The Oakland Athletics fired a strike for women’s equality this week, inviting Justine Siegal to be a guest instructor at their Fall Instructional League camp. Siegal will be the first female coach in Major League Baseball history.
Siegal, 40, is no stranger to professional baseball. She has thrown batting practice for six major league teams (becoming the first woman to do so in 2011) and coached first base for the Brockton (Massachusetts) Rox, establishing herself as the first women to coach a male professional baseball team. With a PHD in sports psychology, Siegal is director of sports partnerships at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, founder of Baseball for All (which seeks to expand opportunities in the sport, especially for girls), and was previously an assistant baseball coach at Springfield (Massachusetts) College.
Siegal will not be the first female coach at the top level of male-dominated professional sports. She follows in the footsteps of Jen Welter, who was hired by the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals as a preseason coaching intern, and Becky Hammon, an assistant coach with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, who coached her team to the NBA Las Vegas Summer League championship. Nancy Lieberman, already in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player, is set to become the NBA’s second female coach as an assistant for the Sacramento Kings.
But Siegal’s appointment is a breakthrough.
As Welter Tweeted: “An amazing step for women in sports! Congrats @justinebaseball! Well done @Athletics! Yet again, little girls can dream a little bigger.”
Until now, the most famous female in baseball on the field (not in the front office) has arguably been Mo’ne Davis, who pitched her Philadelphia area team to the 2014 Little League World Series and earned a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Siegal’s precise duties with the A’s have not been publicly defined.
She told the San Francisco Chronicle: “As a rookie coach, I expect to hit a lot of fungoes [balls hit with a lightweight practice bat], throw a lot of batting practice, and help out wherever they want me to help.”
“We feel like Justine has a lot to offer and [the Instructional League] is a great place to get her feet wet,” A’s assistant general manager David Forst told the Chronicle. “She’ll be doing a little bit of everything.”
Siegal is cognizant of her position as a ground-breaker and role model and thankful to the A’s and General Manager Billy Beane for presenting the opportunity.
“There is no Jackie Robinson without Branch Rickey,” Siegal told the San Jose Mercury News, referring to Robinson’s breaking of baseball’s color barrier in 1947 and Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ general manager. “It’s going to be a great two weeks. I’m going to focus on being the best coach I can.”
Oakland and San Francisco have long been breeding grounds for progressive thinking when it comes to women and their roles in society. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who hails from the Bay Area, told Glamour Magazine in 2007: “Women are leaders everywhere you look—from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women, and we will continue to break down the walls and defy stereotypes.”
Justine Siegal is doing just that.
Featured Image via MLB