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Girls play baseball, too

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nogirlsYou wouldn’t know it from the rosters at the Little League World Series, but there’s a groundswell growing to let girls play baseball.

Growing only now, you say, 35 years after Little League was forced by lawsuit to allow girls to play? (The ban came into effect after the 1950 season, when a girl posed as a boy named “Tubby” to play in Corning, N.Y.) And what do I mean, “let?” Isn’t this issue settled?

Not by a long shot. Female baseball players are few and far between. In Indiana, the state’s high school athletic association overturned a ban on girls even trying out for baseball only this spring, after determining it would lose a lawsuit. A girl playing high school baseball is still big news. And two different books were published this year explaining the past and current history of baseball authorities at every level being active members of the He-Man Woman Haters Club.

Little League would certainly not call itself a member. In 2004, when it had two girls in the World Series, it had a special ceremony to honor female ballplayers. This year, for the second time, the Little League World Series roster features two girls: Katie Reyes of Vancouver, B.C., and Bryn Stonehouse of Dharhan, Saudi Arabia. (Stonehouse, a Katy, Texas, native, plays for a team of expatriates residing in the Saudi Aramco Residential Camp, the fenced-in company town for the world’s largest oil company.) Reyes and Stonehouse brings the number of girls who have played in South Williamsport, Pa., up to 15 all-time. Between 2004 and 2009, there were zero girls in the Little League World Series.

Whether there are girls or whomever on a Little League World Series team has to do with the makeup of the league and the all-stars of the locality that has its tournament run. But that two girls is a rare event is evidence of all the years of banning and otherwise discouraging girls from playing. At Little League age, boys and girls are still competitive physically. Reyes is 5-foot-6, 132 pounds, and Stonehouse is 5-foot-4, 150 pounds — each bigger than many of their teammates. For that matter, my 10-year-old daughter is taller than a few of my 12-year-old son’s friends. If girls were encouraged to play baseball, there is no physical reason they could not compete.

However, since Title IX and Little League lawsuits and whatnot forced organizations and schools to let girls play at all, they have been steered toward the stated equivalent of baseball: softball.

Now, I’m not going to crack on softball. My 10-year-old daughter has played it, and well (she’s a three-time All-Star, if I may brag. And because it’s my blog, I can.) I’ve coached two teams. I know that if a girl is going to get that elusive (and often mythical, given how few actually get them) athletic scholarship for a stick-and-ball sport, it will be softball. Also, socially I can understand why girls would want to play in a sport with other girls, rather than be vastly outnumbered in baseball. Reyes and Stonehouse aren’t rooming with their teammates at the Little League World Series. They’re rooming with each other.

But I understand that baseball and softball are not the same, and that if a girl wants the opportunity to play baseball, she should have it. As it turns out, there are more female-only baseball organizations forming for the benefit of girls who would like to play the sport without having to put up with the male bullshit. Part of the ultimately unsuccessful bid to get baseball back for the 2016 Olympics was to have men’s and women’s baseball events.

Reyes has said she wants to keep playing baseball. Stonehouse, who played softball in the U.S., said she would like to return to the sport. Either is acceptable and should be encouraged. I believe, in the immortal words of “Bad News Bears in Breaking Training:” Let! Them! Play!

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Written by rkcookjr

August 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm

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