Softball is Not Baseball for Girls

Last August, when Mo’ne Davis became the first girl to pitch a winning game at the Little League World Series, I was completely wowed and thrilled. This March, I was wowed again as I watched girl after girl marching in our local Little League’s opening day parade. I kept thinking: Is there a future Davis in there?

There might be, but the odds aren’t very good just yet. In the U.S., there are 2.4 million kids playing Little League baseball. Of those, 100,000 are girls, or .04 percent.

In my community of San Anselmo and Fairfax, California, that nets out to 17 or 18 girls. That number is consistent year to year, says Greg Stewart, president of West Marin Little League Board in Fairfax. Most of the girls are young, however, and as they get older, their numbers drop precipitously.
No matter how well they play, coaches and other adults steer girls older than 10 away from baseball towards softball or other sports. As Justine Siegal, a pioneering woman in the world of baseball and founder of Baseball for All, says, "As kids get older, any girl still left standing is discouraged from continuing and told to move on to softball. The attitude is, now we are men and women, and we need to separate."
"Softball is a nice game, but it's not the same game," continues Siegal. The equipment, the rules, the field size and, most importantly, the pitch are different. Softball's distinctive underhanded pitch is notoriously difficult to learn.
Siegal had first-hand experience with the aging-out-of-baseball phenomenon. At 13, despite being one of the top players on her Little League team, she was told by a coach that he didn’t want her on his team, and that she should go play softball. She decided at that moment that she would never stop playing. And she didn’t until, at 16, she decided she wanted to coach. In 2011 she made history, becoming the first woman to throw batting practice for a Major League Baseball team.
Today, she says her mission is to "empower girls to continue playing." Baseball, that is, not softball.
"Girls are handed softballs as early as seven or eight," she explains. "Even when they’re the best on the team, adults will ask why they're playing baseball and not softball." As girls get older, adults start to bring on the scholarship argument: girls should play softball because those are the scholarships that are available to them in college.
Considering these obstructions and attitudes, the phenomenon of Mo'ne Davis is even more remarkable. Davis, who was the first girl to pitch a winning game at the Little League World Series last year, has opened up a dialog about girls in baseball that Siegal would like to see continue. But, she also notes, "Girls shouldn't have to be superstars to be able to play."
What Siegal wants is for girls to have the same opportunity as boys. Little League is open to all comers, and since 1973 that has included girls. "Every boy has the opportunity to play, and we’re not truly providing that opportunity to girls," says Siegal.
As part of her effort to support those that aren’t superstars, Siegal has organized the first girls-only baseball tournament, which will be held in early June in Orlando, Florida. So far 12 teams of 10- to 13- year-old girls are signed up, and there are slots for up to 15. Regional teams have been pulled together through communities, and Siegal is also placing individual girls on teams who are looking to join in.
Seigal’s long-term goal is to create a pathway for girls who love baseball to play with other girls who love baseball. "Let’s just throw away gender boxes,” she says. “These girls deserve to be believed in."
If my daughter’s reaction is any predictor, there are a lot of girls who would like to be in Orlando this summer. My daughter plays softball, and when I told her about the upcoming all-girls baseball tournament, she said, "I want to play!" -- Emily Brower Auchard

March 27, 2015

If you missed last week's issue, here you go:
A Once-in-a-Century Pi(e) Day
If you liked this story, you'll also like:
Use the Cut: Do it Like They Do In Little League
Forget Karma. How to Get a Raise
Awesome Role Models for Girls -- or Anyone

Photo courtesy of Baseball for All

Ditching the Holiday Stress

Tis the season to lose the small amount of sanity we have left.

With work, kids (at home or grown), aging parents and extended family, holiday pressure is that “one more” thing that easily upsets the apple cart. This year, I’ve taken closer note of the ideas for handling holiday stress in hopes of finding useful suggestions for keeping my wits about me through the New Year.

In the interest of helping you too, I’ll keep this short.

The  American Psychological Association (APA) says you should take time for yourself, volunteer, have realistic expectations, seek support and remember what’s important -- and it’s definitely not store-bought presents, elaborate decorations or gourmet food.  

The idea of taking time for yourself may seem laughable in the face of 5-foot long to do lists. But it really is a good suggestion. Give yourself permission to go to the gym, take a hike or read a book. The APA says recharged batteries help you and your family keep an even keel. A break from holiday music can be nice, too.

Read more: Ditching the Holiday Stress

Good Reads, the 2014 Edition

LuckyUsAs we pointed out in last week’s issue, all the year-end book lists are out, from the NYTimes 100 Most Notable, to the Washington Post’s 50 Best in Fiction and NPR’s picks -- pretty much every publication that reviews books has weighed in. 

I may not be that prestigious, but I once produced a public television show about books and authors (a dream job until the funding ran out) and I absolutely love to read. In my professional life, I read two to four newspapers a day, and numerous web sites and magazines. So when I want to just kick back, I mostly choose fiction.  In no particular order, here are my favorites for 2014.

We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas
This debut novel is actually included in most of the year-end lists, and deservedly so. It’s a big fat, multigenerational Irish-American family saga centered on a nurse named Eileen Tumulty, born in Queens in 1941. Good name, because Eileen’s an incredibly strong woman whose life is indeed quite tumultuous as she deals with everything from family alcoholism to a husband with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Sounds depressing, but thanks to beautiful writing, it’s not.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Fowler
While this is a similar title to my first pick, it’s a very different family story. At the beginning, we meet Rosemary, “meandering” through her fifth year at U.C. Davis, thinking about the brother she hasn’t seen in 10 years and the sister who disappeared 17 years ago. Her father is a psychology professor who brought his experiments home. Rosemary was an extremely chatty child, probably to make up for her sister’s verbal shortcomings. It will be more fun to read if that’s all you know.

Read more: Good Reads, the 2014 Edition

A Duct Tape Halloween

ProjectRunwayThe simplest Halloween costume I ever made for myself was the year in college I went as a jewel thief. I wore black jeans, a black turtleneck, and a mask with two eyeholes cut out of black cloth. I carried a flashlight and tied a bag full of colorful Mardi Gras necklaces to my belt. It took about 10 minutes to assemble, and that’s only because I messed up cutting out the eyeholes the first time (they were too far apart).

Since then, I’ve made many costumes for my kids -- Annie Oakley, a Confederate general, hobbits and hippies. I’ve discovered the joy of glue guns, Velcro and felt fabric (no hemming necessary).

But when it comes to me, I’ve pretty much avoided going to adult Halloween parties -- in large part because I wasn’t interested in mustering up the energy to create a costume for myself.

Duct tape has changed my mind.

Read more: A Duct Tape Halloween

Before Summer Ends...

icecreamThere’s less than a month to go before summer ends -- the official end date is Sept. 22 at 10:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time -- but now is not the time to feel bad about all the things you didn’t get a chance to do.

Instead, seize the day -- and the Labor Day holiday weekend -- to have some fun before fall arrives! What should you do? Glad you asked.

Grab a cone. Go to an ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato shop and get yourself a double – with sprinkles. Then sit down outside somewhere and enjoy it. Take your time.

Go to the beach and watch the sunset. Honestly, what’s not to like about a barefoot walk in the sand at the water’s edge?

Take a long walk.

Binge watch a TV series. Orange is the New BlackScandal and House of Cards are all supposed to be great, but I’m thinking it’s time finally to give my attention to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.   

Eat something in season. Tomatoes, peaches, raspberries and plums are in season, which means they taste they way they should.  

Read more: Before Summer Ends...

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