Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Righteous Crusade

Justine Siegal realized a life-long ambition this week. Actually, watch how she lived the dream twice. Siegal threw batting practice for both the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland A's. It's believed she's the first woman ever to throw batting practice in MLB. While fulfilling a personal goal was a huge part of the experience, Siegal's wider intent was to raise awareness of women in baseball. She runs a non-profit organization called "Baseball for All," and its mission is to give girls opportunities to play baseball.

In an interview with NPR, Siegal talked about how she always wanted to play in the big leagues, and didn't realize until she was 15 that it wasn't going to be a possibility. I love that to children, everything seems like it could happen. That's how it should be. She and I share the belief that a knuckle-balling female pitcher could realistically make it to The Show one day. Siegal added that a lefty knuckler would have an even greater chance.

Siegal is also the first woman to coach professional baseball in the United States. She was a first base coach for the Brockton Rox of the independent Can Am League. She talked about earning the respect of male players. It probably always takes longer for a female to have the trust and authority a coach needs, but Siegal believed she had it from her players.

One of the things that resonated with me was Siegal's mention that 40% of baseball fans are women. I'm not talking about girls who go to games to stare at player's hindquarters as they bend over to stretch. I've seen these women first hand. I'm talking about women who love the game in the same way that guys love it. It's a deep passion for true fans, and men and women alike can partake in the single-minded devotion to a past time that's like no other. Believe me, women who love baseball want to participate in the sport, just like every guy dreams of working for his favorite team, or watch batting practice on the field. That's what we want too. I had a vivid dream one night, in which I was asking Bill James to give me a job. Crazy? I hope not.

Don't treat female fans like they're cheerleaders. It's not that I don't jump out of my seat yelling and clapping, because I do that every game, but I am always looking to discuss serious baseball issues, like Austin Jackson's chances of sustaining a higher-than-normal BABIP, because I think he can, if he continues to hit a lot of line drives and get infield hits.

Although MLB once banned women from playing in its league, women have never stopped looking for inclusion. Check out a few of the sites in the blogroll to the right. There are no fewer than four blogs with women as their lead writers. I hope you give their work the attention and respect it deserves. I want to thank Justine Siegal for bringing awareness to the fact that women love the game, and want nothing more than to be a part of it at every level.


Corey Ettinger said...

Phenomenally well written piece. As for Austin Jackson I ran the numbers and it looks like a .340 BABIP is realistic.

OldEnglishD said...

Thank you! Re Ajax, that would be good. Now I'm just worried that with his added muscle mass, he'll be trying to hit home runs too much and screw up his line drive/fly ball ratio! Ha.