Baseball For All
isn't just the name of Justine Siegal's non-profit organization. Those three words also serve as a succinct summation of her life's mission.
Siegal's goal is to create equal opportunities for girls to participate in our national pastime, creating a culture in which they do not quit out of discouragement or simply accept softball as the only option available. She made the trip to this year's Promotional Seminar in Las Vegas in the hope that Minor League Baseball teams would be willing to further the cause, by staging "Girl's Baseball Day" at ballparks across the country.
"Each team has to decide how it would make sense for their park," said Siegal. "But a classic example would be holding a pre-game [baseball] clinic for girls or batting practice for girls or just learning pitching in the bullpen, if you can't get on the field. Basically, we want girls to be able to experience baseball hands-on. Not just hearing about it and buying a pink jersey, but actually playing the game.
"We pitch it as a way to get involved in the community, to connect girls to the game," she continued. "And every girl is going to bring a parent to the game, so it sells more tickets. It also makes for a great story, something that can attract media attention."
As a nationwide industry with a community-based marketing approach, Siegal believes that the Minor Leagues are uniquely suited to spreading Baseball For All's message.
"Baseball For All is creating opportunities for girls to play against other girls in regional tournaments," she said. "Minor League Baseball could do a lot for us at the grassroots level, given that there are 160 teams. If they do a [Girl's Baseball Day] clinic, then we can use that as a launching point for a girl's team in that area."
150,000 girls play youth baseball, but only 1,000 compete at the high school ranks. Siegel feels that this discrepancy will be narrowed considerably once girls have the opportunity to regularly play against one another.
"It's become culturally acceptable for girls to move to softball once they're 12 years old," she said. "Our goal is for them to be able to keep on progressing with baseball, much the way it is with girl's ice hockey or basketball."
Siegal, for her part, never took the culturally acceptable route.
"I was 13 when my baseball coach looked at me and said 'I don't want you on the team because you're a girl -- you're only here because they're making me,'" she recalled. "But I really love baseball, so I stuck with it."
Indeed, she stuck with it to a nearly unprecedented degree. Siegal went on to a three-year stint as the only assistant female college coach in the country (at Springfield College in Massachusetts) and parlayed that into a first-base coaching job with the Brockton Rox of the independent Can-Am League.
But Siegal now says that her goal is "investing in the future and focusing on what could be possible for girls across the country."
"Girls Baseball Day" at Minor League parks around the country could play a key role in greatly increasing these responsibilities.
"So far the reception for [Girls Baseball Day] has been really good," she said. "In the end, it's all about how we can work together to grow our sport."
Pay it forward: In a presentation entitled "Every Monday Matters With the Modesto Nuts," general manager Mike Gorrasi shared how his team was able to increase attendance on what is traditionally the lowest-attended night of the week. Utilizing the principles espoused in the book "Every Monday Matters," the club tied each Monday home game into a philanthropic exercise such as donating school supplies and writing letters to military personnel overseas.
War games: Lehigh Valley IronPigs director of creative services Matt Zidick spoke about his club's "Battlefield Challenge," a game-within-a-game staged at Lehigh Valley's Coca-Cola Park throughout a late-season homestand. The playing field was divided into six battle zones, with the IronPigs and their opponent fighting for control. Fans received discounted concessions whenever the home team gained control of all six zones.
Oversized check of the day: For the second year in a row, the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar was preceded by a Habitat for Humanity volunteer project. This donation of man hours was augmented on Thursday, as Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner presented Las Vegas' Habitat for Humanity with a $5,000 donation.