There is almost nothing more American than baseball, and as the snow has begun to melt with the first days of spring, the crack of peanut shells and home runs are adrift in the air. As the country begins to get back to some sense of normalcy, baseball season is in full swing. Major League Baseball begins April 1st as it does every year, but this year women are changing the game.
Alyssa Nakken made history when she was hired by the San Francisco Giants as the first female full-time coach of a Major League Baseball team in 2020. When Nakken accepted the role, she was no stranger to the world of Major League Baseball. She’d been working with the Giants’ health and wellness programs for six years, and had taken on many roles within the office.
“There are so many girls, young girls out there, that they’re now able to see so many other possibilities, that you know, when I was 10, 11, 12, 13, I didn’t know this existed all,” Alyssa Nakken said on the “With Authority” podcast. “I think it just allows people to go down these different paths that they didn’t know existed, but are the perfect paths for them.”
Nakken has opened doors for women in the sports world, and other teams are opening up positions to women. In January 2021, the Red Sox welcomed Bianca Smith as a Minor League Coach, making her the first Black woman to hold that title in the history of professional baseball. It’s about time.
“I think it’s a great opportunity also to kind of inspire other women who are interested in this game,” Smith told MLB Network’s Hot Stove program. “This is not really something I thought about when I was younger. I kind of fell into it being an athlete. So, I’m excited to get the chance to show what I can do.”
In recent years, Major League Baseball has been working to address a long history of gender discrimination. In 2018, MLB earned a C on its yearly report card from the Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sports. At that time, only 188 women worked in baseball operations roles, and none of them had ever held the position of manager or general manager. Since the poor grade, MLB has implemented a diversity pipeline program, and fellowship program, to bring more women into the organization. Despite the commitment to diversifying the league, there are still no female Major League Baseball players.
As sports make moves toward some normalcy this spring, it’s exciting to see women making such major strides in the historically male dominated field. But one sense of normalcy we’d like to leave in pre-pandemic times, is the hypocrisy and challenges women athletes continue to face. Despite the issues women in sports still face, it’s exciting to see a major sports league grapple with its sexist history and make moves to diversify the playing field.