Economy

Woman Pitches Batting Practice To Cleveland Indians

Justine Siegal throws batting practice to Cleveland Indians players during spring training Monday in Goodyear, Ariz. Siegal became the first woman to pitch batting practice at a Major League camp.

Justine Siegal throws batting practice to Cleveland Indians players during spring training Monday in Goodyear, Ariz. Siegal became the first woman to pitch batting practice at a Major League camp. Mark Duncan/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Duncan/AP

When she was a kid, Justine Siegal dreamed of playing baseball for her hometown Cleveland Indians. The idea stuck with her for about 10 years. "It wasn't until I was 15 when I knew it wasn't going to happen," she told The New York Times.

But Siegal got to live out part of that dream Monday, when she threw batting practice to the Indians at their training camp in Arizona. And her daughter, Jasmine, was there to see it all happen.

Siegal suffered from some initial jitters, but players and staff said she did well.

"I'm a bit of an old lady now,'' Siegal, 36, told the AP. "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.''

Of course, Siegal isn't the only woman to throw to male pros in America. Just last year, Eri Yoshida of Japan, 18, was signed to a contract with the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden League, based on the promise of her knuckleball, which she throws sidearmed.

And in the late '90s, Ila Borders broke barriers of her own in the independent Northern League. Playing against the men, Borders reportedly threw 35 innings in 15 games in the 1999 season, recording a 1.67 ERA for her team that year, the Madison Black Wolf.

But the grandmama of all female pitchers has to be Jackie Mitchell, who struck out not only Babe Ruth but also Lou Gherig when the Yankees stopped in Tennessee during their drive back home from spring training. Mitchell used a devastating sinking curve to shoot down the Bronx Bombers in 1931, when she was just 17.

According to a Library of Congress researcher, that episode led Major League Baseball's commissioner to ban women from playing the game.

After Monday's session, Siegal said that she hopes her stint throwing batting practice helps to encourage girls to get involved in baseball. She'll throw to the pros again this week, pitching batting practice to the Oakland A's Wednesday.

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