Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Man's World

Photo from http://www.ericenders.com/wib.htm

This evening, I was checking one of my favorite baseball sites to see if I could find inspiration for a post. I didn't find it there, exactly, but was led to a bit of wikipedia surfing by my curiosity about the Baseball World Cup. At the bottom of the page, I found a link to the Women's Baseball World Cup.

I am shocked I haven't heard of or found out about this before!

This then led me to something even more exciting: The American Women's Baseball Federation.

Will you look at that? A national baseball league for women.

This is so exciting for me to see. When I was a kid, there was a period when I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player - like many other baseball fans.

Girls who want to play baseball, however, cannot simply play on the girls team - there is no girls team. It's not like soccer or basketball, where you can just sign up and play in a "safe" environment. No, it's more like girls playing football or ice hockey: you have to fight for the right to play.

When I was 12, I went to Baseball Camp at the University of Portland. It was one week, half-day. I was very shy and quiet, and there were about 100 participants.

I was the only girl.

The head coach, and older guy who I remember seeming always grumpy, was not happy to have me there, I think. The other main coach, who is now the head coach of the Portland Pilots, was much kinder, and much more welcoming. In addition to these two, there were several players that took part in the coaching. I only remember one had a shaved head. Most of them were nice.

By the end of the week, I had a position (outfield, which I later realized probably should have been infield), slightly improved batting skills (some is better than none), and a little respect from most of the others. The last day we split into teams for a tournament, and some of the kids on my team suggested we named ourselves the Red Sox. I was the only Sox fan in the group, and the Yankee fan protested, but was ignored.

So I considered it a success.

The following spring I played Little League. Once again, I was the only girl on my team. This time, though, the coach thought it was great that I was playing. The team was split, but it wasn't so bad - half just kinda ignored me, and I had two or three real pals. Unfortunately, my season was cut short by conflicting extracurriculars, a month-long trip to Europe, and injury (just don't ask what). I went 0 for 7 (or 8?) with 7 (or 8?) Ks and one walk. I also reached base once on a passed 3rd strike, and scored one run.

Many people asked why I didn't play softball. The reason, plain and simple, was that I didn't want to! Try telling a 12-year-old whose favorite player is a pitcher to go play softball.

But I wasn't good enough batter. All my childhood, my siblings and I played tennisball in the front yard. This meant baseball, but with tennis equipment, and you didn't stop once you kept going, but often scored 7-run homers. Your fielding skills got good, but hitting a tennis ball with a tennis racket won't make the transition to bats and hardballs easy.

So I gave up the dream of playing a few years into high school. Instead, I wrote history papers on women in baseball, and how Kenesaw Mountain Landis had ruined their chances (also those of African-Americans). I researched great women ballplayers like Toni Stone and Lizzie Murphy. I knew things, for example that Billie Jean King was big on baseball, but since she couldn't play, turned to tennis. (Her brother played in the MLB for 12 years, though.) And how could I forget Jackie Mitchell, who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

So I'm excited that I can now look at the present and the future for amazing women in baseball, and not only to the rather distant past. Because there is a lot more to women and professional baseball than "A League of Their Own".

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Really Nice Post!!
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