I play baseball. Yes, that’s baseball, not softball. Baseball has always been my sport. Ever since I was about 5. No one in my family played baseball, or really cared about it at all. But the year I became close friends with the guys in my class, baseball became my entire world. All my guy friends played little league, and whenever I went to their houses they would make me play catch with them, or have a pick up game with neighborhood kids, or field ground balls, or hit off a tee.
Fast forward to 8th grade. This is the year I decided I wasn’t just going to play catch in backyards and go to baseball camps in the summer. In the spring of 8th grade I decided to play for a team. Since my school was so small, the only league available to me was West Side Babe Ruth. This league is available to all 13-15 year olds that are interested. So I signed up. I couldn’t have asked for better coaches. Despite the fact that this was my first season playing on a team AND that I was a girl, I still got playing time every single game, and not just in right field. With a lot of help from coaches, parents and teammates, I got so much better that first season. I was really surprised that no one said anything negative about me playing baseball, and that I had no problems playing in the league. Our team finished the season 3-12 and went 1-2 in the playoffs, but that season was something I’ll always remember. I learned so many situations, and so many skills. I can now hit pitchers who throw 75+ mph, make back hand plays, and turn double plays, thanks to my coaches, who spent extra time working with me at practices, and with tips from my teammates.
That off season, I spent my summer working hard to get better at fielding and batting, and to improve my throwing speed & strength. I spent most of my fall and winter at intensive batting clinics, and going to batting cages with friends. One particular trip to the batting cages stands out to me. Our school had the day off, and my friends Jacob, James and I had gone to a new batting cage and were taking some cuts, and my mom and the manager were chatting, and my mom asked the manager if he thought I was ready for the baseball season, and he replied “I’d be more worried about her hurting them”.
This year, my first year of high school, and my first year at a school with a baseball team, I decided I was going to play. However, unlike Babe Ruth, I encountered a problem. Massachusetts has a rule specifically stating that “Softball and baseball are competitively equal sports. Therefore, girls shall participate in softball and boys in baseball provided each sport is offered at that school. Length of game is one basic difference (i.e. time required to play baseball and softball differ).” When I found out about this rule I talked to our school’s athletic director, who said that girls are not allowed to play, although if I really wanted to play he would see what he could do. After a lot of communication with Ben (our athletic director), and organizations promoting girls equality in sports, as well as the MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association), we found out that in order for me to be granted a waiver, which is effective for one year, and allows me to play on the boys baseball team, Ben and I both needed to write a letter to the MIAA requesting a waiver and supporting my case.
After a few weeks of waiting, they wrote back, granting my waiver request the day of sign ups. Ben gave me a copy of the letter, from Dick Neal of the MIAA:
” Dear Ben,
This young lady seems like a terrific girl. Her baseball experience over the past many years is impressive. I am very pleased to grant the waiver you have requested. Please know that this waiver can only be provided for one year (I am limited by board policy). Please make a note to make this similar request during the next academic year.
Kindly extend Association best wishes to Zoe for a fine spring season.
I was extremely excited that I would get to play baseball, and even more excited that baseball was starting within two weeks. I was a bit worried that after going through all the trouble to get a waiver, I wouldn’t make the team.
Going into tryouts, I was worried about not being strong enough, to make the team, and that kids would be hitting home runs during batting practice, and I would be overlooked because I couldn’t do that. 30 kids were trying out, and 16 would make the team. Tryouts lasted 3 days, and during those days, I was much less worried then I had been.
The team was posted the day after tryouts ended, and I was very happy to see that I had made the team, along with all of my friends. After a few practices, our coach announced that we were going to have three co-captains and kids immediately began to yell out names. I was really surprised when I heard my name multiple times, along with my friends Kenny and Jacob. Coach told us to quiet down, that he had already picked them. He read off Rocky’s name, and told him to grab a jersey, then Jacob. I was a little disappointed, but I hadn’t really expected to be a captain. Then I heard coach call my name, and tell me to grab a jersey. Kids began to high five me, it was almost surreal. I hadn’t expected to get a waiver, make the team and be a captain.
I’m still playing in the West Side Babe Ruth league, and I just got back from our game, which we won 12-2. We’re 4-0, which is more wins then we had all of last season.
At Parker, we’re six games into our season, and we’re 4-2. That’s pretty impressive for a baseball team at our school. I start at 2nd every game, and I have one of the highest OBPs (on base percentages) on our team. Our last game, against a private school, Notre Dame Academy, I had 4 hits, and played the entire game. We ended up beating them, 23-12.
Next year, I’ll probably be playing my last year of Babe Ruth, and my first year on varsity. I’m extremely excited, and I’m hoping more girls at our school start playing baseball. I just want to thank all my coaches, all the parents, all of my teammates, Ben, and everyone who has helped me play for Parker, or improve at baseball in general. I want girls to know that if they want to play a sport that isn’t a “girls’ sport” they shouldn’t be afraid to take a chance, because they could end up being an MVP for their team, and showing people that girls can play with guys. And beat them too.