Justine Siegal, 1st base coach for Brockton Rox
Justine Siegal, 1st base coach for Brockton Rox

Justine Siegal has made history by becoming the first woman to pitch batting practice for a Major League Baseball team. Despite a case of nerves, the pony-tailed Siegal broke the gender barrier with spring training pitching stints for the Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics.

Justine Siegal has dreamed of playing Major League Baseball since childhood. The 36-year-old Cleveland native grew up rooting for baseball's Cleveland Indians and says she started playing the game as a five-year-old.

"I have been doing it my whole life and I just always loved the game and I wanted to keep playing.  When I was about 13, I was told it was time to go over to softball - that is what girls did.  But I decided to ignore that first coach and a line of many others, because I really loved baseball.  And I did not see any reason why I should quit," she said.

Justine continued to play in community baseball leagues and eventually ended up on her high school squad.  But she says it was sometimes a challenge to find coaches who would let her play.

"I did play for my high school, so I had a good experience with my high school, but it was not always easy.  But when you love something you go after it," she said.

Justine Siegal continued her involvement in the game known as "America?s Pastime." After high school she played in a variety of men?s leagues.  

In 2007 she broke gender barriers as college baseball?s only female assistant coach when she started a four-year stint with Springfield College in the northeast state of Massachusetts, pitching batting practice the past three years.  Then in 2009 Siegal made history as the first woman to coach first base in professional baseball when she joined an independent league team in Massachusetts, the Brockton Rox.

Last November, Justine contacted all of Major League Baseball?s general managers to ask for the opportunity to pitch batting practice.  Two teams, the Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics said yes, and she recently made history again as the first woman to throw batting practice in a major league spring training camp.

"So when I contacted the general managers, I said to them, 'this is a great opportunity to connect with your female fans and I am qualified to do this.  So let us do something special.'  And the Indians and the A?s kind of caught on to that dream and connected with me and, you know, that is what I have done," she said.

But Siegal had to overcome a serious case of nerves as she walked out to the mound and picked up some baseballs.

"I was super-nervous, and my biggest challenge was the ball sticking to my hand because it was so clammy.  So it was a lot of fun to live out my dream, but it was also kind of nerve-wracking," she said.

Justine currently runs an organization called Baseball For All ( BaseballForAll.com ), with the purpose of providing girls and women the opportunity to get involved with the game of baseball.  They run a girls baseball camp, put on clinics and have programs for schools.  And if that were not enough to keep her busy, she is also a student, going for her Ph.D. in sport and exercise psychology.