Silence…

Over the years, I have reached out to various lead organizations in attempts to break through the barrier for girls to gain equal support as Baseball players.

Major League Baseball, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; KPMG: all, seem content actively supporting girls only in Softball and peripherally, in Baseball, not admittedly denying access.

First, in the Winter, 2008, as the MLB Network began its pre-season broadcasts, a significant number of PSA ads supporting the three partners to promote the goodwill efforts of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and repeated significantly, appeared between each 15 minute segment.

The include mostly boys – but, interesting: two of them feature girls.

The one that comes to mind most is one that features Dan Haren and a single African-American girl:

http://www.youtube.com/user/bgcastaff#p/u/19/uzWg5lZ8Nug

Another PSA includes a row of girls in the dugout who jump up at the end of the clip: each wearing street clothes; clearly, in a MLB Baseball dugout.

When I saw these clips for the first time – and amazed at the frequency: I nearly did flips in my living room!

All indications lead to the conclusion that Major League Baseball was serious about including girls in the Great American Pastime, not marginalized in a game similar to Baseball but NOT Baseball, as the Commissioner of MLB had deemed the strategic imperative to bring girls, mothers and families, together, in filling seats, buying hot dogs and memorabilia representing each community’s favorite MLB team.

But, the crux is: we are talking about supporting girls PLAYING Baseball – not just OBSERVING it.

From the PSA, it is clear that intelligence is not the divisive factor: the girl represents a well-informed Baseball fan, who can recite Dan Haren’s 2007 record verbatim, focusing on the high points, as she lifts his spirits up.

The positive, joyful energy that permeates the the PSA, in the vibe between the two of them, emanates from the TV.

So, what is going on: why is MLB demonstrating an awareness that girls are interested and able to play; are intellectual equals and demonstrate a physicality not unlike the boys: there is no discouragement in the ads.

Well, while in a couple of the adds, girls do appear prominent, the majority of PSAs in the campaign; the majority of the players in the ads are boys; playing on teams with no girls.

In one of the PSAs, a boy with very long hair appears and could be a girl, as he is somewhat obscured as the camera is pulled back at a distance. But, it isn’t a girl.

I recognize that MLB is supporting boys as peers in the majority of these commercials; this is an important effort to include boys, to tell them they matter, providing a safe, healthy alternative to other activities that can lead to despair and incarceration if not life-time prison terms, in California, for example, under our Three Strikes You’re Out law (no pun intended.)

However, the extreme position, a strategy to secure positive resources for boys, in areas of each community that may suffer serious job loss; empty homes; crime and illicit drug use, does not get MLB off the hook for failing to support girls equally.

Without over-reaching, the official position of the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball set the trend long ago, when Kenesaw Mountain Landis, in 1931, banned women from Baseball, as they were considered, by him, “too strenuous”.

I have brought this to the attention of readers a few times in the past 5 years: it isn’t news, but it is relevant in stating it, here, to support the main point of this article.

What is fundamentally amazing about the foundation underneath the claim I am making: MLB supports the two Amateur Baseball organizations that, supposedly support women in the game of Baseball, albeit playing among women and not among men:

The International Baseball Federation
USA Baseball

When I say “support” I mean financially, to the extent that MLB does support each, financially.

But, we need a context for how each “independent” organization “supports” girls and women in Baseball.

USA Baseball:

the mission of USA Baseball is to oversee all amateur Baseball, through a certain, eligible age range, from 14-18, and a Collegiate division.

There are predominantly 9 Youth Baseball organizations in the USA that the USA Baseball organization supposedly has a handle on.

However, girls are entirely not represented officially, openly, among their ranks.

If you were to challenge each leadership overseeing the respective organization, they would confirm that girls do play among the teams but each does not have the authority to require a given team, manager or coach to include 50% girls, regardless of skill level.

This is the crux: if the girls are not playing, they don’t develop the skills; they will not be selected by the respective teams that comprise the respective organization, nationwide.

If USA Baseball’s mandate is to oversee the Youth Baseball Universe, then they are culpable in not enforcing the legal right of girls throughout the Nation to be playing at an elite level.

It is only USA Baseball who can hold their collective feet to the fire.

There is more to the story of USA Baseball’s role in supporting girls and women in Baseball – we will return to their story, later.

The International Baseball Federation (IBAF):

You may or may not know that Baseball will not be returning to the International Olympics in 2016. You may not have known it was ever in the Olympics, let alone, that it was removed for the 2012 Olympics being held in England.

But, it has been the mandate and mission of the IBAF to manage the process of getting Baseball back into the Olympics, which it was unsuccessful at doing at least for 2016.

This past Summer, with a few months left to encourage the selection committee of the IOC to include Baseball again, the IBAF leadership got the religion of supporting girls and women, worldwide, in playing Baseball, even, at a level that could warrant TV coverage, worldwide.

To the credit of the IBAF, there are two efforts intended to bring such high-level Women’s Baseball to the public: each two-year qualifying period brings the Women’s Baseball World Cup, cycled among different countries that feature a strong enough Women’s Baseball program.

If you are not aware, Japan, Canada and Australia support, in resources including money and facilities, girls and women in Baseball to a similar extent as boys in each country. Yet, culturally, there is still great disparity between support in the minds of their respective citizen. These differences should be considered reflective of each culture’s gender equity profile, if you want to get down to it.

The next effort underway is bringing Women’s Baseball to the World Classic.

Can one even imagine how the World will receive Women’s Baseball played at the same level of skill as the Men’s game, broadcasted over the Globe? With this possibility comes a great degree of commitment by all who can swing a bat; throw and catch a ball; who generate the energy that pervades the mind and body of the avid sports fanatic; of the amateur player considering the latest $400 Baseball glove and $400 Baseball bat.

Returning to the role Major League Baseball, Inc., plays:

the majority of funding of each, USA Baseball and the IBAF comes from the MLB – plain and simple.

If these two organization are not changing the game so that girls and women are included in Baseball, during the 15 training period that USA Baseball oversees; if the IBAF is unable to build and maintain Youth Baseball programs around the world leading to the highest caliber women playing the game in international World Cup championships in equal frequency to the boys and men:

then Major League Baseball, Inc., has summarily told each organization, through funding, not to support girls and women equally throughout the World.

There are many reasons they will sight as to why MLB supports girls in Softball and boys in Baseball.

But, the original point of this blog post was that, through the MLB Network, in association with the Boys AND GIRLS Clubs of America, with their commercial partner, KPMG, a change was apparent in supporting girls in the game of Baseball.

Between December 2008 and June 2009, the IBAF did not vehemently advocate for women to appear in the 2016 Olympics. When the International body representing Softball told the President of the IBAF, Harvey Schiller, in no uncertain terms, that Softball for Women would not join with Baseball for men in a team effort to submit both sports to the selection committee considering new sports: the IBAF got religion and began a systematic campaign to acknowledge that around 500,000 girls and women play Baseball word wide; that would be unconscionable to NOT support girls in playing the game.

It is (though not entirely) unclear the reason(s) why BOTH Baseball and Softball were not reintroduced into the IOC’s plans for 2016. Other sports were included, instead: 5-person Rugby; Golf and Women’s Boxing was added to the Men’s-only division.

What was fascinating about the effort that did emerge for a few months beginning the Summer 2009: supporters of girls and women in Baseball were asked to provide support for Baseball, in general, in the effort for reintroduction into the International Olympics, including, in the form of, Facebook groups, to which we were all encouraged to become “fans” of, registering individual support for the IBAF.

Similarly, it was considered a competition with the Softball community, as they, too, were building legions of Facebook supporters.

So, you may be asking, “What does the title Silence refer to?”

I have reached out to the IBAF leadership and have not received any response to my inquiries regarding significant issues of importance on these matters.

I have contacted KPMG and, after a bit of phone tag: have been waiting for months for a return call from someone underneath someone who was showing some interest in the matter I was bringing to their attention:

how can you endorse organizations that marginalize the access to Baseball for half of the World’s citizen?

I contacted our local Boys & Girls Club to discover if someone in the programming or leadership roles would be interested in partnering with us to build opportunities: it was suggested that I contact the schedule coordinator to see if there was room on the existing schedule to insert girls baseball.

MLB includes a significant program, Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) in partnership with KPMG.

Despite the original PSA featuring the single African-American girl and Dan Haren:

ALL IMAGERY ON THE WEB SITES; IN THE MEDIA EXCLUDE GIRLS FROM APPEARING ACTIVELY PLAYING BASEBALL.

Again, I contacted the leadership of the RBI program, in this case, and they, too, have not returned my calls.

Maybe, I should take it personally. Seriously: I don’t take it personally at all. For whatever reasons, the folks at the top in each organization that supposedly shares the same commitment as I do with this web site do not consider me a factor in sharing in the process of supporting girls and women in the game of Baseball.

Besides, who or what AM I, from their perspective? I am not a Sports Industry Professional; I am not well-funded Gender Equity Advocacy organization; I am not a high-profile Legal Outreach organization funded to go the distance protecting the legal rights of girls and women to guarantee access to the sport at least in the USA.

Yet, while these organizations that own, outright; promote the Great American Pastime; support kids in ensuring access to resources – either they or the kids’ parents fund – in Baseball:

They have not done what needs to be done to ensure access to Baseball for HALF OF THE WORLD’S population – and they don’t seem to want anyone to voice concern nor skepticism that they intend on doing so, openly, building support among those who favor the game for their daughters, granddaughters; sisters, mothers and aunts.

If our voices were heard, even by the organizations that supposedly support our interests, wouldn’t we see it reflected the media, with girls playing Baseball, either side-by-side with boys, or among themselves, in all-girl Baseball games?

Recently, I followed up with the VP of Communications with one of the top manufacturers of Baseball equipment. Earlier, in the year, I approached him for sponsorship money and equipment for a team of women Baseball players, from North America, heading to Hong Kong, for the annual Phoenix Cup tournament. The event included teams from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and North America.

At the time I approached him earlier this year, he was clear that, particularly during this difficult financial season, there was simply no funding available at this time for any effort: regardless of gender, regardless of promise of terrific exposure for his company.

When I approached him last month, in September, he claimed that all sponsorship funds were allocated (although, he has never indicated when the application period is…). Here was his response:

In regards to your question about [our company] possibly sponsoring women’s baseball programs, our budgets are currently committed to a wide variety of other programs, so it is unlikely. We sponsor several dozen women’s college fastpitch softball programs as well as men’s college baseball programs. We also have a [specific organization’s] youth baseball sponsorship and we support disadvantaged youth baseball programs through [a prominent private youth baseball foundation outreach program] and [a program sponsored by a MLB team] and other MLB … programs that all support both boys and girls. We also send a significant amount of equipment to youth baseball programs in Latin America. We also support our men and women in uniform by sending baseball and softball equipment to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Of course, if you or anyone would wish to send a proposal for sponsorship we would be happy to review and consider it with the caveat that our participation is unlikely because of budget constraints and previous commitments to other programs that fit our business strategy.

I followed up with this message to him:

As for sponsorship: the way you have described the current matrix of support you can see why girls and women who prefer baseball are always getting the short end of the stick – or small or no piece of the pie: it is always quid pro quo.

Even when speaking with those devoted to supporting girls and women in sports, they, too, offer up a level of empathy but, because of little or no request for information or support from the general public on where, when and how are to play baseball, they, too, don’t allocate resources, proactively, to demonstrate there is something there.

Of course, each organization you mention below legally supports girls as an option for them to play baseball if they prefer. But, what is interesting: none of them have really thought through how to ensure girls are aware they have the option available to them to play baseball. Not mentioned below, Little League will not require their republic of local or district representatives to mention, prior to or at the time of sign-ups that girls have the option of playing baseball or softball: they keep rather tight lips; in many cases, local reps will not even admit to themselves that girls have the option.

Are you aware that Japan allocated $1,000,000, annually, to support girls and women who may ultimately end up on their National team?

Did you know that the IBAF has formed a committee to develop baseball for girls and women, as a separate discipline that or boys and men – separate for the international or national softball industries – claiming that 500,000 girls and women play baseball – not softball, today: world-wide.

The matter of supporting girls in the USA by contrast with the support they receive in other countries is simply mind-boggling.

I am not suggesting that you as one vendor can change the world, but: you do have the option of including girls and women, in baseball not softball uniforms; playing baseball not softball along side boys; mothers coaching both boys and girls in baseball, as well as men as coaches, coaching both boys and girls in baseball, etc. There is a lot you can do to change the perception of the game in the eye and mind of the general public: without spending a dime donating equipment to anyone.

Then, it might make sense in the near-term when girls or their supporters approach you for donations for baseball gear.

Again, no reply – just silence…

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