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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — If you follow baseball news closely, you probably read this week about the woman who made history by pitching batting practice to an MLB team, the Cleveland Indians (see video).

Ohio native Justine Siegal isn’t just a fan of the Tribe, though. She’s a Member of the Tribe, too.

In an e-mail to Jewish Baseball News, Siegal revealed that her daughter attends a Jewish day school and, like her mom, had her Bat Mitzvah in Israel, using a Torah that “was passed through 4 generations.”

“I would spiritually have to lean towards being a secular humanistic Jew,” Siegal wrote. “But I do tell people I am Jewish.”

Her Jewish roots run deep. In 2002, Cleveland College of Jewish Studies was renamed Siegal College of Judaic Studies in honor of her grandparents, who were key benefactors.

Siegal’s baseball resume — she actually has one devoted to the sport — is lengthy. It includes playing on her high-school’s boys baseball team, coaching men’s college and minor-league teams, founding a nonprofit group devoted to training female baseball players, and pursuing a Ph.D in sports psychology at Springfield (Mass.) College.

Media coverage of Siegal’s batting-practice stint has bordered on condescending. The reason women hadn’t pitched batting practice before is not because they weren’t capable of it. Indeed, anyone who has watched an MLB team take batting practice knows the balls are practically lobbed in, and that hundreds of female athletes could pitch it perfectly well.

No, the reason women don’t pitch MLB batting practice is because it’s normally pitched by full-time coaches, many of whom played MLB ball, and 100% of whom are male.

To graduate from publicity stunts to real change, the Indians and other teams will need to take the next step and hire full-time female coaches.

In the meantime, we should congratulate Siegal not only for breaking the B.P. barrier, but for exposing one of the MLB’s ongoing flaws.

— Scott Barancik

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