Justine Siegal made history on Wednesday as the Oakland Athletics announced she would join them as a guest instructor for their Instructional League team from Oct. 4 to Oct. 17. Siegal, who holds a PhD in sport psychology from Springfield College, is no stranger to breaking barriers in baseball. She founded the non-profit Baseball For All, whose mission is to provide meaningful instruction and opportunities in baseball, especially for girls. Additionally, Siegal became the first woman to coach professional baseball as the first-base coach for the Brockton Rox, and was also the first woman to throw batting practice for a Major League Baseball team.
Currently, Siegal is the director of sports partnerships at the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University, which uses the power of sport to foster diversity, prevent men's violence against women, eradicate youth violence and empower the sport-based youth development to create access, opportunity and sustainable impact for all people.
espnW caught up with Siegal to talk about her accomplishment and this incredible moment.
W: What will your role be with the A's?
Justine Siegal: I'm going to Instructional League and spending two weeks working with a mixture of 40 or so minor leaguers there to put in extra work. I'm a rookie coach, so I'm there to be of service. I'm happy to do whatever they need -- hitting ground balls, grabbing water, helping with batting practice, and I'll be doing some classroom work. The A's mix in some classroom work with their training so I will use my PhD as well.
W: How did this opportunity come about?
JS: I know [General Manager] Billy Beane and the A's organization from doing batting practice with them. I approached them and it went from there. It was like a normal job interview and it took some time but in the end here I am and I'm really grateful. I'm truly humbled.
W: Has coaching in the MLB always been a goal of yours?
JS: I don't know if you could say that. My goal when I was 16 was to be a college baseball coach. When I said that to my coach, he laughed at me. "No man would ever let a woman in baseball." After that, I decided to get a PhD. I didn't have the same playing opportunities as [boys], so my plan was to outeducate them.
I don't need to have the same qualifications as all of the other coaches. A staff made up of everyone with the same qualifications is a bad staff. A good staff has diversity. My experience coaching college, going to scout school, and mix that in with my PhD, that puts me in a really great place to help players get better.
W: What does this accomplishment mean to you?
JS: It's a dream come true to coach with the A's organization. It's really humbling to know that I could be making a difference to girls and boys looking up to me.
W: You've been breaking barriers throughout your coaching career. Where does this rank for you?
JS: To be able to coach with the A's is indescribable. It's about the big picture, it's always about the big picture. It's about girls and women who want to be a part of this game and can contribute [to it]. I can't rank the experiences. I'm just really humbled to be in this moment.
W: Can you share your thoughts on the significance of this moment for women in baseball?
JS: Someone said, "To be it, you have to see it." And now girls can grow up seeing that this is possible, to be a coach, whether that's local, college and maybe professional. I think the significance is being able to see what you can be. I consider it a huge honor to be a role model to girls in baseball. I love this game.
W: What advice do you have for women and girls in baseball?
JS: On the field or off?
JS: Remember you are not alone, and you have many supporters -- you just have to find them. Don't give up on your dream, and be who you want to be. Baseball is a place for all, and there is a place for everyone.
To learn more about Siegal's inclusion work in baseball, visit http://www.believeinimpossible.com/.
Katie Barnes is a Digital Media Associate at ESPN. Follow her on Twitter, @Katie_Barnes3.