unwarranted and reeked of undertones of racism when he referred to me as ‘that m-----------’ as if I was to be controlled or a piece of property or enslaved,” Richardson said (via KNBR). “I think it’s just really important we understand what happened tonight. And the second part that’s equally disappointing is that me being tossed by that umpire empowers this coach to continue to have conversations like that with people like me. And that’s really unfortunate that’s what happened tonight.

“With that being said, I’m really excited that Alyssa got her opportunity to make her Major League debut and I’m very proud of her. I think she did a really wonderful job and we got a win, so that’s the most important thing.”

Shildt and the Padres have yet to comment on the matter, but he and Richardson met on the field Wednesday morning, shaking hands.

“I know that Antoan was not out of control at all and that anything that was said to insinuate that he was is totally inappropriate,” Kapler said Tuesday night. “He didn’t instigate any part of this.”