Assistant coach Alyssa Nakken, who replaced Antoan Richardson as first base coach in the third inning of the San Diego Padres’ 13-2 win against San Francisco on Tuesday night, made history as the first woman to ever coach in a regular-season MLB game.
Fans at Oracle Park welcomed Nakken, who has previously coached first base for the Padres in spring training, and Eric Hosmer, the team’s first baseman, gave him a celebratory handshake.
There was no glass ceiling-breaking event, however, without the usual informal, old-fashioned casual misogyny, so naturally the broadcasting booth made some dubious comments about her appearance.
After Nakken entered the field, NBC Sports Bay Area play-by-play announcer Duane Kuiper noted, “So it’s official, this is the first time Alyssa Nakken has been coaching at first during a regular season game.”
Color commentator Mike Krukow intervened, saying, “Which is historic, because it’s the first time a woman has ever coached first base in a big-league ballgame.” “Wow, Nak, you’re doing well. A true pioneer, she is.
Kuiper joined in with a genuinely cringeworthy statement before Krukow had finished stating “she’s a tremendous trailblazer”: “Who wears that helmet better than she does?”
We probably shouldn’t be surprised that Kuiper’s first reaction to Nakken’s historic moment was not to highlight her many accomplishments or to explain to viewers how significant it is to have a woman on the field in Major League Baseball. Even if someone in Hollywood incorporated it into the screenplay of this story, critics would claim it was too on-the-nose. Of course, the first woman coach on an MLB field was objectified within seconds of her stepping foot there.
When she was hired as the first female coach in the major leagues in January 2020, the AP couldn’t resist describing her feminine appearance: “The former Sacramento State softball star, whose blonde braid hung out from her orange protective helmet Tuesday, became the first female coach in the big leagues.” Not as offensive as Kuiper’s comment, but still: what on earth does her hair have to do with almost anything? If she had a buzzcut instead, would her look as a coach be any less historic?
Nakken underlined to reporters after the game that this was about a highly competent lady making history for doing her job. According to the actress, “I believe we are all inspirations doing what we do on a day to day basis and I think this has more weight because of the prominence because of the historical significance to it.” This is my work after all.
Because no one “wears that helmet better than she does,” hers is presently on its way to Cooperstown, where it will be on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Regardless.” Maybe it’s more important than her beauty, and we can all concentrate on that instead.