Justine Siegal throws BP for the Oakland Athletics.

To Win, or not to Woman

I delude myself sometimes into thinking that the majority of baseball fans are in favor of equality. I talk the issue up in my head, I watch clips of impressive plays by women, or girls, in baseball and softball alike. In the baseball clips, I think to myself, “Man, one day soon women are going to play right alongside men and no one will think twice at the fact.” In the softball clips, my thoughts are usually something like, “Damn, she’s good, if only she were playing baseball, that would be dope.” I’m surrounded by people who think much the same way I do until the harsh reality of the rest of the world unexpectedly hits me in the face like an Eri Yoshida fastball.

The majority of baseball fans are male, and the vocal majority of that majority have no interest in watching women’s softball, in women playing baseball, or watching women play baseball. There’s no middle ground with those folks because to them baseball is a man’s game and women should have no part of said game. This mentality isn’t just directed towards the women who play baseball, but female umpires, coaches, and broadcasters are also worthy of the derision of this vocal majority. For some reason, they have gotten it into their tiny little brains that women are lesser than men. I know that’s not the case and chances are if you’re reading this you know that’s not the case. Sadly, the vocal majority drives decisions much more than facts.

That brings us to this announcement,

For the unaware Justine Siegal has a Ph.D. in sports and exercise psychology and has been around baseball in one way or another for her entire life. She is the founder of the nonprofit organization Baseball for All. Through that organization, she has been able to bring the game of baseball to thousands, if not more, of young girls and women. Her efforts aren’t just geared towards women playing baseball, but women being accepted into the baseball world right alongside men. All of this equals up to someone who is eminently qualified to be a baseball coach.

For Siegal, those opportunities have been few and far between. She’s had brief stints with Major League Baseball teams and in a few unaffiliated leagues. Her latest chance to coach is with the Fukushima Red Hopes of the Baseball Challenge League, an unaffiliated league out of Japan. Like all of her other coaching opportunities, Siegal will only temporarily be coaching the Red Hopes. Still, Siegal has been very outspoken about her excitement for the opportunity. I understand that, and at the end of the day, I am glad that any professional men’s team is giving Siegal any sort of shot.

It shouldn’t have to be that way though, that’s the real problem here. Siegal has proven herself to be a competent and qualified coach. She has shown herself to be far more qualified and competent than many of the men currently coaching baseball teams the world over. Leagues and teams need to stop bringing Siegal in for guest stints as a coach and start making her legitimate offers to be a full-time coach. In baseball, winning is what is supposed to matter to professional men’s teams. If that is the case then the gender of the coach shouldn’t matter, as long as they are helping the team to win.

I don’t know if Siegal will ever get a shot to be a long term coach with a professional men’s team. She may end up being a trailblazer who brings the issue to the forefront of peoples minds and allows for other women down the road to get a fair shot. If that is the role that Siegal plays then her legacy shall be a great one. I can’t help but wish that men’s teams would see what is right in front of them and allow her to be a full-time coach. What’s the worst that could happen? She’d show that she’s qualified and help to put a winning product on the field? Siegals’ legacy can be so much more than it already is, all she needs is the opportunity.

For now, the need remains for those of us who believe in Siegal or any of the other women trying to blaze a path in men’s baseball to be vocal in our support. The vocal majority who are against women playing, coaching, or being involved in men’s baseball deserve to be drowned out. I look forward to the day when a woman is passed over for a coaching job on a professional men’s team not because she is a woman, but because there was another woman more qualified. That day isn’t here yet and I’m not sure when it will be. In the meantime, Siegal offers hope for a better future for baseball and that is something we all need to rally behind.

Editor’s Note: Per Jim Allen of The Kyodo News the temporary nature of the Fukushima coaching opportunity is per the request of Justine herself to better acclimate to the new environment.

Lead photo courtesy of Dan Honda – The Mercury News

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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