The Oakland A’s have made history, along with Major League Baseball. The A’s announced on Tuesday that Justine Siegal, who a few years ago became the first woman to throw batting practice for a Major League team, will serve as a guest instructor for the club’s Instructional League.
The A’s are the first team to hire a female coach. In 2009, Siegal also became the first woman to be hired as a men’s coach, when she served as first-base coach for the Brockton Rox, an independent baseball team. According to A’s assistant general manager David Forst, Siegal will work with infielders and throw batting practice, among other duties. Forst told MLB he was happy to have Justine aboard.
“We’re thrilled that Justine will be joining us for Instructional League. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and expertise from years of playing, coaching, and teaching the game, and all of our young players stand to benefit greatly from her time in camp.”
In a phone conversation with the San Francisco Chronicle, Justine shared her excitement over the hiring and gratitude to the A’s.
“It’s a dream come true. The A’s are a first-class organization, and it will be an honor to wear their uniform. As a rookie coach, I expect to hit a lot of fungos, throw a lot of batting practice and help out wherever they want me to help. And I do like talking about life skills—I like to help people achieve their life goals.”
The San Antonio Spurs made history by hiring Becky Hammon as an assistant coach. She led the Spurs’ summer league team to a championship in July. The Sacramento Kings followed that act by hiring Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman to serve as an assistant under head coach George Karl this summer. Siegal’s hiring continues an upward trend for women in men’s professional sports.
Siegal’s situation is most similar to that of Jen Welter, who served as a coaching intern with the Arizona Cardinals during training camp. Like Welter, Siegal was not hired for a permanent position but as temporary help.
The NHL is the only remaining professional sports league that hasn’t hired a woman to coach.
The A’s don’t have their minor league coaching assignments set for next season. There’s a chance that the temporary position could turn into a full-time coaching position with the club.
Siegal is the founder of Baseball For All, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing instruction and opportunity in baseball, especially for girls.
Siegal’s abilities are multi-layered and extend beyond the more traditional backgrounds many coaches bring to a team. She holds a Ph.D. in sport and exercise psychology from Springfield College and an M.A. from Kent State University in sport studies. This part of her training makes her a logical choice in a setting like Instructional League, where players split time between working on their skills on the diamond and learning about them in a classroom setting.
Justine Siegal has completed the Major League Scouting Bureau scout school. Siegal has also thrown batting practice for the A’s, Indians, Rays, Cardinals, Astros, and Mets. Oakland GM Billy Beane was the first major-league official to say yes when Justine asked about throwing batting practice, even though the Indians were the first club for which she threw BP.
Women are slowly gaining acceptance as coaches in men’s sports. Even if Siegal is not hired permanently, this is progress worth noting.
“I feel like it would take a little time, but it depends on what she’s saying. If she really knows what she’s talking about, and guys see that, then I think it can be an easy transition.”
[Photos by Norm Hall, Jason Kempin / Getty Images]