In the eighth inning of a game against the Mariners earlier this month, Giants fans got a glimpse of a bright future. The bases were loaded, with 2020 first-rounder Patrick Bailey at third, top prospect Marco Luciano at second, and No. 2 prospect Joey Bart at first.
If you looked closely, you saw another potential sign of what's to come for an up-and-coming Giant. Behind Bart stood Alyssa Nakken, who made history last year by becoming the first woman to be on a big league coaching staff. At the urging of first base coach Antoan Richardson, Nakken made a cameo in the spot during an exhibition series last July. This spring, it's been a more regular occurrence for Nakken, who has taken on added responsibility in her second year on staff. She credited Richardson for challenging her to always raise the bar.
"You're always trying to think of what's next, how can I grow," Nakken said on the latest Giants Talk Podcast. "This is certainly a path that I'm excited to continue to go down."
Most of the challenges have come from manager Gabe Kapler, who hired Nakken last January after a series of informal conversations that served as a sneaky job interview. Asked recently how his young coaching staff had evolved over the last year, Kapler brought up Nakken and something she noticed in a game last Thursday.
Steven Duggar had tried to put down a bunt because the defense was playing a little back and Nakken sent Kapler a text with a video of the alignment the next morning, prompting a back-and-forth conversation breaking the play down and discussing how Nakken -- who primarily coaches outfielders and baserunning -- would work with Duggar on his approach to similar plays.
"This is growth and development that's really important for our coaching staff," Kapler said. "It's about communication. It's about noticing things that are happening on the field, it's about follow-up and it's about being kind of relentless in pursuing the marginal edges."
Nakken said one of the biggest changes in her second year is getting more exposure to how Kapler and bench coach Kai Correa run things on a day-to-day basis, and Kapler has urged her to take more initiative behind the scenes.
"The theme that we talked about before spring training was he wants me to start setting more direction," Nakken said. "I'm a really good sponge. I absorb a lot. I like to observe and listen and learn from others. I think that's what year one was, just kind of getting my feet wet, and this year it's all about more direction-setting and having more conviction.
"Kap has included me in a lot of other meetings and is allowing me to take more reps at first base and have more say in some outfield stuff. The responsibilities are certainly increasing from last year."
Year two comes with more responsibility, but also a chance to fully enjoy it. Nakken became an idol for girls and young women last season, and her jersey is now hanging in the Baseball Hall of Fame, something she says is humbling and still hasn't really hit her. But the San Francisco resident and longtime Giants employee still has not had a chance to take on her historic role in front of family and friends. The pandemic meant Nakken was preparing pinch-hitters, directing outfielders and occasionally coaching first in front of an empty stadium, but that'll change this season.
"My parents and my brothers have been so supportive of me throughout my entire life -- in all the sports that I played and everything I did with school and all of that -- so I'm really looking forward to a time when they can come to the ballpark and feel really, really safe and there are thousands of fans in the stands," Nakken said. "All of our guys deserve that, and we're really excited.