Dream Comes True For Female Pitcher

Host Robert Siegel talks to Justine Siegal, practice pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. She's one of only a few women to participate in Major League Baseball.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This time of year, when big league baseball players have reported to training camps in Florida or Arizona, there's often a story that goes like this: Thirty-six-year-old pitcher never played in the big leagues, gets a break in spring training, makes big impression. Will this season be a dream come true?

Well, here's the twist this spring. There is a 36-year-old pitcher who over the years has competed not just in the U.S. but also in Venezuela, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, and whose big break came Monday, throwing batting practice for the Cleveland Indians. And it is historic because the pitcher is Justine Siegal, no relation. Justine Siegal joins us now from Phoenix. Hi, welcome to the program.

Ms. JUSTINE SIEGAL (Practice Pitcher, Cleveland Indians): Hi, how are you?

SIEGEL: And do we have it right? Do we think you are the first woman to ever pitch batting practice in spring training?

Ms. SIEGAL: Yeah. I think that's what we know of.

SIEGEL: And you pitched against Cleveland this week, but also against Oakland today.

Ms. SIEGAL: Yeah, I just got off the field throwing to the A's and that was a fantastic experience as well.

SIEGEL: Yeah. How did it go?

Ms. SIEGAL: It went well. I was less nervous than the Indians, so that was good. But I throw a four-seam fastball and I want the ball to come in true and firm and over the plate. And let these guys work on their swing.

SIEGEL: Apart from the fact that everybody would want to be in spring training right now, at least everyone I know, what's in it for you? Why do you want to pitch batting practice this spring?

Ms. SIEGAL: Well, first, pitching batting practice is a dream come true for me. I mean, I had the idea when I was 17 years old and I was watching the Indians hit BP and I was thinking, I want to be a BP pitcher. The other part is just to create a dialogue about girls and women in baseball. Forty percent of Major League Baseball fans are women. And 100,000 girls are playing youth baseball across the country. So, there's no reason why there can't be a female BP coach.

SIEGEL: You are pursuing your PhD in sports psychology at Springfield College. You've been an assistant coach there for the men's baseball team. You've obviously spent a lot of time with male baseball players. How do the men down in Arizona, how are they treating you when you walk out to the mound?

Ms. SIEGAL: Well, the players from the Indians and the A's have been nothing but respectful. The Indians and the A's, they believe in this dream that I have and they've supported it all the way through.

SIEGEL: That's great. Over the past couple of days, have you thrown batting practice to some major leaguers whose names we would all recognize?

Ms. SIEGAL: Well, I just got done throwing to Coco Crisp.

SIEGEL: Coco Crisp now with the A's, but he played for the Boston Red Sox not too long ago.

Ms. SIEGAL: Yes. He was fun to throw to 'cause he was giving a little smack, a little - having a little dialogue with me as he was hitting. He was having a good time and it made me smile and have a good time as well.

SIEGEL: Here's the big question, how realistic is it to think that sometime in our lifetimes there might be a woman throwing not just BP in spring training, but pitching for a major league ball club? What do you think?

Ms. SIEGAL: I think it's really realistic to see a woman pitching in the Major League Baseball if she's a knuckleball pitcher, particularly a left-handed knuckleball pitcher just to throw one more loop in there.

SIEGEL: That woman could throw in the major leagues, you think?

Ms. SIEGAL: Yeah. I would put my money on that.

SIEGEL: Justine Siegal, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. SIEGAL: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Justine Siegal, batting practice pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland Athletics, speaking to us from spring training in Phoenix, Arizona.

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