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MLB’s first Latina strength and conditioning coach works to inspire next generation

Andrea Nuñez hopes who she is, her story and her work ensures she won't be the last.

When Andrea Nuñez began her journey in the world of physical fitness and strength and conditioning, she didn’t set out to be the first anything. In-fact, early on she battled self-doubt as to whether or not the career path she had chosen was worth the struggles she had been enduring.   

However, as things often turn out, her struggles eventually turned into prosperity. Now, she stands as the first Latina strength and conditioning coach in Major League Baseball history. 

While she may be the first to hold such a title, Nuñez hopes who she is, her story and her work serves as an example for those to come.

From El Paso to Ciudad Juarez

Nuñez, 27, was born in El Paso. She then spent the first six years of her life in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico before returning to the U.S. 

Nuñez, who will be a panelist on Our Esquina’s International Women’s Day Panel on Latinas in Sports Monday at 4 p.m. PST, 7 p.m EST, nurtured her love of all things sports and fitness by actively competing.

A high school letter winner in volleyball, basketball and track and field, she would later attend New Mexico Highlands University, where she also played NCAA D-II volleyball.

While Nuñez’s passion for sports was undeniable, she originally decided on a business major, taking a page from her accountant uncle. It only took a handful of classes for her to realize that her true calling in life was something else.

“I started really looking into what I love to do,” Nuñez recalled, “and what I loved doing as an athlete was working out, pushing my body to the limit to compete against girls who [were] bigger [and] faster than I was. That’s when it clicked.” 

Taking a cue from her strength and conditioning coach at Highland, Nuñez pursued a Bahelor’s degree in Human Performance and Sport, later graduating cum laude in 2015.

Shortly after graduating, Nuñez moved to Hawaii, where she juggled multiple jobs, in addition to pursuing a career in strength and conditioning in order to make a living. 

When she started as a personal trainer in Mililani, Nuñez was making enough to get by, but did not look forward to going to work. 

“There was definitely a moment where doubt definitely started creeping in,” Nuñez said. “You have to figure out a way to make a living.” 

Eventually hired as a strength and conditioning coach at the local high school, Nuñez’s financial prospects didn’t change much, but her attitude did. 

“I wasn’t getting paid much, but I just loved doing it,” she said. 

Still, those same questions about finances and making a living continued to linger in her mind.

“It came [to the] point where I was like, ‘Can I keep doing this?’ because I’m not making a living,” she added. 

She began thinking of potential career pivots such as physical therapy, all the while letting her passion continue to push her forward. 

“I think the fact that I loved it so much, it’s what kept me in it a little longer, just a little more. Just a little bit more time to see if I could figure something out.”

She didn’t plan on joining baseball. Instead, baseball found her. 

Baseball beginnings 

Lee Fiocchi, the founder and owner of Dynamic Sports Training, a sport-specific athletic development complex based in Texas with an additional facility in Arizona, had recommended Nuñez for an opening with the Los Angeles Angels, where he had been recently hired as the head strength and conditioning coordinator. 

Fiocchi had known of Nuñez dating back to her time in college when she worked at DST. 

Heading to the Angels

And so, in early 2018, Nuñez began her role as a strength and conditioning coach at the Rookie and Low A level, where she is believed to be the first Latina to ever hold such a role. 

“For me, it means a lot not for me, but because I know where I come from, who I come from, who’s looking up to me, and I represent such a wide variety of cultures,” Nuñez said.

“The title itself, it’s not cool because I did it, it’s cool because so many girls that look like me [and] speak like me, they are looking up and seeing a possibility.  

“I think that’s what’s most important. It shines a light of hope to a huge portion of girls who are out there who might be held back because of the simple fact that they look like me and speak like me. Being visible to them is what’s most important to me.” 

Nuñez best sums up her job as a strength and conditioning coach as “being pulled in 1,000 different directions.” 

In a typical day, Nuñez helps set up conditioning sessions, checks various levels and measurements for athletes, puts out routine calendars, monitors lifting sessions, aids in the warm-up process and, eventually, the recovery process for pitchers, among many other roles. 

“It’s definitely exhausting, but it’s just so much fun,” Nuñez said. “It’s just go, go, go, that the day goes by so fast.”

Recently, Nuñez was hired by the San Francisco Giants as the Strength and Conditioning Latin America Assistant Coordinator where she will oversee the strength and conditioning departments in the Dominican Republic and Arizona.

Nuñez cites her own cultural identity and experiences returning to the United States as aids in being able to connect her with Latino players.

“The trust that they built with me within that aspect of having someone that has been through the battles that they are now going through, it helps me out a lot in coaching them in the weight room.”

Diversity and baseball 

Baseball, a predominantly male sport with front office and media roles traditionally occupied by men, has recently experienced a diversity and gender influx.

Alongside Nuñez and her accomplishments, Jessica Mendoza became the first analyst on a nationally televised baseball game in the mid 2010s. In 2019, Raquel Ferreira was promoted to Executive Vice President/Assistant General Manager for the Boston Red Sox.

Elsewhere, Alyssa Nakken became MLB’s first full-time female coach. Yvonne Carrasco Chalme serves as the Senior Director of Baseball, Player Relations at Wasserman, and Kim Ng, a long-time general manager candidate, became the Miami Marlins’ GM in the offseason. Grace Guerrero Zwit is the White Sox’s director of minor league operations.

Though often long overdue, these women all represent a major change in landscape for baseball.

“I really think we’re just getting started,” Nuñez said. “I think we need to keep the ball rolling, and, at the end of the day, be focused on hiring the right candidate. As women, we don’t set out to be the first this, the first that. We just set out to be the very best that we can be and the very best candidate. … For the best candidate for these certain jobs to be a woman, that is great. That is exactly what we want. 

“We don’t want to be a token; we don’t want to be a checkmark. … I don’t want to be the right female candidate, I want to be right candidate, period.”

While the number of women in baseball is definitely increasing, the overall number of females occupying roles in the sport is still very small. 

With that in mind, many of the women in baseball have found a support system in each other through a group chat. 

Part support system, part educational and partly a place to discuss the trials and tribulations of being a woman working in professional baseball, the group featuring dozens of women aims to uplift, connect and celebrate each other. 

“It’s just a group that understands,” Nuñez said. “A lot of people don’t understand what it’s like being a woman in sports. … It’s a group that you really get to speak, and they understand. They get it. It’s the greatest support system that I found being in baseball.”

Inspiring the next generation 

Nuñez, who credits her father, Jesus, as a major inspiration in her life, hopes to be that same inspiration to others. 

“I just think he is that light of hope for me,” she said. “And because I know what the light of hope can do for me, I want to be the light of hope for others.” 

In particular, Nuñez wants to inspire her two nieces Adaly and Sophia 

“The fact that they can see me be where I am is very important to me,” Nuñez said. “The world is going to tell them that they’re at a disadvantage, and I want them to have an example. … of what it is to be who you are and go for what you want.” 

Her biggest piece of advice to young women: “Don’t listen to anybody who is not in your corner.” 

She added, “You cannot downplay who you are to make others comfortable. You have to be you.” 

Nuñez, who has already built up a lasting legacy, hopes to add to it by helping other Latinas in whatever their dreams may be. 

As someone who’s had to work for everything she’s accomplished, she hopes her legacy reflects that, too, and serves as an inspiration. 

“I want that legacy to be known,” she said, “when they see my name, they think of a warrior.”

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