2015 Will Be Remembered As A Historic Year For Women In Baseball – Huffington Post

Even before Siegal joined the A’s, 2015 had seen a number of positive signs for women in America’s pastime.

Siegal, who runs a nonprofit to promote girls’ baseball, brought together 12 teams from across the country in June for the first-ever national girls baseball tournament in Florida. Later that month, Melissa Mayeux, a 16-year-old French shortstop, became the first girl ever added to MLB’s international prospect list, making her eligible to sign with a pro team. 

July’s Pan American Games included women’s baseball for the first time, and one of Team USA’s players, Sarah Hudek, became the latest girl to earn a college baseball scholarship.

In the fall, ESPN made Jess Mendoza, a former college and Olympic softball player, the first woman analyst on a national MLB playoff broadcast. That all followed the summer of Little League pitcher Mo’ne Davis a year before.

“It’s a tipping point for girls and women in baseball,” Siegal said. “I’ve been doing this 17 years, helping girls have a place to play. We see Mo’ne Davis, women in the Pan Am Games, that general recognition that softball and baseball are not the same sport, and that girls should be given the opportunity to change.”

MLB says it has stepped up its efforts. Last year the league launched diversity initiatives that primarily targeted African-American participation but were also aimed at “strengthening the foundation of women in our game,” Wendy Lewis, baseball’s senior vice president for diversity, inclusion and strategic alliances, said in an email before Siegal was hired.

The league has never had a female general manager, a position that comes with direct power over baseball-related decisions. But it has had three female assistant GMs. Kim Ng, currently an MLB senior vice president, was a finalist for the San Diego Padres’ general manager job a year ago and is often considered the likeliest candidate to finally break that ceiling.

MLB also says it has increased the number of women working in its front office, and women have made strides in other roles as well. Rachel Balkovec is the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league strength coach, the first woman to ever hold that position with an MLB club. In 2011, the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Sue Falsone as the first female head athletic trainer in MLB history. The league seeks to include more women in umpire training programs, Lewis said.

“We can and will do better, and that includes building a stronger pipeline at all levels of our organizations,” Lewis said, adding that the league will host a diversity summit in 2016 aimed at connecting women and minorities who want to work in baseball with MLB and its clubs. “We will remain diligent in providing wide-ranging opportunities for women to be a part of our game, both on and off the field.”

While women are still too few and far between in baseball’s highest ranks, Siegal hopes her experience will “open more doors.”

Now that her stint with the A’s is done, Siegal is pursuing her own mission outside the ranks of men’s baseball. Next year, she wants to launch the Dreamcatchers, a women’s pro baseball team that would play at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are currently no other women’s pro teams. Siegal would like eventually to see teams in minor league parks across the country, “showcasing the women’s game” and giving girls who want to play ball “a place to dream,” she said.

She hasn’t given up on the idea of returning to Major or Minor League Baseball, either.

“I’d love to continue in professional baseball,” Siegal said, “if that opportunity comes about.”

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