Will a female ever play Major League baseball?
"Girls have made a lot of progress in sports during the last 10 years," Dan Duquette told MaxPreps. "Girls baseball has come a long way and is doing well in Canada."
Duquette, who served as general manager for the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox, was involved in the first International Girls Baseball Academy for 12-year-olds this summer in Hinsdale, Mass. Promoter Justine Siegal, who hopes to put girls baseball on the national map, rented the Dan Duquette Sports Academy facility and was pleased with his assistance.
"We had the 40 best girls from the U.S. and Canada," Duquette said of the academy. "I'm committed to that and think it will grow. We're also going to run weekend tournaments for travel teams (ages 10-18)."
Duquette believes the possibility exists that a woman could be playing Major League baseball in 10 or 12 years.
Asked if female pros would be in a similar situation to Jackie Robinson when he broke the color barrier, Duquette replied, "I don't think so. Society has advanced significantly since then. Whoever did it would be a pioneer. She would have to have a really unique skill – like outstanding speed or great hand-eye coordination. (If she was a left-handed pitcher) she wouldn't have to throw as hard. She could get by on pin-point control, the ability to change speeds and spot her fastball."
Duquette believes that a pitcher with an outstanding knuckleball would have a huge advantage.
Siegal, who grew up wanting to play for the Cleveland Indians, believes that a female will play in the majors within 15 years. Her ideal choice would be a left-handed pitcher who throws a quality knuckleball. She acknowledges that Major League baseball actually has an ancient rule against allowing women to play, but she believes it never would be upheld in today's courts.
There's no rule, however, against a female general manager and Kim Ng, currently assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, could break that barrier some day. She already has been interviewed by several teams for their top position.
"I'm not usually star-struck by anybody," Siegal emphasized. "I met her at the winter meetings. She's only 5-foot-4, but I thought I saw a rock star."
When Siegal was 13 years old her baseball coach told her he didn't want her on the boys team and she has been fighting the establishment ever since.
"I got real stubborn and dug in my heels," she said of the day she was rejected. "I sat on the bench a lot for that. The coach told me I would never be able to throw a curve because my hands were too small. That became my lights-out pitch."
She said at times people spit on her, swore at her and even said derogatory things about body parts. At Hawken High School (Gates Mills, Ohio), she again was rejected by the baseball coach, so she transferred to Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) where the 5-foot-7 pitcher/third baseman actually was welcomed on the boys team.
Ironically, while attending the Bucky Dent Baseball Camp, she pitched against Hawken High and retired the No. 3-4-5 hitters with no problem. Her senior year she went back to Hawken and was able to play under a new coach.
"The worst thing," she recalled, "was being in the (batter's) box in high school and you're waiting for the pitcher to throw at
you. You had to be ready to back out. Even worse would not be given the opportunity to try out."
Since then she has played fall baseball at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and a lot of summer baseball in men's leagues. She was invited to try out for the Silver Bullets professional barnstorming team, but an arm injury ended her chances. She still plays pick-up games at age 35.
Siegal has coached girls baseball teams in places such as India, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong and played in Venezuela. She became the first woman ever to coach for a men's professional baseball team with a partial year at first base for the independent Brockton (Mass.) Rox. She was released midway through the year for what was termed "financial reasons."
"I think they expected me to quit," she said. "That was the furthest thing from my mind. It was definitely the most challenging, but I'd do it again tomorrow. I'm forever grateful to the Rox for enabling me to make social history."
She currently is in her final year of earning a doctorate in sports psychology at Springfield (Mass.) College, where she has assisted with the men's baseball program for the past three years.
"When I was 16, I decided I wanted to be a college baseball coach," Siegal related. "My baseball coach laughed at me, because he said a man never would listen to a woman. At least I can out-educate everyone. There never has been a (female) head college baseball coach. I'm one of two assistants. Julie Croteau was the other one at the University of Massachusetts."
There are 150,000 girls who play youth baseball, according to Siegal, but just 859 played high school baseball last year, according to John Gillis of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Many are forced to switch to softball at the high school level and a lot of others just give up the sport.
Siegal has started a program called Baseball For All to provide meaningful opportunities and instruction, especially for girls. She puts together national all-star girls teams to play against top-flight boys teams and continues to scour the country for top prospects. Three of her players have made the women's national baseball team at age 15.
Ironically, Siegal has a 12-year-old daughter, Jasmine, who has no interest in playing baseball.
"She's preparing to run the organization," Siegal laughed. "She loves the business side of baseball. I tell all the players they better be nice to her 'because you're going to be working for her some day.'"
Here are a few of the top prospects tutored by Siegal:* CHELSEA BAKER
, an eighth grader at Turkey Creek Middle School (Plant City, Fla.). She turned 13 in May.
Duquette says, "Chelsea Baker has unique skill and a unique pitch in the knuckleball, which could advance her career. She has a nice delivery and good demeanor on the mound. She has the most unique skills at this point."
Siegal adds, "She is effective not only because she has a fastball (65 mph) and knuckleball, but her location is devastating. She has the best control of any player I've ever had."
Her statistics are impeccable. In four years of pitching for Brandon Farms against all-boys teams, she compiled a perfect 37-0 record. She just completed a 12-0 season with the second perfect game of her career (16 strikeouts in six innings) while striking out 127 in 60 innings. Her team was the city champion three times.
Her uniform from the latest perfect game has been donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame to place in its "Diamond Dreams" exhibit honoring women in baseball.
The right-hander, who also plays third base and shortstop, batted a lofty .604 with five home runs out of the No. 3 slot in the lineup. She was taught how to throw a knuckleball at age 8 by her coach at the time, former Major Leaguer Joe Niekro.
On Monday Chelsea will meet 18-year-old Japanese pitcher Eri Yoshida, known as the "Knuckle Princess" in the Golden Baseball League, who pitched this year for the independent Chico (Calif.) Outlaws baseball team. Yoshida previously had pitched for a minor league team in Japan. She also is right-handed and throws a knuckler – but she pitches sidearm. * ALYSSA FREEMAN
, a seventh grader at Lowell Scott Middle School in Meridian (Idaho). She also plays quarterback on a boys football team.
The West Boise Dodgers star struck out all 18 batters she faced in a six-inning game. She was unbeaten on the mound this year and hit better than .800 with 18 home runs. Her fastball has been clocked as high as 72 mph on a radar gun.
* KAITLIN BURT
, an eighth grader at Pickering Middle School (Lynn, Mass.). She also is a terrific ice hockey goalie and has played on the Lynn English High School girls varsity team since age 11. Siegal calls Burt, who is a pitcher/infielder, one of her best hitters with tremendous power, evidenced by one home run which soared more than 300 feet. On her boys team she hit cleanup and was voted captain. * NYLAH RAMIREZ
, an eighth grader at New Voices Middle School in Brooklyn (N.Y.). She is a catcher with a rifle arm and a powerful swing that produced 20 home runs – most of them line drives – this year. * JILLIAN SILVANIC
, a ninth grader at Owego Free Academy (Owego, N.Y.). She just turned 14 in late August. Silvanic, who is projected to reach 6-2, is an outstanding pitcher/infielder, but she also won her local Punt, Pass and Kick football competition. * CASEY McCRACKIN
, an eighth grader at Ransom Middle School (Pensacola, Fla.). She also is a standout in track, specializing in the 400-meter dash. In baseball she is the proverbial highly sought five-tool player.
This girl can fly, as she hasn't been thrown out on a stolen base attempt since she was 9 years old. When her all-star team played eight games at Cooperstown (N.Y.), she stole 15 bases. Not surprisingly, her father has nicknamed her "Automatic."
A pitcher/shortstop, she hit .650 this year with 10 home runs. She is a devastating leadoff batter and a particularly tough two-strike hitter.* SIEGAL’S PROMISE:
"In 10 years you are going to see girls baseball everywhere. I'm dedicating my life to this vision."