I’ve faced discrimination hundreds of times throughout my baseball career. I’ve had coaches refer to me by “breasts” instead of my name; I’ve seen boys cry not because I struck them out, but because they were so embarrassed that a girl did that to them; I’ve heard countless names, hurtful phrases and have even been told to my face that it’s about time I learn my place in the kitchen than rather try to make a difference for a desperate cause that everyone knows isn’t going happen. The thing is, even through all these so called bumps in the road, I’ve seen and have had the pleasure to be part of something magical. To be a part of what I believe will be evident in if not my generation, but the next. It’s something I believe should happen, and I know there are thousands out there fighting for that same goal; that girls and boys can have an equal opportunity in baseball.
I was seven years old when my mom first signed my up for what’s known as the “girl” version of baseball, or at least that’s what they justify softball as for little girls like me, who had brothers who played baseball and would prefer to try it out for themselves. One practice and I was over it. The girls couldn’t throw a ball, and it was more like an organized social gathering rather than a serious sport. Being the seven year old I was who thought I was bigger than life and needed something better, I told my mom I needed to play with the boys. My mom told me that in our township boys played baseball, girls played softball and that’s how it was. I wouldn’t hear it. I walked right up to our town’s commissioner and pleaded my strong case for me to play baseball. He told me, “If you could beat out half the boys who came to tryouts, then you could play.” I beat out all the boys. He didn’t tell me that it wouldn’t be a problem; just like every boy who has ever wanted to play baseball. No, he made a deal based off my looks instead of giving me the equal opportunity that all of the other boys get. I believe girls should get that fair chance. They should be able to step on the field and not have to be a super star in order to play when there are boys standing next to them who can’t even throw the ball. It’s not a just opportunity like it needs to be.
That season I pitched fifteen of our seventeen games. We won those fifteen and lost those two. I watched boys complain about the fact that they had to face “the girl.” That it would be too easy for them. That all changed when they came up to bat, struck out, and then soaked in their tears on the bench. If I was a boy, that never would have happened; not in a million years. If I was a boy, they would have tipped their hat off to me for the fact that I was better than them that day. No, I am a girl who struck them out, and they couldn’t handle that. I believe players should all be looked at as the same. Respected for their abilities, not looked down upon or differently because of their gender. I’m not throwing the ball any different. I’m not doing something completely and utterly insane just because of the fact that I’m not a boy. It’s the same mechanics for both genders, so I believe it should be seen as just another player when a girl shows up to play.
There are other women out there that believe in my same dream. Justine Siegal, the founder of the organization Baseball for All, has been giving equal opportunities to girls like me for years. I was fortunate enough to travel with Justine to Cooperstown New York for the international tournament that is held there. My team was the first all-girls team in history to defeat an all-boys team. The sparks continue to set records every year following that historic win, and will continue in the future. There is something beautiful about that park. No one had the guts to discriminate against us because they realized we were ball players and that we could beat them. If they were to lose to us, they didn’t want it to look like anything but a loss, not anything different just because we were a team of girls. We were well respected; we had earned it. Respect comes naturally to boys in baseball, so I believe it should be the same for women in the sport. Not only had Justine been fighting for fairness, but so has Patrick McCauley, the founder of Team Canada (an international women’s baseball team in Canada,) and not to mention the thousands of other girls out there struggling for the same goal; fighting against the hurtful words and people constantly wanted them gone. I believe it should have to be that way.
Despite all the hate and reticule against even the idea for women to be able to play baseball, I believe it still needs to happen. Nearly every other sports has equal opportunity for both genders, so why not baseball? Some may argue softball is that gender equalizer, but in fact the two are not even remotely close to the same. Any sports fan can see the difference in just watching in the first five minutes. It shouldn’t be where if someone consists of certain anatomy, they can’t play “America’s past time.” It needs to be where if someone has the skills, they are allowed to play. People tend to forget we paid to watch Women’s baseball during WW11. Now we find ourselves with almost no opportunity for girls in the sport. I believe that has to change.