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Female pitcher honors victim of Tucson shooting

Female pitcher honors victim of Tucson shooting

Female pitcher honors victim of Tucson shooting
PHOENIX -- Donning a green A's cap and jersey, Justine Siegal tossed a round of batting practice to a bevy of Oakland hitters on Wednesday as the team finished its morning workout at Papago Park.

On her left sleeve was a patch honoring Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old who was killed last month along with five others during a shooting rampage in Tucson at an event where U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was also severely wounded.

Christina Taylor, the daughter of Dodgers scout John Green and granddaughter of Phillies icon Dallas Green, wanted to be the first woman to play in the Major Leagues. That goal is near and dear to Siegal, who became the first woman this week ever to throw batting practice to big league hitters. The patch on her sleeve represented Christina Taylor's Tucson Little League.

"There are teams all over the country wearing this patch," Siegal said after the approximately 15-minute session. "She was the only girl on her Little League team. When I was sitting there on the bench, I knew if Christina was here, she'd say, 'Let's have some fun.' She wanted to be the first woman Major League player. I give part of my dream to her family."

Siegal said she actually posted the fact that she was wearing the patch Wednesday on the Green family Facebook page. She told them that Christina Taylor's spirit would be with her. The Greens responded to Siegal by saying they were proud of her.

"That's the best thing that could have happened to me," she said.

It was her second such foray of the week after a historic Monday session against the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz., and this time, she had to tough it out. Siegal said she'd been nursing a groin injury for several weeks, but felt the injury really give way as she took the mound. Though Coco Crisp, Daric Barton and David DeJesus were in the group waiting to take their hacks, she remained undaunted and threw strikes.

"She did fine," said A's manager Bob Geren, who watched her closely from behind the cage. "I thought she was a little nervous at first, but she settled in and did a good job."

It's no wonder. Siegal had nurtured the dream of playing in the Major Leagues since she began pitching when she was 10 years old. A PhD candidate in sports psychology at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., she's been an assistant coach on its baseball team and has been throwing BP to colleges and universities for the past three years.

This past December, she traveled to baseball's Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., to try and line up a few Spring Training batting practice gigs. The Indians and A's both bit. She hopes a few others will follow their lead. Her discussion with Oakland general manager Billy Beane lasted all of about "six seconds" before he said yes. She made her mini tour this week with her 13-year-old daughter, Jasmine, who is not a big baseball fan. No matter. As the great philosopher Joseph Campbell once said, "Follow your bliss." Whatever that may be.

"What I want kids to know is that they should believe in who they are," she said. "The whole point is to be who you want to be and believe you can do anything. Look at me. I just threw BP to the A's. That's amazing. Forty percent of baseball fans are women. So there's a definite connection to this game and that's what throwing BP was all about. Sure, it was a dream come true for me. But it's much more important to see the big picture."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }