“Baseball for All” – what does it mean? You will have to visit Justine Siegal’s web site, view her Facebook page, contact her: discover what she means by the phrase. For me, as a new manager of an all-women’s baseball team, the California Women’s Baseball League Fillies, I will stand by it; as the parent of a girl, age 16, I will fight tooth and nail for her right to try out for any baseball team she feels is the right fit; teams and coaches come and go but her passion for the game and her desire to make a serious contribution on the field is real and profound…
I am really baffled about how I am to reconcile this complex thought process:
- Provide an opportunity for ANY woman who wants to play baseball, whether they have had any time prior to stepping on the field – our league allows players as young as 14 to play; upwards of 55-years-old, players have been on the Fillies.
- Champion the cause of a girl who CAN and DOES play at the same level as a boy or man, throughout their career: but not interfere with the selection process in place instituted by a league, school, State-wide Athletic Association: which seems arbitrarily-based, considering the players selected for the baseball team: it never seems that the girl is evaluated in a way that allows for her uniqueness to provide latitude – whether trying out for a boy or girl or men or women’s team.
But would one want the girl’s uniqueness – positive or negative – to interfere impacting the selection for or matrix of the team for the most successful, “winningest” season they can achieve? How important is winning – what does it mean to “win”: to prevail on the field or learn a life-lesson? I would go to the Positive Coaching Alliance web page to begin to try and answer those questions, for myself, my children, our community…
- Support the superior player, regardless of gender, to deliver the goods, to make the team better, raising the bar.
This past weekend, in Las Vegas, Nevada, the 13-year-old by referred to in the quote above played in a USSSA 13U World Series, traveling from San Francisco, California, to play teams assembled from other parts of California and Las Vegas proper, El Paso, Texas, etc.
After one of the games where his team faced a not-so-physically-endowed boy, who played Shortstop; pitched a little, the 13-year-old boy quoted, above, said to me, “that was the best youth baseball player I have ever encountered.”
In addition to the performance on defense, by the slightly-built player, from Fairfield, California, the boy exhibited another amazing talent in his hands, using his entire body: he hit home runs, over the walls of Big League Dreams stadiums. It is my impression that the dimensions of these stadiums are real-world. Against another team from San Francisco, this slight boy hit a home run well over the center field wall; against the boy quoted above, well over the cyclone fence, above the Green Monster:
it was the first home run, over a full-size field wall, hit against the boy quoted, above: ever – the 12th home run the boy from Fairfield hit over the walls during the course of the USSSA events, including 6 during the home run derby.
But, it has not diminished the 13-year-old in any negative, psychological way: he so admires the slight boy from Fairfield, as a peer, that he will remember the home run forever with honor and pride.
This next Tuesday, July 20, 2010, ESPN will run a story on their program E:60 about Chelsea Baker, a baseball-aged 12-year-old, actually, now, 13-year-old girl from Plant City, Florida, who is so talented at throwing a knuckleball pitch, she has thrown 2 no-hittiers in a single Little League season. That caught a lot of people’s attention, including Justine Siegal – as well as ESPN. But Chelsea plays for one of Justine’s team, last year as a baseball 11-year-old, actually 12-year-old. This year, Chelsea may ensure a serious challenge to the boys’ hegemony at Cooperstown Dreams Park, the preeminent summer travel baseball tournament facility in the USA, playing for Justine’s Sparks.
So, what does the 13-year-old boy think of Chelsea? Well, he is a traditionalist, who admires the work of Marti Sementelli, 17-years-old, who has an arsenal of 8 different pitches that she can dial in, anywhere, any time. Will or does Marti plan on using the knuckleball any time soon? Not from what I have heard.
Marti has achieved similar accomplishments as Cheslea when Marti was Chelsea’s age and beyond, into High School.
But, to equalize, in all fairness, this blog post, challenging the dire optimist:
At the plate, can Chelsea or Marti nail one opposite field to move or drive in the runner?
Can either of them man First or ensure a double-play at Short?
Do either of them take on the challenge of relieving at Third, getting the ball to First for the easy out?
In general: can they play baseball?
Eri Yoshida is the first woman pitching for a USA-based professional baseball team in recent years, Ila Borders being the first (who has since retired from baseball, now, I believe, a professional fire-fighter, another arena women have broken through); last year, she played for a Japanese professional baseball team, now, defunct, from what I have read. Eri is notable as the first woman to play professional baseball in two different countries. The jersey and bat used in her first game with the Chico, California, Outlaws, has been entered into the archives of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The other notable fact:
Eri is the first woman to register a hit on a professional baseball field of play, with an opposite field single to Right.
In each of Eri’s first two starts as pitcher with the Outlaws, she has not gone beyond 3 innings, as her fast ball isn’t very fast allowing any professional player the opportunity to hit a solid one; and I suspect she can only throw so many side-arm knuckleballs, before the gig is up, either players figure out how to hit her pitches, or, her pitches become less accurate (the Chico Outlaws broadcast all of their games over the Internet on justin.tv, where I had the opportunity to watch her first two outings, including the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony: it was awesome!!!)
I believe it was due to an impressive 5 innings pitched in one game, during the Winter League season in Arizona, that Eri Yoshida, the “Knuckle Princess”, as her fans are calling her around The Globe, caught the attention of the Outlaws scout.
Yet, Eri is probably the only player on the team who can sell out the house in Chico, California, with her fresh, scintillating personality, exuding a joy and excitement being in Chico, taking it all in, as a young person on her own in a small town in the USA. Quite a number of mainstream articles in the press have focused on her child-like wonder of it all.
Eri could simply be on the field and her fans cheer with such pride.
Yet, what of Marti’s career: she finishes high school this coming spring?
As of August, Marti will likely be returning from Venezuela, as the winningest pitcher in the IBAF IV Women’s Baseball World Cup event, where 12 teams from around The Globe will compete for the prize – that was Marti’s experience at age 15, receiving the MVP during the III IBAF Women’s Baseball World Cup in 2008 – was her second all-women’s baseball tournament.
Chelsea will no doubt move to a big field next year, as a Junior Little Leaguer or, PONY with a transitional field – as Little League has in place a new option for Juniors, playing at PONY League field distances – but, I wouldn’t be surprised if Plant City keeps their regulation-size fields in place next year…
What of the other girl-wonders who have changed our perception of a girl’s affect on playing and winning in baseball: Katie Brownell; Mackenzie Brown; now, Allie Lucio, who is the latest to accomplish the task, the amazing, illusory outcome of a no-hitter, let alone, perfect game…?
One fact should silence any skeptic or detractor is the notion that Chelsea Baker can not only throw a baseball from a Little League field-size Center Field over the plate, with her knuckleball: she can throw a strike.
“unbelievable”, as ESPN describes it.
But, the facts neutralize the incredulity.
What will it take to convince the general public to cut a clear path to the mound, home plate; First, Third or Short, for any girl who wants to play baseball, who needs it in her life, as passionately as any boy in The Americas?
What a carnival, baseball…