Siegal Pitched like a Real Roxstar
“Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.”
-Kermit the Frog
How can you not want to stand up and cheer for someone who quotes the almighty Kermit in their blog post. Come on, he is the quintessential optimist. And to use one of his quote to announce yourself to the MLBlogs public is down right genius in my opinion. But who is this mastermind that not only used our favorite sock puppet as a pawn, but also packs a bit of a wallop herself.
Justine Siegal is pulling off her own version of the American Sports Dream this Spring, by throwing Batting Practice to Major League Baseball teams from Arizona to Florida. In all ( as of 3/18) Justin has pitched to six teams, and I bet there are a few in the wings wanting to also witness this historical baseball moment.
But was the moment any bigger for Siegal who grew up idolizing baseball players and their skills, and now she would have the chance to give back in a unique and special way. Sure there was the Japanese knuckleballer who broke into the minor leagues in 2010, and a few women have thrown against MLB players in the past, but Siegal was a Coach for the Brockton Rox, who once had Ranger OF Josh Hamilton on their roster.
She came with intensity, she came with pride, she came with a pretty wicked pitching arsenal. Here was a woman who had a college Coaching pedigree at Springfield College, had professional Coaching experience, and is now throwing for the pure joy of it to MLB caliber hitters. All while her young daughter Jasmine got to watch her mother perform baseball history with each flick of the wrist.
Here she was on March 10, 2011 throwing in the Port Charlotte complex of the Tampa Bay Rays, and growing a crowd with every crack of the bat. With every pitch, every grunt and sweat bead, the slogan of “Baseball for All” on Jasmine’s baseball jersey was singing like a choir of angels to the assembled ballplayers who all possibly had female teammates on their Little League teams.
But today, Siegal was on that mound behind that pitching fencing throwing for each and everyone of them that either switched to softball, or somehow lost the dream. of playing ball. And Siegal didn’t just go up there and lay in pitches, she had a few get away from her, made a few nifty dippity-doo’s, but also had a smile on her face the entire time.
Funny how a chance conversation with Rays Manager Joe Maddon in the lobby of the Walt Disney Swan & Dolphin Resort during the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings had escalated to this time on the mound. Maddon was leaning against the fence talking to the usual media assembly as Justine took the mound and began her day’s work.
And the crowd quickly thickened on the sidelines as the Toronto Blue Jays had taken the field warming-up and getting ready for their chance in the cages. Her first throw into the cage was a strike. She was feeling it, into the moment, about to show that this Coach, pitcher and Mom could compete. That she could “bring it”. That she belonged in this game.
Even after a few solid thumps off her pitching, Siegal got into a rhythm and started to put the ball in there with a nice velocity, a great rolling ease and got into her own sense of a musical cadence.
But little did Siegal know that one that cold December day she had bent the ear of the one person within Major League Baseball who loves who loves to champion the inspirational people of this game. Little did she know that she hitched her star to the right man, the right motivator and someone who wanted her to have success.
I sat there in the stand watching her throw pitch after pitch and never got up from my seat once. She seriously had talent and a great ability to guess the exact location for the Rays players taking their BP against her. One player (he will remain nameless) even swung and missed at a beautiful breaking pitch and he got a instant catcall from the assembled players watching.
But Siegal did herself and every female who ever imagines throwing on playing between those fine white lines a great service. She showed that the fairer sex is not always demure and fragile, but can have the heart of a champion and want dreams and aspirations for herself and her young daughter.
Talked to a member of the Rays field staff after she left the field and he remarked that she had a great session. One he will always remember. Not because she was a woman, and not because she was a special invitee to do the honors, but because she had the stamina and ability to provide quality BP to a MLB squad.
I think Justine seriously just had me when she came out on the field at the beginning of B P with her hair tucked into a ponytail and wearing that Rays number “15” jersey. She owned that assembled crowd that day. She threw an amazing BP session, and she showed that she belongs…..quite an accomplishment that started in a place that Walt Disney called the “Happiest Place on Earth”.
Sorry to disagree with Walt, but Justin Siegal just seemed in harmony at that moment standing on that raised pile of clay throwing the ball like she always knew she could, to MLB caliber players….That seemed to be the “Happiest place on Earth” for her on that given day.