Play Ball!

Boston Slammers Batter.jpg

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about an 11-year old girl who loves to play baseball. In New Hampshire, where she lives, she ended up in the midst of a controversy created by adult coaches, after a coach allegedly threatened to "bean" her as a tactic to get her to quit playing.

Here is that girl at bat in a scrimmage of the Boston Slammers, an all-girl baseball team. After the Slammers' coaches heard about her situation with her New Hampshire league, where she was the only girl in her age group, the Boston Slammers invited her to play on their team. On Sunday afternoon, she did. Her father, Dan, drove her an hour and a half from Southern New Hampshire to Boston to practice with the Slammers, and while expressing his gratitude for their invitation, he told me that until the Slammers called he hadn't known that all girls baseball teams and leagues existed. Instead of being the only girl on a team, his daughter is now surrounded by girls her age who love playing baseball as much as she does.

The girls' bats, backpacks and batting helmet.

The girls' bats, backpacks and batting helmet.

Meanwhile, back in New Hampshire, the Oyster River Youth Association, who oversees sports activities for youth in this three-town region of Southern New Hampshire, completed their own "independent" investigation of the alleged coaches' threat – that they said they would instruct a player to “bean” this player.  Other coaches had brought this information to the attention of the girl's father. After the association president claimed in a newspaper was false, he arranged for the investigation to take place. On May 2, the association released their findings.  The coach found to have made a comment regarding wanting this player to quit – though he denied proposing that any physical harm be done to her – was dismissed.

Still pending is what will happen in the wake of these investigative findings. In Durham, one of the three towns whose youth play sports through this association, the town council voted to withhold funds until the report was issued.

The town council in Durham unanimously adopted a resolution Monday night [April 16] that withholds already approved funding for the Oyster River Youth Association pending the outcome of an investigation into a claim that a baseball coach threatened to have a child ‘bean’ an 11-year-old girl.
— New Hampshire Union Leader

For now the Boston Slammers are this 11-year old's new team.

On first base in her first scrimmage with the Boston Slammers.

On first base in her first scrimmage with the Boston Slammers.

On May 18 the Boston Slammers, fielding two full teams, will travel to New Jersey for the regional Baseball for All tournament named after Maria Pepe, whose 1974 legal action made it possible for girls to play Little League Baseball in New Jersey. In neighboring Delaware, two girls, Kim Green and Alice Weldin heard that girls were playing Little League and they wanted to do the same. When they discovered the ruling didn't apply to them, Kim's mother, Sylvia, threatened legal action and then started a Little League team all their own. The girls' team was called the Angels. Kim's father, Dallas, then the Phillies’ director of minor leagues and scouting and would become the Phillies manager in 1979, was asked about his daughter playing Little League with the boys, "he told them if a girl was good enough to compete with the boys, she should be allowed to do it," according to the Washington Post. 

Girls in Baseball 1974 Kim Green.jpeg
Sylvia plastered notices around the school and the area: She would hold tryouts for an all-girls Little League team, players ages 8 and 9. ‘One hundred-something girls came out,’ she remembered. ‘Then the first one picked up a hard ball and threw to another one who couldn’t catch a hard ball and boom, smack in the head.’

Sylvia suddenly appreciated the benefits of Little League’s insurance coverage but stuck with her vision and whittled the group down to a team of players with talent and experience, anchored by Kim and her friends. In uniforms of powder blue — not pink — the Angels charged through Midway’s Little League competition. They won the first eight games of the 1974 season against all-boys teams.

Kim’s best friend, Alice Weldin, who has since died of cancer, was the Angels’ catcher. From her spot behind the plate, she could hear the disgruntled mumbling of batters and the angry chatter of boys in the opposing dugout, most often the phrase ‘she plays pretty good for a girl.’

’We changed a lot of reactions,’ Kim said. ‘Parents thinking if a little girl can hit like this, she can play. Nobody was purposely mean about it, but I think it was an educational thing.’

The Angels finished second in the league.
— The Washington Post

A baseball player's mom, Karen Zerby Buzzelle, founded the Boston Slammers. When I hung out along the sidelines yesterday afternoon and watched the girls scrimmage, it was mostly moms who were sitting with me. Then, there was one dad from New Hampshire who had brought his 11-year old daughter to this neighboring state so she could play baseball with girls. This strikes me as not so different than what happened in 1974 when girls from the neighboring states of New Jersey and Delaware wanted to play baseball, and inspired by each other, they did.