Giants coach Alyssa Nakken has hit ground running after making history

Giants coach Alyssa Nakken has hit ground running after making history

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants' new 13-person coaching staff gathered last week in the clubhouse at Oracle Park, one thing that stood out was just how varied their previous homes were. 

The Giants grabbed a bench coach from the Cleveland Indians. One of their hitting coaches is from the Cincinnati Reds, the other spent last season with the Great Lakes Loons in Midland, Michigan. The pitchers will work with new coaches who spent 2019 working for teams like the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. 

It's a group that's not all too familiar with San Francisco, so Alyssa Nakken decided to take her new coworkers deep into the city. To cap off a two-day retreat, she set up a culinary tour of The Mission. 

The tacos might have been the highlight of the retreat for the rest of the coaches, but for Nakken, it was winning the staff's poker tournament. Word got around, and when she saw Bruce Bochy -- now a special advisor -- the next day, his first question was about her card skills.

This is what Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler envisioned when they brought Nakken on as an assistant coach. They want to improve the culture of the clubhouse, and that isn't limited to players. Nakken heard that Kapler had a retreat for his coaches in Philadelphia and took the idea and ran with it, getting them together for two days on the eve of FanFest. 

"It's so energizing and refreshing to see her bringing this attitude," Zaidi said. "It's just not accurate to call her an outsider because of her athletic career and because she's been in this organization, but maybe she's an outsider in the sense of the default clubhouse culture and how things are done. 

"Maybe coaches (have just texted) each other over the offseason rather than bringing everybody in and having a two-day event like they had. I think her perspective of how we can get better, how we can make the processes better, how we can support each other better -- that's a motivation and focus for Gabe, and she just fits in so well for that."

Of course, helping Kapler overhaul some clubhouse practices isn't the only reason the Giants brought Nakken on staff. When the players and coaches take the field this week at Scottsdale Stadium, Nakken will be with them, making history as the first female coach on a Major League staff. 

Nakken said she'll spend much of her time this spring in the cages, throwing batting practice and tossing flips to players who are working on their swings. She'll work with Antoan Richardson, the new first base coach, during baserunning and outfield drills. Nakken was a good softball player in college and is eager to put that background to use during workouts. 

She also plans to take the lead in helping young players get acclimated. The Giants plan to bring in special guest speakers throughout the spring.

"That's something I'll champion given my background from an operational standpoint," she said.

Nakken, who previously was instrumental in running the Giants Race series, comes from the business side of the organization. Zaidi said he had heard she was doing a great job on that side but had shown an interest in returning to baseball operations, where she started as an intern in 2014. He said he appreciated the initiative she took this offseason in making that goal a reality. 

The hire was a highlight for the Giants during a quiet offseason, and Nakken was a star at FanFest, where fans lined up for photos and autographs. But she said last week that she's eager to get to the grind, and she's ready to be back in uniform. The Giants are still figuring out how to deploy their massive staff during games, but the current plan is for Nakken to spend most of her in-game time this season in the cage, helping hitters get prepared and warmed up for pinch-hit at-bats. 

[RELATED: Posey can't wait to face MadBum when Giants play D-backs]

Nakken already has met players like Buster Posey, Mike Yastrzemski and Jeff Samardzija, and starting Tuesday, she'll be part of a new staff that will try to form bonds with a team that has an equal mix of experience and youth.

"These guys are ready for some new blood," Nakken said. "They're excited for what this coaching staff can bring to them. We're focused on player development and I think this is what the players really want and they're excited that we're going to be challenging them every single day."

If Giants, Dodgers never moved West, MLB might look very different now

If Giants, Dodgers never moved West, MLB might look very different now

Back in the mid 1950's, Major League Baseball hadn't conquered the West Coast.

But that changed in 1957 when the Giants and Dodgers were granted permission to move from New York to San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively.

Both teams played their inaugural season in California in 1958.

Baseball hasn't been the same since, relocating or adding teams all over the West Coast.

But how would MLB look today if the Giants and Dodgers hadn't moved West? According to the MLB Cathedrals' Twitter account, the Dodgers wanted a new stadium in Brooklyn in 1957, but were denied, leading to the two teams moving.

So MLB Cathedrals ran through the hypothetical scenario with real-world info and some fan input to see what the league would look like today if the Dodgers had been allowed to stay in Brooklyn.

First, the San Francisco Giants in their current form wouldn't exist. The New York Giants would have moved to Minnesota in 1959.

In 1961, the Washington Senators moved to Los Angeles and became the Angels.

That same year, the American League adds two expansion teams: The San Francisco Seals and a new club in Washington, D.C. According to MLB Cathedrals, the Seals would play at Seals Stadium until a new ballpark could be built for them.

In 1962, the National League expands, adding teams in Houston and Los Angeles. Because the Dodgers stayed in Brooklyn, the Mets are never created. The new team in LA is called the Stars, meaning the Giants and Dodgers names never exist.

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When MLB Cathedrals conducted the experiment Saturday, they had Oakland getting an expansion team, the Oaks. On Sunday, in a new version of the experiment with more info and fan polls, Oakland never gets a team.

Here's how the AL and NL look as of 1998, according to MLB Cathedrals.

Based on these projections, Major League Baseball and baseball in the Bay Area would look very, very different.

Giants' Mauricio Dubon shares hilarious story of meeting Hunter Pence

Giants' Mauricio Dubon shares hilarious story of meeting Hunter Pence

Mauricio Dubon is living the dream of every young Giants fan right now. 

Dubon moved to Sacramento when he was 15 years old to live with a host family -- leaving his family in Honduras -- in order chase his dreams of playing baseball. He attended his first Giants game as a teenager in 2010, sitting in the center field bleachers as Tim Lincecum pitched the Giants closer to a division title. As a young shortstop he idolized Brandon Crawford, and now is his teammate and will be Crawford's double-play partner on many occasions this season. 

When Dubon first made his Giants debut in late August after being acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, he certainly could feel his fandom come alive. The same can be said for when the team brought Hunter Pence back this offseason.

"The first time I saw Hunter at FanFest, I asked for a picture, actually," Dubon said on the latest episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. "I asked him for a picture, yeah. 2014, with the whole speech and everything -- as a fan, you kind of get excited. As a player, you get even more excited." 

Dubon said he had to get away from the Giants' veteran players last year when guys like Tim Lincecum, Angel Pagan and many others came back for Bruce Bochy's final game as San Francisco's manager. The young infielder simply couldn't help but get giddy seeing his childhood heroes. Dubon even used Pagan's salute celebration in high school. 

Now with Pence in the fold and Pablo Sandoval returning to San Francisco, Dubon doesn't see why the Giants couldn't shock the world again once the season returns amid baseball's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[RELATED: How Dubon is staying ready after missing first Opening Day]

"I keep telling people that when were we favorites -- I say "we" as a fan -- when were we favorites to win a World Series in '10, '12 and '14? Never," Dubon said. "So why's it gonna change right now?

"We have the same veterans. Same hunger, probably even more. We got guys that are willing to do anything to win a game. I think we have a pretty good chance of [winning] the whole thing." 

Dubon is expected to be manager Gabe Kapler's do-it-all utility man up in the middle at second base, shortstop and center field this season to keep his athleticism in the lineup. And while his fandom always will live within him, he could be a major key to the Giants brining their next World Series trophy back to San Francisco.