Justine Siegal became the first woman to pitch batting practice in a major league spring training camp when she threw to the Cleveland Indians on Monday.
Not only did she pass the test with flying colors, some people became a little envious along the way.
“She made me look bad,” said manager Manny Acta, who also throws batting practice to Cleveland’s hitters.
Acta played catch with Siegal before she took the mound.
“She was pretty impressive,” he said. “She throws strikes. It was very good.”
He wasn’t alone.
“If you didn’t see the ponytails, she would have fit right in,” said catcher Paul Phillips, one of the players who took swings off Siegal’s pitches. “She did great.”
Siegal has already broken gender barriers in baseball, having coached at the professional and college levels. She wore a patch honoring Christina Taylor Green, the nine-year-old granddaughter of former major league manager Dallas Green, who was killed in last month’s shootings in Tucson. Christina Taylor Green was the only girl on her local Little League baseball team.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone in the family,” Siegal said. “I asked the league organizers if it would be OK if I wore her patch, and they said please do.”
Siegal, a Cleveland native who grew up rooting for the Indians, fulfilled a lifelong dream. Not only did she make history throwing to her favorite team, she finally got to pitch to major league hitters.
“I wanted to be Orel Hershiser,” Siegal said of the starting pitcher who played for Cleveland in the mid-1990s. “Following the Indians is in my blood.”
Siegal, who lives in Springfield, Massachusetts, pitched batting practice to a few minor leaguers before throwing to Phillips, Lou Marson and Juan Apodaca, who are in the major league camp. She admitted to being nervous.
“My heart was beating really fast,” Siegal said. “I’ve been thinking about this for the last month.”
Siegal attended the general managers meetings in the offseason asking for a chance to throw in spring training. Indians GM Chris Antonetti was intrigued, and replied.
She has been playing baseball since she was five years old. Now 36, though, she wasn’t sure how hard she was throwing.
“I’m a bit of an old lady now,” she said. “When I was 19 or 20, I was throwing upper 70s (mph). I still play in a pickup league and I have to rely on the old curveball to get them out.”
Siegal, 36, was the first woman to coach first base in men’s professional baseball for the Brockton Rox, an independent league team in Massachusetts, in 2009. She spent three years as the only female college baseball coach in the country, when she was an assistant coach at Springfield College in Massachusetts from 2007-10.
Siegal, who throws right-handed, is scheduled to pitch batting practice in the Oakland Athletics camp Wednesday.