Female coach Siegal making mark for Israel

Female coach Siegal making mark for Israel

NEW YORK -- With Israel a win away from earning the last spot at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Justine Siegal could soon be coaching in the world's premier international baseball tournament.

Siegal, who has a Ph.D. in sport and exercise psychology, is working as a mental skills coach for the Israeli team, which beat Brazil, 1-0, on Friday to advance to the championship game of the Brooklyn WBC qualifier. Last year, she became the first woman to ever coach for a Major League team as a guest instructor with the A's in their instructional league.

"I'm here to help the players, and I love coaching, but I understand the significance," Siegal said before Israel's WBC qualifier game Friday. "And when I'm standing on that line with those guys, it shows that women can do it, and girls can look up and dream of being there, too."

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She agreed to join Israel's World Baseball Classic coaching staff last fall. Israel's manager, Jerry Weinstein, knew of her from her time with the A's and invited her to coach with the team. He said Friday that should Israel advance to the global competition's main draw, he would "absolutely" like to keep Siegal with the team.

"She's a great resource from the mental-game side, and she also throws BP and she hits fungoes and takes throws -- she's a ballplayer," Weinstein said. "And I think that just like promoting baseball is a noble thing, what she's doing is as well."

Before she started working with the Israeli national team, Siegal had been the first-base coach this season for the independent Frontier League's Normal CornBelters. It was the latest stop in her professional coaching career, which started in 2009, when Siegal became the first female professional baseball coach with the Broxton Rox. In 2011, she threw batting practice for multiple MLB teams -- also the first woman to do so.

She's been invited to return to the CornBelters, but ultimately, she said Friday, "I am hoping to get into affiliated baseball full-time." Coaching is why she got her Ph.D., and it only makes sense that she'd want to do it for an MLB-affiliated team.

"It's hard to do the impossible," Siegal said, "but I think that I've proven that I can help a team, and I get along with the guys."

She said she's reached out and spoken to some clubs about potential coaching opportunities. Much has changed, she said, since she first started seeking out a job in pro ball.

"I've been doing this a long time. From when I first threw batting practice, and the challenge I had to make that possible -- and now I have clubs returning my emails," Siegal said. "And I think there's a lot of respect for the work I've done, and an openness to diverse possibilities."

Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, the manager of the Brazilian national team opposite Israel on Friday, said there's a place in baseball for anyone who's qualified.

"We're seeing a lot more women involved -- a lot more women in broadcast booths, a lot more women surrounding the game. So a woman that can be on the field and help the players, I'm certainly for it," Larkin said.

"I think everyone has a responsibility to encourage diversity in every facet of life. Baseball's no exception. If someone's qualified and they can help better the game and better society at the same time, it's a win-win for everyone."

For now, Siegal said, she's enjoying her World Baseball Classic time with Israel. And maybe her coaching there might even help lead to more.

"I'm just looking for a team to be my Branch Rickey and give me the opportunity," Siegal said. "It's a tough job for anyone to get into, and I'm doing all I can to get there."

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.