Meet 33 year-old Justine Siegal, and as far as anyone can tell, she is the first female coach in men's professional baseball. How cool is that???
Justine is the first base coach for the Brockton Rox, an independent minor league baseball team based in Brockton, MA. Siegal, who joined the team last month, was a former pitcher and third baseman who is also married and the mother of an 11 year-old daughter. According to Brockton Rox bench coach, 50 year baseball veteran Ed Nottle, Sunday's Boston Herald reported him as saying, "People have to be given opportunities," he said. "No matter how this turns out, I think this is going to mean a lot to all the young girls out there. For that reason alone I am behind her."
It would also seem that not everyone thinks this is so cool. Some followers of The Rox have been pondering whether Siegal is a real baseball coach or if this is just a publicity stunt. Siegal was hired by Mike Veeck, part owner in the Rox team, who also owns minor shares in six other independent minor league teams. Veeck is the son of the late Bill Veeck, who at one time was the owner of the old St. Louis Browns. Bill Veeck was the architect of one of the most memorable publicity stunts in sports to date. In 1951, while running the St Louis Browns he signed a midget named Eddie Gaedel who went to bat against Detroit Tigers pitcher Bob Cain, drew a walk and then disappeared, never to be seen again.
The Boston Sunday Herald quoted Mike Veek, "She's an experiment," he admitted. "But some- body's gotta be first. That's all there is to it. It's an idea whose time has come." Siegal herself takes the skeptics criticism in stride.
"I certainly understand that it's unusual," she said. "But I consider it an honor to be a pioneer and a role model to both girls and boys."
Siegal played high school ball and summer league ball, but did not play college ball. She had one tryout with a now defunct professional women's baseball team called the Colorado Silver Bullets and told the Herald's Steve Buckley that she "blew out her arm during the tryout". Since then she has provided instruction for both male and female players and coached on an international level. While working on her Ph. D in sports psychology at Springfield College, she also worked as the assistant coach for the baseball team.
She met Veeck while speaking at a conference last summer and told him,"I want to work for you." Veek told her to send him her resume, which she did and he responded immediately. She told Veeck, "I know enough about baseball to coach and I needed a break."
As for the other coaches, they see Justine as they would any other rookie coach; one who needs to work hard and learn the job. Rox Manager Chris Carmucci reoprts to being skeptical about Siegal's contribution to the team, "The biggest thing for me was: would she be able to help us? And she has helped us." he said.
Publicity stunt or not, the move makes Brockton Rox baseball headlines and gives a deserving woman the chance to prove her worth in a male dominated arena. A bold move that may reverberate through the sport of baseball for years to come, but for now I will watch Justine as she takes her first steps into history. Mr. Veeck, thank you. I concur, it is a great idea whose time has come.