Dr. Justine Siegal, the only woman to coach men’s professional baseball and the first to throw batting practice to a MLB team, is the founder of “Baseball for All,” an organization that helps provide opportunities for girls to participate in baseball.
SportsCenter producer Jessica Shobar visited Dr. Siegal this week at America’s first national baseball tournament for 10-13-year-old girls and the resulting feature debuts in Sunday’s 10 a.m. ET SportsCenter. An accompanying piece by columnist Sarah Spain will post on espnW.com.
– SportsCenter producer Jessica Shobar about
Dr. Justine Siegal
The idea for the feature came from Mandy Cohen, who travels producing softball and baseball games for ESPN, in response to a story-idea request from SportsCenter coordinating producer Sandy Nunez.
“Justine is a friend and with baseball being a large part of my career for so many years, I just thought what she was doing for girls who wanted to play the sport was amazing,” Cohen said.
For the feature, Shobar and her team interviewed Dr. Siegal as well as eight of the girls who were playing in the tournament in Kissimmee, Fla.
“The piece is mainly about her mission to get girls baseball into the mainstream of the U.S.,” said Shobar, who produces SportsCenter in ESPN’s Los Angeles location and occasionally ventures out for features.
“And it’s about the girls who play, how they feel that they are just as good as the boys and they can compete with the boys, and feel they should be allowed to play,” she said. “And how they feel they should have the option to choose softball or baseball, and not be forced to play just softball.”
Of course, girls playing baseball isn’t a new thing. The piece also includes Maybelle Blair and Shirley Burkovich, former players in the 1940s-era All American Girls Professional Baseball League that was the subject of the movie “A League of Their Own.” Both are ambassadors for “Baseball for All.”
“She’s [Siegal] just a special person that she could take her whole life and fight for something that she really believed in,” Cohen said. “I just think that this tournament was such a crowning moment in the continuation of everything she’s always had as a vision for girls.”