Justine Siegal just became the first woman to pitch in the major leagues. Yesterday, Siegal threw batting practice for the Cleveland Indians -- and in doing so, honored a little girl who also loved baseball. Siegal wore a patch in memory of Christina Taylor Green on her sleeve.
If you remember, Christina was the 9-year-old who captured America's heart earlier this year when she was gunned down at a grocery store meet-and-greet with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. Most people know by now that Christina was a Student Council member who was at the store to talk to Giffords about a possible future in politics. But there was another dream in Christina's heart.
To play baseball.
Christina -- the daughter of John Green, a Major League Baseball scout, and granddaughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green -- was the only girl on her little league team. And according to her grandfather, she was headed places:
Christina was the star on her team, if you talk to her about it. She said she was going to be the first major league gal. That's nine years old. She was pretty good. I did see her swing the bat a couple times. John said that she's not a bad little player for nine years old.
Justine Siegal loves baseball too. And while yesterday, she beat all the little girls who dreamed of being first to the punch, she made sure we remembered Christina. Siegal pitched so well to the Indians yesterday that Manager Manny Acta admitted she'd made him look bad. (Siegal also boasts a record of being the first woman to coach first base in men's pro baseball for the Brockton Rox in 2009, and she spent three years as the only female college baseball coach in the country, as an assistant coach at Springfield College from 2007-10.)
Yup, she's got every right to scream her accomplishments from the rooftops, but Siegal remains humbled by the story of Green. Founder of Baseball for All, a non-profit that aims to destroy the notion that "baseball is for boys, and softball is for girls," she fielded a host of queries after the Arizona tragedy about how to appropriately memorialize the little girl's love of the game. That could have been enough to guarantee she'd carry the little girl with her to spring training.
But there's something more. The something that made us all sit up and pay attention when we heard a little girl had been shot. Siegal is a mom. And on her blog about her journey into the majors, she compared the 9-year-old to her own daughter, 13-year-old Jasmine:
How can I describe the sickness I feel in my stomach every time I think of her smile, her dreams, her youth? Should I share that my favorite part of my day is when I kiss my daughter goodnight because I know she is home safe?
Justine Siegal just gave the greatest reason of all to take what she's done and make it about someone other than herself. Because kids deserve the chance to grow up and live their dreams ... and this one couldn't.
She's my new hero; how about you?
Image via Getty Images/Norm Hall/Stringer