Baseball: A Sport Girls Love. A Sport Girls Play.

12-year old Michaela Silher was the only girl playing on her Little League team in Port St. Lucie, Florida. "It's hard being a girl and going into baseball because you don't get the respect sometimes that you want," Sihler told the TC Palm, on a day when she was also the only girl on any team in the baseball tournament,

12-year old Michaela Silher was the only girl playing on her Little League team in Port St. Lucie, Florida. "It's hard being a girl and going into baseball because you don't get the respect sometimes that you want," Sihler told the TC Palm, on a day when she was also the only girl on any team in the baseball tournament,

This headline stopped me cold:

Report: New Hampshire Youth Baseball Coaches Planned To Bean Their League's Lone Girl Player Into Quitting

A girl playing baseball is so threatening to a team or league that hitting her in the head with a pitched baseball seems a good idea? Even verbalizing such an idea, even if you don't intend to go through with it is dangerous and extremely worrisome.  

I read of this threat in Deadspin, in a story picked up from Foster's Daily Democrat, a local newspaper near the girl's hometown, Madbury, New Hampshire. An 11-year-old girl's father had contacted the local baseball association officials to say that "two coaches said they would instruct a player to 'bean' his daughter — strike her in the head with a baseball during practice — in order to intimidate her into leaving the baseball program." His allegation was based on what he'd been told by other coaches who attended the meeting where the plan was discussed.

His daughter is the only girl playing in her age-bracket of this baseball league. She was also reportedly the last player drafted when the coaches met to select their teams. She's played T-ball and baseball baseball and T-ball with teams in this region since 2012, mostly without incident. At younger ages, several other girls were with her on baseball teams, but as they reached their pre-teen years, her female peers switched to softball – while she stayed with baseball.

The matter is being investigated, according to the story, but it is unclear what the investigation revealed or what steps, if any, are being taken to remedy the situation.

My reading of this story coincided with an invitation to spend a few hours on a splendid Sunday afternoon at the Boston Slammers practice. The Slammers are three all-girls' baseball teams – 11 years old upper age, 13 years old and 18 years old – organized by Karen Zerby Buzzelle. a mom. The teams' summer season include a bunch of scrimmages, mostly against boys' teams, and a regional girls' baseball tournament in New Jersey in honor of Marie Pepe.

Maria Pepe.jpeg
Girls can play baseball today because Maria Pepe stood up for their right to play,” said Ms. Justine Siegal, the first woman to coach with a Major League Baseball organization and founder of Baseball for All.

“Maria Pepe, at that time, was a little girl that did not realize what the future would hold as far as playing little league baseball and the controversy it would bring. With her ability to play baseball and her determination, she stood up to the controversy. Because of Maria’s courage and fortitude, she won the court case,” says James Farina, her Little League coach.

In 1972, Maria Pepe, then 12-years old, was selected for her Hoboken, NJ Little League team. After playing three games as a starting pitcher, she was told she could not continue to play under Little League rules dating from 1951 that prohibited girls from playing Little League baseball. With support from her coach, James Farina, Maria Pepe fought for the right to play. The National Organization for Women filed a gender discrimination case on her behalf and won. Her case led to the nationwide acceptance of the right for girls and women to play sports, which aided the passage of the 1975 federal regulations that ensured equal rights to sports in education in accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
— Baseball for All press release about Maria Pepe girls' baseball tournament

In the first week of August, the Boston Slammers will travel to Rockford, Illinois, the one-time home of the Rockford Peaches in the  All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, for the national girls' baseball championship.

So meet the Boston Slammers – with a few photos and videos from their indoor practice on Sunday. I'll be hanging out with the girls through the summer, so stay tuned. More stories to share ahead. But first a shout out to Justine Siegal who founded Baseball for All so girls could play the game they love, for steering me to my new hometown baseball team, the Slammers.

I was 13-years-old the first time I was told I shouldn’t play baseball because I was a girl.

My coach explained to me that he didn’t want me on his baseball team and that I should play softball instead. It didn’t matter that I was one of the best players on the team, that I loved baseball, or that I practiced way more than any of my male friends. It only mattered that I was a girl.

The day my coach told me to quit was that day I decided to play baseball forever.

Too many girls are still told they can’t play baseball because they are girls. I founded Baseball For All to empower girls to believe in themselves and to keep playing the game they love. I fear if you tell a girl she can’t play baseball what else will she think she can’t do? I then worry what else boys will think girls can’t do?

Baseball For All is leveling the playing field for girls across America by addressing the social justice issue of gender inequality. I want girls to know they can follow their passions. That they have no limits. That their dreams matter.
— Baseball for All, message from Justine Siegal

Meet the Boston Slammers

Pitch Like a Girl, the Boston Slammers

Pitch Like a Girl, the Boston Slammers

Catch Like a Girl, Boston Slammers

Catch Like a Girl, Boston Slammers

Two hour practice begins with drills.

Two hour practice begins with drills.

 

 

 

Defying Stereotypes: It's What Girls and Women Do

Chloe Kim, gold medalist in snowboarding 2018 Winter Olympics

Chloe Kim, gold medalist in snowboarding 2018 Winter Olympics

As the White mother of my 21-year old Asian daughter, Maya, who was born in China during its one-child policy, I've learned a lot about the assumptions that Westerners too often make about Asian girls and women. We call it unconscious bias, a term describing how we perceive others even if we don't know that these biases are driving us to do so.

Because Maya has shared with me what it's like for her to move in the world, first as a girl, now a young woman with an Asian face, I've been able to learn how powerful Americans' unconscious biases are. This is especially true when it comes to labeling an Asian person based entirely on her Asian face. I'm offering a few words from an essay that Maya recently wrote touching on some challenges she has had in coming to terms with the duality of her identity as my daughter:

I struggled early on as I navigated my shifting sense of identity. My mere appearance presented challenges. Strangers would often assume my family was Chinese, and that I spoke Mandarin fluently. Small stories reinforced this daily. At a gas station with my mom, I was buckled into the back seat. My mom was talking with the man pumping gas when I heard her mention that I was her daughter. He laughed in disbelief. Yes, I do not look like my family, and my appearance has been made fun of. I think it helps explain why growing up I sometimes felt lonely.
— Maya Ludtke
Maya and her mom

Maya and her mom

Like any other Asian girl, growing up she dealt with assumptions made of her. People would presume that Maya had mastered a musical instrument – isn't that what Asian girls do? She didn't. Or that she excels in math; she doesn't. Or they think they know about her temperament just by seeing her face; they don't. A lot else is occasionally bundled with these most typical stereotypical assumptions.

All of this explains why I'm thrilled that Jiayang Fan's wrote her essay in The New Yorker in which she reminds us how sports can be a powerful vehicle for shifting our biased perceptions.

Kim Yo Jong, Chloe Kim, and the Shifting Images of Asian and Asian-American Women at the Olympics

Here her opening paragraph that kicks her essay into high gear, where it remains:

Whether she appears onscreen or in the popular imagination, the Asian woman tends to fall into one of several predictable archetypes: the evil temptress, obliging mistress, loyal servant, fanatical tiger mom, ruthless overachiever. This facile parsing offers the convenience of manageable stereotypes and feigned knowledge. One of the pleasures of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang has been the number of Asian and Asian-American women defying the stereotypes. Among those who have most captivated audiences this past week are Chloe Kim, the teen-age snowboarder from Southern California who won a gold medal in the half-pipe; Mirai Nagasu, the first American woman to execute a triple axel at the Olympics; and Nagasu’s teammate Maia Shibutani, who, performing in the ice-dance competition with her brother, Alex, also helped the Americans win the team bronze medal. (Half of Team U.S.A.’s figure skaters are Asian-American.) On the other side, so to speak, are the North Korean women, whose presence has been used to reinforce some of the old categories: the ‘army of beauties’ cheerleaders and, especially, Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong Un, whose appearance eventually managed to incite pretty much every stereotype on record.
— Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker

As I girl, I played sports. As a young woman, I wrote sports. I know the power of sports to push societal change and alter societal perceptions – witness Jackie Robinson in baseball, the end of apartheid in South Africa, propelled by a global sports boycott, and the raised fists on Olympic podium in 1968 Summer Games.

Of course, let's give thanks to American girls and women's greatest lever of all, Title IX.

How Title IX First Changed the World of Women's Sports, Time magazine

 

Title IX Time magazine cover.jpeg