Author Archive

Happy Mother’s Day

“She’s a rainbow and she loves the peaceful life.”
- U2

I had no idea what kind of mother I would make. Raised by my dad, I wasn’t exactly sure what a mother did.

I was just 23 when I gave birth to my amazing daughter. I was still a student. Four days after giving birth I was back in class – with Jasmine by my side. Four
months later, we graduated college together.

My life philosophy came to me when I was pregnant. One night as I was laying in bed, I awoke, sat straight up, and had one thought go through my mind, before I fell straight back to sleep. That thought was: “The circle of life is love.”

Just a baby, Jaz, inspired me to start Baseball For All. For me, Jasmine symbolized all of the other daughters in the world that may want to play baseball one day. And I was going to make sure that was possible.

When Jasmine was nine, the two of us moved to Springfield so I could pursue my PhD and coach college baseball. The move was tough on her and one night she broke down in tears. I gave her a hug and told her it was ok for her to be mad at me. She stopped, looked at me, and explained, “How can I be mad at you; You are only following your dreams.”

Two years later, she became the only kid in America with a mother coaching men’s professional baseball. And through the long days and nights, she waited and watched me live my dream. When she left for overnight camp, she slept with my baseball card under her pillow.

I am still not sure what kind of mother I make. But I hope it’s one that shows that dreams are worth pursuing, that the world is beautiful, and that we should always be true to ourselves and others. And may she always remember that I love her no matter what.

While Jasmine may be my biggest fan, I am definitely hers.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Why Kindness

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
-Mother Teresa

Today, I was doing a live radio interview, when I mentioned
that through my own sport experience, I have learned that when others are mean, to be kind back. A listener asked whether this response of kindness was really a masked act of submissiveness – a trait often taught to women.

I was really surprised by this question because I had never
considered my life philosophy of being kind as a gender issue – to me it has
always been a philosophy based on peace, a belief in progress, and a feeling of
love.

During my undergraduate days at St. Olaf College (MN), I
studied nonviolent leadership. I examine the works of Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jackie Robinson, Dr. King, and many other incredible people. And it was during those college days that I learned anger can be combated with love.

But it took me 10 years to see how I would implement this
ideal in my own life.

There was a moment when I was coaching the Brockton Rox (CanAm,
2009) that I neared my breaking point. Of course, I never thought of quitting.
But I wasn’t sure what my next move should be. I sat alone in my car, away from
the stadium, to make sure no one could see me wipe the tears from my eyes. And
I realized that I could not control how others would act towards me but I could
control how I would act towards others.

I decided to do something nice for the Rox players. So I went
off and got them some snacks (young ball players love to eat). And from then on,
I went about my coaching duties by working hard, helping others, and smiling at
those who wished I was gone. I even baked the team brownies after I was
released from coaching away games.

Perhaps there is a difference between being nice and being
kind. Maybe being nice is a learned social response filled with pleasantries;
one that admittedly many women are taught to master. But to me, being kind
comes from the soul and it is fueled by a love for one another. It stems from a
belief that we are connected and that we need one another.

Six months, after my experience with the Rox, I ran into one
of those men who wanted me off the team. And he said to me, “You know I
couldn’t stand that you were on that field but I couldn’t help but like you.”

I think that anger can start a movement for social change but
kindness is best to sustain it. For me, being kind when others have been mean,
has given me a sense of peace. It is that feeling of peace that then gives me
the power to fight. Because when I have peace within, I can then venture to
give peace out. And with peace, I believe comes a better world.

And why not have that better world start on a baseball field.

Throwing the 1st Pitch at Indians Game

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
-Confucius

I have had so many dreams come true over the past few months
that I am beginning to loose the words to describe my gratitude. On April 17th,
another dream was fulfilled when I threw the ceremonial first pitch before an
Indians game.

I wanted to wear an Indians T-shirt when I threw out the first
pitch. So I stopped in at the souvenir shop 30 min. before my meeting with the
Indians. Well, I should have known better because I am not a very quick
shopper. When I finally made my decision there was a huge line to pay; there
was no way to I could make my meeting and wait in that line. So I played diva
for the first time in my life.

I went up to the person who looked like he was in charge. I
offered, ” I have never done this before or asked for any special treatment”
and I continued, “But I am throwing out the first pitch today and…” He stopped
me there. And his response was, “You go to Springfield College right? You threw
BP to the Indians? I went to Springfield”. We chatted a bit and the next thing
I knew, I was pushed to the front of the line, and off to my Indians meeting.

And then and now, I am embarrassed to have even asked for that
special treatment.

Yet, feeling good in my new Indians shirt, I found myself
waiting on the field for my turn to throw. Indians pitcher, Vinnie Pestano,
came over and introduced himself. He would be catching my pitch. Then it was my turn to throw. I vaguely heard my name being announced over the loud speaker as I walked up to the mound.

The only thought that went through my head was how beautiful
the mound was. I set up in the stretch position. Gripped my four-seam fastball.
And threw a perfect strike.

When Pestano came over to sign the ball for me, he offered me
his mitt, “Take it” he said. “You can use it more than me. That was right over
the outside corner.”

Another one of my dreams had just come true. And I just smiled
at him because I could no longer find the words to describe what my heart felt.

Happy Jackie Robinson Day!

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing”
- Edmund Burke

Happy Jackie Robinson Day! Obviously Robinson is a huge hero of
mine. His ability to perform under the microscope that he played under is
incredible. To take the hatred that was directed towards him and to turn it
into hits, steals, and defense is beyond remarkable. He carried the hope and
dreams of so many with such grace and perseverance. But I imagine that at
times, he must have felt like the loneliest man in America.

Being the first woman to coach first base in professional
baseball was the most difficult thing I have ever done. The experience cannot
be compared to Robinson’s. But while I went through my own journey, I often
thought of Jackie.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have coached with the
Brockton Rox of the Can Am League (2009). It was amazing, humbling, and fun.
But there were also those lonely moments. Those moments where I had to dig deep into my soul and decide who I’m going to be and how I am going to act.

About 4 weeks into the season, I had been kicked out of the
Rox locker room. The short reason was because I was a girl. So, the result was
that I couldn’t get my post game meal. In a Gandhi-inspired protest, I would
silently sit by the door of the locker room after the games, while the entire team
would walk past me to go get their dinner. I would wait to see if someone would
remember me.

After one game, our 23-year old catcher came out and asked me
if I would like dinner. He then sat outside that locker room door and together
we ate. We chatted about the important stuff and also the not so important
things. It was nice. And I felt that I was not alone.

I’ve always wondered why Robinson’s teammates didn’t stand up for him sooner. Why didn’t they just collectively decide not to sleep in hotels
that wouldn’t take him or to not eat at restaurants that wouldn’t serve him.
After all, while management may say “no” to Jackie Robinson, could they really
say “no” to the Brooklyn Dodgers?

I think that without Branch Rickey, there is no Jackie Robinson. It is the people in power that can give the opportunities. My Branch Rickey is Mike Veeck. He helped me get that job with the Rox. And I will always be thankful for Veeck for believing in me, but even more importantly, for believing what baseball can be.  A game of equality, a game of progress, and a game of hope.

Again, Happy Jackie Robinson Day! To a day where we can remember that when we put ourselves on the line and reach into our souls, we can become more than we ever thought possible. And when we do that, we can often find, that we are not alone.

The Greatness of Being Small

“If you come to fame not understanding who you are, it will define who you are.”
-Oprah Winfrey

I was once asked what it is like being famous. Without hesitation I replied, “It’s a big responsibility.” Now, I would argue whether I am really famous or not, but my role in baseball has put me in the spotlight. And it was the eve before I threw batting practice to the Rays that I came to one of my deepest realizations: It is not about how big we are – the beauty is in seeing how small we are.

Please let me explain. And I apologize in advance if at any point I sound like I am preaching. This blog post may have a hint of self-existential therapy :)

The evening before I threw to the Rays, I was in the hotel lobby, just finishing a Skype interview with a college class, and I came across a news article on Christina-Taylor Green. And at the end of the article, I was surprised to find a quote by me.

I felt such a sense of humility. This was a story about the Green family, about a national tragedy, and about a little girl – and I thought what am I doing in this story?

And at that moment I felt so small. And a peaceful feeling came over me. And that peace came from knowing I was part of something so much bigger than me. And I didn’t feel insignificant: I felt a sense of meaning.

I think there is an idea that the bigger we are, the more famous we are, the more we do – that is when we become significant. But from my own experience, I don’t think that’s true. To me, the significance comes from seeing how small we are and yet knowing how beautiful it is to be a part of the big.

Today I was praised by a top college official for “all my good press.”  I smiled, thanked the person, and shared, “It was very humbling.”  It is humbling to know the Green family and to honor the memory of Christina-Taylor. It is humbling to represent the baseball dreams of so many girls and fans.

And it is humbling – and meaningful – to know that I am just a small part of what I see as our collective greatness and beauty.

Turning Down the Dodgers

“They do everything with such passion and to such detail. You don’t play with that detail without loving it. I don’t care if somebody’s bossing you around, making you do it, you still have to concentrate from your heart.”
-Orel Hershiser

The truth is that the L.A. Dodgers asked me to throw batting practice to their team. Perhaps the surprise is that I turned them down.

In celebration of April Fool’s Day, I am sharing a story that I have yet to tell. It’s the story behind why I never threw BP to the Dodgers.

In early February, I emailed the Dodgers to ask if I could throw BP to them. I was particularly interested and persistent in my communications with the Dodgers because of their connection with the Green family. Christina-Taylor’s father, John, is a scout for the Dodgers. I wanted Christina-Taylor’s memorial baseball patch on a Dodger uniform. And I longed to throw BP to the team that Christina-Taylor had once dreamt of playing for.

The Dodgers called me back and said they were thinking about having me throw; I was told it was a matter of logistics. A week later they called to say it wouldn’t work out. I thanked them for their consideration.

A few days before I left for Arizona, I got an email from the Dodgers asking if I was available to throw to them on Sunday, Feb. 20th. My email response,
“I would love to throw to the Dodgers and I am available on Sunday. But I
can’t. I promised the Indians they would be the first team I threw to. They are
my home team and I want to keep my word with them.”

So, I turned the Dodgers down. Not an easy thing to do but I knew it was the right thing to do.

But I have to admit it would have been so cool to wear Dodger Blue.

Top 5 Best Moments: Grapefruit League

In honor of David Letterman mentioning me during his monologue, I promised a Top-10 list of my own. On March 6th, I posted a Top-5 list based on my throwing batting practice in the Cactus League to the Indians and the Athletics. Here is my Top-5 list for my time in the Grapefruit League when I threw to the Rays, Cardinals, Astros, and Mets. And instead of just listing the moments, I give a brief description of what made it special.

My Top Five Dream Moments

5. Living a week filled with Baseball, Travel, and Motherhood.

I spent 6 days in Florida and drove 881 miles. My trip looked
like this… Tampa – Port Charlotte – Boca Raton (a night with the grandparents)
- Jupiter – Kissimmee – Port St. Lucie – and then to Orlando. I threw to 4
teams in 5 days. We even stopped for an afternoon at Harry Potter World. Every
night we stayed in a different hotel. We went to Steak-n-Shake twice. One night
I asked Jasmine if she thought she would like to be a rock star where they
travel everyday like we were. She replied, “At least they stay in better
hotels.” Author Dan Millman wrote, “There are no ordinary moments.”  And for 6 days, 881 miles, 4 MLB teams, and 144 straight hours of mother-daughter time, I enjoyed having no ordinary moments.

4. Being relaxed and throwing well to the Astros.

The Astros were the 5th team that I threw for. I felt relaxed the whole time. Everyone in the organization was just really nice. And when I threw BP to them it was the first time that I felt almost normal. Meaning, my heart was not beating so fast that it felt like it would come out of my chest. And it just felt good to throw relaxed – like I do at home. I even peeked a few times when they were batting to see if they hit it out – just because it was fun.

3. The conversation between Joe Maddon and Jasmine.

Rays Manager, Joe Maddon, is a really nice guy with a good sense of humor. While I was getting outfitted, Joe was trying to get Jasmine to say that the Rays were her favorite team. But she wouldn’t admit anything. She figured silence with a smile was better than saying no to him. Joe kept trying to give her team gear to playfully bribe her for her loyalty. And Jasmine still wouldn’t say the Rays were her favorite team. So Joe, turned to me, smiled, and said, “Good. She can’t be bought.” In the end, Jaz still walked away with a Rays performance shirt, wrist bands, and a hat. And by the end of that magical morning, she admitted to me, “The Rays are now my second favorite team.”

2. Being in the Mets equipment room and having Christina-Taylor Green’s memorial patch sewed on to my jersey.

I wore Christina-Taylor’s memorial baseball patch each time I threw BP. I had always duck taped the patch on to the left arm of my jersey. But when I asked the equipment manager for some duck tape he offered to sew the patch on instead. And as he sat there with my jersey, the patch, and a sewing machine, he started talking about how he had once worked for Dallas (Christina-Taylor’s grandfather). Throughout my BP journey, players, coaches, managers, and other personnel would tell me stories about how they knew Dallas and Christina-Taylor’s father John. It is obvious how much the Green family means to the MLB community. The patch symbolizes so much to so many people; I was really humbled to be wearing it.

1. Having my grandparents watch me throw to the Cardinals.

 When I threw to the Cardinals, both my grandmother and grandfather were there to see me. My 87-year-old grandpa has been a major influence in my love for baseball. After BP, I went up to him and handed him one of the balls I had just thrown. Smiling, he insisted that I sign the ball. And right next to my signature I
wrote, “Follow Your Dreams.”  He told me he was so proud of me. Then we all went to lunch. Where we talked baseball – as usual.

Throwing to the Mets

”Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.”
- Roberto Clemente

It was my fourth team in five days and I knew that the responsible thing to do was just warm up nice and easy. But there I was throwing with the Mets in left field and I was determined to try to throw as long and as far as they were. And I did. With a step-and-throw, I threw at head level to my partner standing in shallow centerfield. The same distance the players were throwing. When the Mets came in, so did I. And that just felt so cool. Like a dream. Like I was a New York Met.

As I waited to throw the first round of batting practice to the Mets, a player asked, “Are you the one who is throwing BP?” He then initiated a conversation about Title IX. Another guy in uniform, asked why I didn’t just play softball. I replied, “I can’t snap a curve ball in softball.” We discussed my life mission of girls’ baseball for every age group. We talked for so long, that a Mets coach had to call me to remind me it was my time to throw. Relaxed and in my zone, I jogged up to the mound, warmed up a few, and began to throw strikes.

This was my 6th MLB outing and I had gotten the hang of things. I was fairly relaxed. The L screen was the same style that I had trouble with when pitching to the Cardinals – it had thick padding around its rims. But this time, the screen was adjusted so that I could see home plate; it made me smile to think I had a quick learning curve. I didn’t have the same zip on my fastball that I did when I threw to the Rays – my first stop in the Grapefruit League. But I threw consistent strikes. And it was fun. Later during the practice, a Mets coach offered that I threw better BP than him.

When I was done throwing, I spoke to a reporter, dropped my uniform pants off in the equipment room, and walked out to the players’ parking lot like it was no big deal. No hoopla – just a job well done. And that was perfect. Like a dream. Where I’m just a regular ol’ member of the New York Mets.

Throwing to the Astros

“One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once
in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to,
reach down and prove something.”
  -Nolan Ryan

 

Tentative after my average performance with the Cardinals the
day before, I was on the phone with a friend looking for a pep talk. I found a
penny between the stadium seats and uncharacteristically picked it up – I was looking
for a little luck. As I fiddled with the penny, it fell out of my hands. I
asked my friend, “Is it still lucky if I drop it?” My friend assured me, “You
get double the luck.” I picked up the penny, put it in the back pocket of my
Astros uniform and then left to throw batting practice.

 

I always tell reporters that I wanted to be Orel Hershiser
when I was a kid. And that is true. But my second choice would have been Nolan
Ryan. Before I was allowed to throw BP to the Astros, I was first taken to the
office where I was asked to sign a waiver – acknowledging that I just might die
from throwing BP. I happily signed. But before leaving the office, I admired a
photo of Nolan Ryan; it displayed his perfect pitching mechanics. And I thought
how amazing it was that I had an Astros uniform on – just like my former
baseball hero.

 

I warmed up with one of the coaches. He was being teased by
the players in Spanish. I have no idea what they said but my guess was
something about arm strength. There were many times during my BP journey that I
wished I had paid a little more attention in high school Spanish class – this
was one of those times. Later, I enjoyed listening to that coach share his own
stories of throwing BP. I was surprised when he suggested, “Now what we have to
do, is get someone to take you to the All Star Game to throw at the Home Run
Derby.”

 

One of my favorite parts of
throwing BP to MLB teams, is the first time the ball is hit right back at me on
a line drive. The ball smacks into the screen and I can see players and coaches
behind the batting cage wince. But I never flinch. Even when a ball whizzes by
my head I pretend it never happened. And I know for many of the coaches and
players that when they see my reaction (or lack thereof), that it is the moment
when they see me not as a girl who might get hurt but as a coach who is
throwing BP.  And I take pride in
that.

 

After the BP session, my daughter Jasmine kept saying over and
over how nice the Astros were; that whenever players passed in the hall, they
would say hi to her. She was so impressed with their kindness. And so was I. I
think the team’s supportive atmosphere contributed to my good outing. For the
first time, I felt relaxed. And I threw like it.

 

I think back to the lucky
penny I picked up that day and my promise of double of the luck. But I think it
is not luck that I found that day. Instead I found comfort in knowing that I
have friends I can count on, fans who support me, and teams like the Astros,
who believe in the power of a dream. And for me, that’s way better than luck.

 

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.

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