Justine Siegal has made a habit out of breaking down barriers. She became the first woman to coach a professional baseball team when she was hired as the first base coach of the independent league Brockton Rox in 2009. She has also spent the past four years as the assistant baseball coach at Springfield College in Massachusetts. On Monday, she added another impressive accomplishment to the list.
According to the Associated Press, Siegal became the first woman to pitch batting practice to a major league team when she threw for the Indians earlier today.
Siegal, a Cleveland native who grew up rooting for the Tribe, was given the opportunity to throw after approaching general manager Chris Antonetti during December’s winter meetings. On Monday, the 36-year-old Siegal got to live out every fan’s dream, throwing BP to a few players in major league camp, including catcher Paul Phillips, Lou Marson and Juan Apodaca.
“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.”
“My heart was beating really fast,” Siegal said. “I’ve been thinking about this for the last month.”
Siegal wore a patch honoring Christina Taylor Green, who was killed in last month’s shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Green was the only girl on her local Little League baseball team. Awesome stuff.
And just in case you were ready to say that the Indians don’t count as a major league team, you should know that Siegal is scheduled to throw batting practice for the Athletics on Wednesday, as well.
Blue Jays closer Ken Giles hasn’t exactly turned things around since joining the Blue Jays on July 31, when the club sent embattled closer Roberto Osuna to the Astros. Giles posted a 4.99 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with the Astros, then put up a slightly less miserable 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings with the Jays. Still, he’s much happier with the Jays than he was with the Astros, even after winning the World Series with them last year. He said to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston. It’s kind of weird to say that because I won a World Series with that team. But it’s like, I just felt trapped there. I didn’t feel like myself there. Overall, I felt out of place.”
Giles also said “the communication was lost” with the Astros and it was something that came easy with the Jays. He said, “When I came here, they stayed patient with me. I said hey, I want to work on this thing till I’m comfortable. All right. OK, I’m comfortable, let’s move on to this next thing. Pitching, you can’t just try to fix everything at once. For me, I had to take baby steps to get my groove back. The Jays allowed me to do that. Yeah, the team was out of contention, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still my career. I still have to prove myself. Them being so patient with me, understanding what I want to do, was very, very big.”
Giles, 28, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining. He has shown promise despite his overall mediocre numbers. In non-save situations this season (with both the Astros and Jays), he has a 9.12 ERA. But in save situations, his ERA is a pristine 0.38. Giles could be a closer the Jays find themselves leaning on as they attempt to get back into competitive shape. Since it sounds like Giles is quite enamored with Toronto and with the Blue Jays, a discussion about a contract extension certainly could be had.