Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Women are knocking on baseball's door

by Pat Borzi, ESPN

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Justine Siegal was a pioneer long before she pitched batting practice to six major league teams in spring training this year. Two years ago she became the first woman to coach first base for a men's professional team, the Brockton (Mass.) Rox in the independent Canadian American Association. And she spent three seasons as an assistant baseball coach at Springfield (Mass.) College until resigning last year to pursue a doctorate.

Siegal's nonprofit organization, Baseball for All, sponsors a team of 12-and-under girls called the Sparks that draws players from all over the country. Last summer the Sparks, with knuckleball sensation Chelsea Baker of Plant City, Fla., finished 39th out of 104 teams in an international tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y. -- as the only all-girls team in the event. And that was with only one practice.

Every girl on that team, Siegal said, shares the dream of playing major league baseball. Women already have played collegiately and in the minors. Left-hander Ila Borders did both, pitching in independent ball from 1997 to 2000. And USA Baseball has sponsored a women's national team since 2004. Siegal believes the day is coming when a woman will break into the majors.

"There's no reason why a woman can't be a knuckleball pitcher in major league baseball," she said. "I think we'll see it in the next 15 years."

It's happened in American pro ball already. Last summer Japanese knuckleballer Eri Yoshida joined the Chico Outlaws in the independent Golden League, albeit with little success (she was 0-4 with a 12.28 ERA). Dan Duquette, the former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, is convinced a woman will do it, though he declined to predict when.

Read the full story at www.w.espn.com