Of Course the First Woman to Coach on an MLB Field Was Immediately Undercut by a Comment About Her Looks
Alyssa Nakken's historic moment was soured by a remark from a Giants broadcaster
On Tuesday night, after San Francisco Giants first base coach Antoan Richardson was ejected in the third inning of the team’s 13-2 victory over the San Diego Padres, assistant coach Alyssa Nakken took over for him and made history as the first woman to ever coach on the field during a regular-season Major League Baseball game.
Nakken, who has coached first base for the team during spring training games in the past, was greeted with a warm reception from fans at Oracle Park and a congratulatory handshake from Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, who recognized the significance of the moment.
But of course, it wouldn’t be glass ceiling-shattering moment without some good, old-fashioned casual sexism, so naturally the commentary from the Giants’ broadcast booth included some questionable remarks about her looks.
“So it’s confirmed, this is the first time Alyssa Nakken has been coaching at first during a regular season game,” NBC Sports Bay Area play-by-play man Duane Kuiper said after Nakken took the field.
“Which is historical, which means that it’s the first time that a woman has ever coached first base in a big-league ballgame,” color commentator Mike Krukow interjected. “So nice goin’, Nak. She is a great trailblazer.”
Before Krukow could barely finish saying “she’s a great trailblazer,” however, Kuiper chimed back in with a truly cringy comment: “Who wears that helmet better than she does?”
Given Major League Baseball’s long, problematic history of misogyny and mistreatment of women, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that Kuiper’s first instinct was to react to Nakken’s groundbreaking moment not by highlighting her many accomplishments — she also made history in 2020 when she was initially hired by the Giants, becoming the first female coach in the big leagues — or by giving viewers some context on just how hugely significant having a woman on the field is, but by pointing out how hot she looks in her helmet. Of course the first woman to coach on an MLB field was objectified within seconds of her setting foot on said field; if someone in Hollywood wrote that into the script of a movie about this, critics would say it was too on-the-nose.
Even the Associated Press couldn’t resist working in a clunky description of her feminine appearance while reporting the story: “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 when she was hired for Kapler’s staff in January 2020,” they write. It’s not as glaringly sexist as Kuiper’s quip, but still: what does her hair have to do with literally anything? Would her coaching appearance be any less historic if she were sporting a buzzcut instead?
When it comes down to it, this was about a highly qualified woman making history for simply doing her job, something Nakken reiterated to reporters after the game. “I think we’re all inspirations doing everything that we do on a day-to-day basis and I think, yes, this carries a little bit more weight because of the visibility, obviously there’s a historical nature to it,” she said. “But again, this is my job.”
And regardless of whether anyone “wears that helmet better than she does,” hers is currently on its way to Cooperstown, where it’ll be on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe we can all focus on that instead of her physical appearance.
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