Nakken's historic jersey comes to Cooperstown
In January 2020, Nakken was named to the staff of new San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, making her the first woman to serve in a full-time coaching capacity in Major League Baseball history. She later donated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum the Giants jersey she wore when her team opened the 2020 season at the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 23.
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“It’s a little surreal, to be honest,” Nakken said. “The words don’t even do it justice, but it’s a great honor to be in a position to make a donation like that. It goes beyond my wildest dreams, so I’m still trying to find the appropriate words to describe how it feels. But I think it’s also a symbol of all of the massive steps that so many women and men have taken to help pave this path and open this door.”
“I just thought that when I was done playing I just had to find my way into the business side of an organization. It never occurred to me that an on-field role would be available. I think it’s honestly because I never saw it.
“Now that my jersey is at the Hall of Fame, there are a lot of other men and women – women in particular – who will be able to see that this is possible and, yes, see that they can, too, pursue an on-field role for a Major League Baseball team. But also pursue other things that they’ve never seen before.”
While Nakken is primarily tasked with assisting Giants players with outfield play and base running strategies, she said her role as an assistant coach is pretty much exactly what it says – assisting all of the coaches in every aspect of the game.
“I’d say I wear a lot of hats,” she said. “There are days that are focused solely on game strategy with our manager. Pregame I work closely with our outfielders and giving them whatever it is they need to get ready for the game that day. As we’re getting ready for each game, it’s really more individualized and understanding what each guy needs from an outfield perspective and a base running perspective.
“It’s a really awesome role for me in my first year. To be somebody who gets to work alongside each coach and learn their strategies and learn their vision has been really eye opening. My mentality has always been how can I help or how can I support. So to be able to be that resource that our coaching staff and our players can lean on is the best way I can describe what my responsibilities are as a coach for this team.”
As for her ultimate plans, Nakken is overjoyed with where she’s at but understands the future can change in an instant.
“I think it’s an important question because when you have a goal in mind you take the appropriate steps to grow into reaching that goal,” Nakken said. “Quite honestly, five years ago I would have never thought I’d be in this role. With my current role in having a hand in all aspects of the game is something that I really love, so I don’t see myself just focusing on just one area. I really see myself continuing to develop in all areas of the game.
“I love this game and I really love this organization. To continue to grow in the game, and with this organization, would make me very happy. But I know that there are curveballs that are thrown at you all the time. My goal is to have this same mentality of making sure I’m out of my comfort zone because that’s really where I’m seeing the best of me come out. And making sure I’m continuing to surround myself with people that will help me grow. We’ll see where the next steps take me but I think being in a role that I get to wear a lot of hats is something that I want to make sure I continue to do.”
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum