Rising Star Award
Assistant Coach, San Francisco Giants
By Jonathan Morales
Alyssa Nakken knew in advance she was going to get some time as first base coach during the San Francisco Giants’ exhibition game in Oakland on July 20. Only after she got onto the field did she realize the implications.
“After the first few pitches of the sixth inning, I was thinking, ‘Oh man, I'm pretty sure this game's on TV. I don’t know if I told my mom or my dad about this,’ ” she said. “ ‘They're probably going to be shocked to see me.’ ” (They were.)
And then, she had further thoughts: “I don’t think another female has done this before. There might be some news headlines about it.”
There were headlines, all right. Nakken’s appearance was worldwide news, even though it was the second time this year she had broken ground. In January, the Giants promoted her to their full-time coaching staff, making Nakken the first woman coach in Major League Baseball history.
“Some of my fondest memories of life include my time at Sac State. ... I'm truly honored and so, so thankful that I had the opportunity to play there and to go there for school.”
For her leading-edge achievements, Nakken received a 2020 Rising Star Distinguished Alumni Award, given to recent Sac State graduates who have made outstanding contributions professionally, to the community, or to the University.
At Sac State, Nakken said, she honed the leadership and interpersonal skills to succeed at baseball’s highest level.
As a high school softball player, Nakken developed a close relationship with the Sac State coaches who recruited her to play first base, including one who was her teammate at Woodland High School. As soon as she stepped onto campus, she knew she wanted to be a Hornet.
“It was like, ‘Whoa, this is home. I totally belong here. I’m ready to run through a wall for this team and this school, and I’m so excited to wear green and gold,’ ” she said. “And I had that feeling every single day of all four years that I was there.”
As team captain during her junior and senior years, Nakken said she found her voice and learned how to lead by example. She was a liaison between players and coaches, something she finds herself doing daily as a Giants coach.
Her classes taught her time management, she said, and lessons she learned as a Psychology major have directly applied to her coaching.
Playing for Sac State from 2009 through 2012, Nakken earned All-Pacific Coast Softball Conference honors all four years, and was named the 2012 conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
“Some of my fondest memories of life include my time at Sac State,” she said. “I've always just wanted to make my coaches proud and the school proud. I'm truly honored and so, so thankful that I had the opportunity to play there and to go there for school.”
Dozens of media interviews have given her the opportunity to reflect on her groundbreaking role, leading her to think about her best friend’s 6-year-old daughter, who is “fierce, and she’s fearless” and now sees that she can “hang with the boys.”
“I never want her to go through life thinking she’s unable to do something strictly because she's female,” Nakken said. “More females getting into roles like this and others where it’s not traditionally held by females is really important, because then it just doesn't hinder these young girls that are getting into grade school, getting into high school, going to college, from pursuing their dreams.”
Each year since 1972, the Sacramento State Alumni Association has honored accomplished alumni and friends of the University with the Distinguished Alumni Awards (DAA). This year’s honorees were recognized during a virtual ceremony on Oct. 15. For more information, visit the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Awards page.