Justine Siegal continues to make baseball history at every stop along the way.
Spring training in Major League Baseball is normally where young players get their start. Looking to make an impact and climb to the big leagues, players will do whatever it takes to show their value to the ballclub. In 2011, Justine Siegal made her mark on the sport making history by throwing batting practice to her hometown Cleaveland Indians.
After pitching to the Indians in 2011, Justine also threw to the Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros and New York Mets.
For Siegal, there were a lot of firsts. She was the first female baseball coach of a professional baseball team, the first woman to throw batting practice to a major league team in 2011, and the first female coach to be employed by a major league team in 2015 with the Oakland A’s in instructs.
Siegal met A’s GM Billy Beane at the winter meetings, which is where the idea for Siegal to throw BP to an MLB team was officially put into motion. Siegal wanted to make history with her hometown Indians and has continued to do so since.
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“I did not want to go home. It was the most incredible time, I had my own locker and everything. To see my own locker with belts and shoes,” said Siegal. “It may seem like mundane things, but after working so hard for it, that meant everything.”
Siegal also coached on Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, representing her country during the qualifier.
“It was phenomenal. To be able to put on a uniform, share a locker room with the coaches and feel so included, it was amazing,” said Siegal. “Whenever I describe being able to represent my country, stand on that line while the national anthem is playing, and being a woman while doing that, I can picture it perfectly.”
“To have a former major leaguer, asking me the girl, what was that pitch? I know I should not think of myself as “the girl” but so much of my journey has been as the girl,” said Siegal.
Siegal has been a baseball fanatic since her youth, playing the game and going to Indians games as a child with her grandfather. Sitting right by the visitor’s dugout at a young age, Siegal saw the likes of Reggie Jackson and other stars that inspired her love for baseball.
Starting in t-ball like most baseball players, Siegal led a normal baseball life until the age of 13 when she was first told she should quit baseball and switch to softball.
“The more I was told to switch, the more I wanted to keep going,” said Siegal.
Justine Siegal eventually played on her high school team and went to a Division 3 college to play baseball. Even though Siegal was told the school had a no-cut policy, she was told they did not have enough uniforms for her to play. After this, Siegal mainly played in men’s leagues, pitching, catching, and playing third base.
After having a daughter in college, Siegal wanted to make the future better for her daughter and for other women around the country. Siegal started a women’s baseball league in Cleveland, and a semi-pro women’s team, both of which were not sustainable.
“Once I had my daughter, I knew everything I was doing was much bigger than me. Anytime I had a hard day I would remember it wasn’t about me,” said Siegal.
Siegal then refocused her efforts, starting a 12 player all-girls team. This team was the first all-girls team to play in a National “boys” tournament, playing at Cooperstown Dreams Park. That eventually led to Siegal starting Baseball For All, an organization that hosts events and aims to allow girls equal access to play baseball across the country.
Baseball For All held the first girls national tournament in 2015. Siegal created the tournament which has now led to the “Tamara Holmes Series” which is in East Bay. The A’s have been a partner to this series for the last two years.
For Siegal, this journey has not been about being the first, it has been about achieving her dreams.
“I haven’t done any of these things to be the first, I have done them because these are my goals and they have been my whole life,” said Siegal. “I was the one who got to keep hitting the wall with my head, creating a crack, and now other women have been able to walk through.”
When asked what she wanted people to know, Justine gave me a very important message to pass on to everyone
“I have made history, but there is nothing special about me. I just never gave up. I know that if I can reach my goals, so can everyone else,” said Siegal. “We have this myth that only the superstars get to reach their goals or get their dream job and that is not true. I want particularly kids to know that it is all possible. You have exactly what it takes inside of you to make your dreams come true.”
Now in 2020, there have been five women with professional coaching jobs in baseball, a feat that started with Justine Siegal in 2009. Through a love for the game, a strong sense of right and wrong, and a desire to make the baseball world a better place for future generations of women, Siegal has been able to alter the baseball landscape and make her dreams come true while doing so.