A Woman As Manager? Indy Ball Will Lead The Way

Justine Siegal worked as a coach at Athletics instructional league camp last year
Justine Siegal worked as a coach at Athletics instructional league camp last year

Write it down: The first female manager in pro baseball is coming. And it will happen in the independent leagues.

JJ-Cooper

It simply makes too much sense.

Women have made significant strides in baseball in recent years. USA Baseball has a women's national team. Amanda Hopkins is working as a full-time scout for the Mariners. Mo'Ne Davis starred in the Little League World Series in recent years. Justine Siegal was the first female coach in affiliated baseball when she worked at the Athletics' instructional league camp last fall.

The idea of women in baseball will take another step forward this fall when Fox rolls out "Pitch," a drama about the first woman to play for a big league team. The show has a promotional tie-in with Major League Baseball, which has granted full use of MLB trademarks for the show.

And now softball star Jennie Finch and Siegal are both serving as guest managers in the independent leagues this season.

Finch became the first female manager of a professional team when she served as guest manager of the Atlantic League's Bridgeport Bluefish for a late-May game against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.

Finch signed autographs, set the lineup, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and led the Bluefish to a win.

Siegal will follow in Finch's footsteps when she leads the Pacific Association's San Rafael Pacifics for two days as their guest manager in June.

Siegal is the logical candidate to become the first full-time female manager in pro baseball. Now it's just a matter of getting the offer.

Siegal already has served as a coach on the Division III Springfield (Mass.) team. She was the first-base coach with the independent Brockton Rox in 2009, becoming the first female coach on a men's pro baseball team. She's also thrown batting practice to multiple big league teams. She has attended MLB's scout school.

Might it be a promotional stunt? Sure. Will that detract from the opportunity for a woman who wants to coach baseball? Not at all.

More Than A Stunt

Compared to what happens on a regular basis in indy ball, the idea of a female manager seems positively normal.

An indy team has had its lineup set by internet voters (Schaumburg Flyers). An indy team has let the David Letterman Show's Biff Henderson get an at-bat (Brockton Rox). One year there was an attempt to let a game be decided by playing the final three innings on an Xbox (Kansas City T-Bones), though the plan was nixed by the league office.

Earning a roster spot simply because you can sell tickets? Eri Yoshida pitched for three seasons in indy ball despite a 7.62 ERA and a 57-to-17 walk-to-strikeout ratio. The "Knuckle Princess" kept getting chances because the crowds that came to see her kept the other players employed.

But that doesn't look all that out of place in indy ball. Yoshida's case isn't much different than that of Jose Canseco, who still pops up from time to time in independent leagues based entirely on the basis of his ability to sell tickets.

But hiring a female manager is not simply a promotional stunt to sell tickets. There's no reason a woman wouldn't be able to do a good job managing a team.

If the team doesn't win, then the move will likely still sell tickets, draw attention and add to a team's recognition. If it does work on the field as well as at the box office, then the team that made the move will be remembered as a trailblazer in addition to selling

"I'm a dad of three girls. The more I thought about this, I thought, 'Why the hell not? Someone has to give this a try,' " said Chris Carminucci, the Diamondbacks scout who hired Siegal as a coach when he was managing in Brockton.

Indy ball teams have dipped a toe in the waters with these guest-manager gigs. But before too long, an indy ball team somewhere is going to reap the rewards of taking a much bigger step.

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