Women rising the ranks in MLB coaching roles
The Giants assistant coach was in her first season with the club, and while she had coached first base throughout Summer Camp, the exhibition game marked her first time in the role against another team.
“I kind of took at as, ‘OK, yeah, this is my job – I’m here to coach, and I’ve been taking the reps in the intersquads and in Summer Camp. I’m so ready for this,’” Nakken told the Hall of Fame in November 2020. “I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t questioning if I was ready – I was ready. I went out, and I had a great time being out there.”
When she got a chance to check her phone after the game, Nakken quickly realized the weight it held for fans to see a woman on the field coaching first base – albeit on TV, as no fans were allowed at games in the pandemic-shortened season of 2020.
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Several new faces joined the mix of female coaches in 2021. In January, Bianca Smith was brought on by the Red Sox as a minor league coach, becoming the first Black woman to serve as a coach in professional baseball. Later that same month, the Brewers named Sara Goodrum as their minor league hitting coordinator. Goodrum has since joined the Astros as their director of player development.
“You’re starting to see, in all industries, the importance of diversity of thought and diversity of perspective,” Nakken said. “As females, we bring that to a team, we bring that to an organization, we bring that to a corporation.”
At least seven new female coaches will take the field within MLB organizations in 2022: Veronica Alvarez, a catching instructor in the Athletics’ system; Gretchen Aucoin, a development coach in the Mets’ system; Kayla Baptista, a development coaching apprentice in the Rangers’ system; Caitlyn Callahan, a development coach in the Pirates’ system; Ronnie Gajownik, a coach in the Diamondbacks’ system; Katie Krall, a development coach in the Red Sox system; and Jaime Vieira, a hitting coach in the Blue Jays’ system.
Only time will tell how many more firsts will be accomplished by these female coaches and others in the years to come.
“There’s got to be a first for everything,” Smith told MLB.com in 2022. “It’s not an if, it’s a when. When it happens.”
Janey Murray is the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum