Throwing to the Cardinals
“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
-Wizard of Oz
When I walked onto right field in the middle of the team stretch, the players turned their heads and stared at me. On the baseball field, I am pretty use to being stared at – but not by a whole MLB team. I stood alone, awkwardly watching them stretch, until Bench Coach Joe Pettini came over and saved me. “Want to play catch”, he asked? Settling into the routine of practice, I no longer felt out of place and was excited to be throwing batting practice to the St. Louis Cardinals.
For the first time, I helped with a team’s infield work. I caught for Albert Pujols while he took fungos at 1B. I liked being of use and helping the team. And the fact that I was catching a 3-time National League MVP made my job just that much cooler! Later, I watched Pujols talk to a young fan who was in a wheelchair; Pujols brought the fan closer to home plate so that he could see the action better and meet some of the other Cardinals. During his BP, Pujols was smiling and uttering Spanish phrases between every pitch. On his last swing he predicted in English, “Upper deck.” And the ball seemed to understand
its own mission because it sailed deep over the centerfield wall.
I threw BP to Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot, and David Freese. I threw ok. It was not great. It was not bad. My challenge was that I couldn’t see home plate. The green padding on the L screen was so thick that I could not see around it. I had to throw on muscle memory alone. Meaning, I relied on experience
to know where I had to release the ball – based on my arm slot, hand position, and stride. But I actually never saw home plate. And I didn’t have the time to figure out how I might both throw and see home plate, so I just did the best I could. I think sometimes that’s all we can do – adjust and do our best.
The Cardinals special-ordered my team jersey. “Siegal” was on
the back – right over my number 15. It was awesome! I thought of that name on the back of my jersey as I prepared to throw batting practice. My grandparents were there to watch me throw BP. It was my grandfather who helped ingrain the love of baseball within me; We went to so many Indians’ games together. After I threw BP, I gave him a ball, and he proudly asked me to sign it. And with my autograph, I wrote, “Follow your dreams.”
Bench Coach Pettini was shocked I was paying all of my expenses for my BP journey. It’s been a difficult price to bear but the journey has been worth the trip. And its been a journey filled with humility and honor. After Pettini and I played catch, he admitted, “I don’t think I have ever played catch with a girl before.” And I can’t help but think that with every game of catch, every stare, and with every pitch that is made, we become closer to the realization of baseball as a game for all.