“I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don’t think about it is when I’m playing it.” —Carl Yastrzemski
Justine Siegal, 38, has played baseball, not softball, since she was five years old. As a young girl growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Siegal dreamed of donning the Cleveland Indians uniform and taking the mound at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium where her father took her to games.
Then one day, she did.
In February 2011, Siegal, who moved to Malibu last year, made history when she became what is believed to be the first woman to ever throw batting practice to a major league team, when she tossed BP to the Indians during spring training in Goodyear, Ariz. Later Siegal tossed for the A’s at the Oakland Coliseum, then again to the Rays, Cardinals, Astros and Mets, attracting nationwide attention in outlets such as ESPN, USA Today and the New York Times.
Siegal’s turn in “The Show,” marked the culmination of a remarkable journey, which at one point transformed from a personal quest into something larger.
“This is not my story, but our story,” she said.
At age 23, Siegal created Baseball for All, a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for girls and women to participate in the game of baseball as players, coaches and umpires. She had always played ball, through youth, through three years of college, in college fall ball and men’s leagues; had coached it, too, for three years as an assistant at Springfield College, where she received her doctorate degree. Many years later, she’d become the first woman to coach men’s professional baseball as the first base coach for the Brockton Rox in Brockton, Mass.
Now she wanted to pass her love of the game on to other girls and women, to let them “know they are not alone” in their love of baseball.
After meeting Oakland A’s General Manager Billie Beane and Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon at the MLB winter meetings in Florida in 2011, Siegal made her proposal on behalf of Baseball for All. After those two said yes, the rest, as they say, is history.
She moved to Malibu in 2012 and currently works from home for Sports in Society at Northeastern University. Her daughter, Jasmine, is a sophomore at Malibu High School.
She will be hosting an upcoming girls baseball showcase (ages 12-19) at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton from October 25-27.
The Malibu Times caught up with Siegal to discuss her lifelong passion for baseball.
Describe your love for baseball.
My love for baseball began when I was young with my father, Michael Siegal. I think baseball is the greatest game on earth. As a pitcher, there is no better feeling than to have that ball come off your finger perfectly. I would love to be a coach in an instructional league. Just go throw BP, hit fungo and watch video tape. All these things I know I can do. I bring an element as a coach that other people don’t have. I have a unique background and skill set that can help players.
Why did you create Baseball for All?
When I became a mother, I decided to create Baseball for All to help other girls play baseball. I wanted them to know that they are not alone. The greatest thing for Baseball for All is seeing the smiles on the girls’ faces. There is a whole community of girls out there who want to play. Girls want to be an active part of it. I love baseball but I equally love helping people.
Share what it meant to throw batting practice to Major League ball clubs.
Throwing batting practice is a dream come true. Not just for me but for every girl or boy around the world. It was just tremendous to throw to the Indians. There was one time when I felt the ball and heard the ball go by my ear. That’s when I knew how close and how real it was. It was so movie-like just to get to throw and have your dream come true. I always dreamt of being an Indian and to get to put on an Indians uniform was so humbling.