Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Brockton Rox' Justine Siegal. (Can the MLB be far behind?)

One evening last week, one of the local news stations had a bit on Justine Siegal, who, last Thursday, became the first women to coach for a men's professional baseball team.

She coaches for the Brockton Rox, which is part of the Can-Am League, an unaffiliated (with any big league team), pretty much hope-springs-eternal league, from which few players go on to The Bigs.

But it is a professional league - just one in which the Rox players stay with host families, and the team's motto is the basal-reader level "Fun is Good." That said, the teams do play some pretty good ball.

For a while, there was a Can-Am team in Lynn, just north of Boston, and I saw them play a few times. (There's also a team from my home town, the Worcester Tornadoes, named, quite peculiarly, for the devastating 1953 tornado that cut quite a swath through the city, and killed about 100 people. Then again, New Orleans' Tulane University is still, I believe, called The Green Wave, even post-Katrina.)

While the players are good, solid ball players - certainly good enough to feel that they at least, mixed-sports-metaphorically speaking, have a shot on goal - they're just not the kind that are ever likely to see $20M contracts. (Which is not to say that they're not hoping to get one some day.)

But Justine Siegal is not looking for the big pay day. She's a coach, not a player, and her goal is to coach baseball at the collegiate level.

Given that she's getting a PhD in Sports Psychology from Springfield College, I think it's a shame that she doesn't have her eye on the major leagues. Who better to deal with all the high paid, prima donna head cases playing ball? Who better to help the young players  - many of them barely out of their teens - deal with the pressure cooker milieu they work in, especially in places like Boston where every at bat or pitch thrown is analyzed to death?

Justine's also the founder of an outfit called Baseball for All, which promotes baseball all around the world, with a particular focus on girls baseball, and promoting women's baseball on the college level.

When I was a kid, I played (not very well) in pick-up baseball games. There was a preponderance of boys on our street - one family had 7 boys, another had 5 boys and 1 girl - and no girls in my grade. So if my girlfriends Susan and Bernadette weren't around, I played with boys.

Mostly, I watched baseball: Red Sox on TV, and boys playing in the Ty Cobb Little League.

There wasn't much by way of organized sports for girls back in the day. There was something called Lassie League - softball for girls - but there was no presence in my neighborhood that I recall. Not to mention that actually playing Lassie League was regarded as an icky, tom-boy thing for a girl to do. So instead of playing, we cheered for the boys playing for National Standard, Abdow Scrap, and Krizik and Corrigan.

I think that all the opportunities for girls to play sports are just great, and I wish this had been the case when I was growing up. When Justine's traveling with the Rox - which won't be that far: south to NJ, north to Quebec - she'll have her 11 year old daughter with her, which should be quite an experience for both of them.

Since I have a particular fondness for baseball, I'm delighted to see Justine Siegal in a coaching position, and wish her well with her Baseball for All undertaking.

Alas, the Rox lost the first game that Justine coached. And the second game. But they did pick up a W in her third outing.

For the record, she does not go into the clubhouse when the players are showering

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