It was a huge deal when the Giants hired Alyssa Nakken last offseason, but by the end of the 60-game season, it was quite normal when manager Gabe Kapler threw Nakken's name in with the other coaches when discussing his team's improvement.
Kapler would talk about how Nakken and Antoan Richardson were working with outfielders on jumps, or position players on reading pitchers' moves to first. She was brought up often when discussing the culture of the clubhouse, and at some point, it no longer became a trending topic when she was shown in the dugout during games. That's the way it should be, and the way Kapler wants it to be, and he was so happy with how his first historic hire went that he nearly made a second one.
On the Giants' "Chalk Talk at Home" YouTube show Thursday night, Kapler revealed that he considered several women for the assistant pitching coach job that opened up when Ethan Katz departed to become pitching coach for the White Sox. He said one in particular, a Phillies employee, stood out. The Giants ultimately hired J.P. Martinez, a coach from the Minnesota Twins system.
"Certainly every time we have an open spot on our staff we're going to be thinking about and considering the great women around the game of baseball but also outside the industry and seeing if they can fill those roles successfully for us," Kapler said. "I think that is in an effort to be as diverse as possible, but also because I just think it's going to make us better."
This has become a theme for Kapler, who constantly preaches "diversity of thought." Shortly after taking the job last November, he flew New York Yankees minor league hitting coach Rachel Balkovec to San Francisco for an interview to join his 13-person staff. She elected to stay with the Yankees.
Kapler said the Giants have an open position on their staff as a mental skills coach and are currently in the process of hiring.
"We have a nice pool of candidates and we're going to have a great number of really smart, really capable women vying for that position as well," Kapler said. "Every time we have that opportunity we're going to seek to include as diverse a pool as possible of candidates."
That was the case for the pitching coach position in multiple ways. In replacing Katz, who by all accounts did a strong job in his first year on a big league staff, Kapler sought to bring in someone fluent in Spanish. Pitching coach Andrew Bailey, director of pitching Brian Bannister and bullpen coach Craig Albernaz are not, and neither was Katz. Martinez, Kapler said, is "an excellent Spanish speaker," which was important.
On the 40-man roster alone, the Giants have seven pitchers who are native Spanish speakers, including all three young relievers they just added to the roster. The ability to better communicate helped Chadwick Tromp become a key backup last year, and the Giants also became the first team to send an interpreter -- quality assurance coach Nick Ortiz -- out for every mound visit with Spanish-speaking pitchers.
"That was one blind spot we had," Kapler said of the language barrier with some coaches.
Martinez, 38, spent six seasons with the Twins, including three as their assistant minor league pitching coordinator. He supervised operations at their alternate site this past season. A ninth-round pick in 2004, Martinez pitched in Minnesota's system for four years, posting a 3.36 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning and 40 saves. Kapler said there was a lot to like about his resume.
"He's an excellent communicator, a really smart guy, with the ability to bring both data and feel for the game to the dugout and to the clubhouse," he said. "He comes highly recommended from the people that I know in Minnesota."