Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Bob Seger Has Nothing To Do With These Silver Bullets

When I was a teenager my mom saved a large article in our daily newspaper, sports section, obviously, about a new all-girls baseball team that was being formed. I read it with a passion I’ve never read anything prior before. Then I immediately grabbed a pair of scissors, cut out the article and all accompanying photos and put it in my sports scrapbook. I guess you could say it was a precursor to a vision board. This scrapbook held little gems about sports stories that meant a lot to me, had to do with the accomplishments of my favorite players, or were just really great sports moments captured in photos. All of this a clear indicator that I have not fundamentally changed this many years later. 

That all-women’s baseball team? The Colorado Silver Bullets. I didn’t know (until recently, actually) that much like the AAGPBL during WWII, it was a stunt. A simple way to cash in on a novelty. 

Whereas the MLB did not stop during WWII (there were still men playing professional baseball) the AAGPBL was formed as a supplement since most of the big MLB stars were overseas fighting in the war. (There, history teacher, are you happy now? See previous post.) the Colorado Silver Bullets, on the other hand, was a kitschy way to promote beer: Coors Brewing Company. Granted, the man behind the team, Bob Hope (Yes! That Bob Hope! - No. Not that Bob Hope.) wasn’t a misogynist (that I’m aware of) out to make a fool of women playing baseball. He genuinely believed in what he was doing. Still a promotional stunt none-the-less where female baseball players were pitted against male teams.

When I read that article I had one goal: to become a Colorado Silver Bullet when I turned 18. On a side note I also wanted to be on American Gladiators when I turned 18. That didn’t happen either. I think the Bullets would have been a safer bet. 

I was ridiculously excited when my mom told me the following year that the team would be playing an exhibition game at Fenway Park. Spoiler alert: we went. The memories are hazy and I shockingly don’t have the ticket stub from that day but I know I was there. I know this because I have out-of-focus pictures in my brain (it was so effing hot I think my memories combusted) and more importantly because there was no way in hell I was not going to be there to support my fellow ball players. 

I was disappointed to learn that the team folded after 4 years and I was unable to fulfill my dream. I’m sure many other girls’ dreams were dashed when they found out too.

And like with any stunt, there was negative publicity which, for the most part, was that the Silver Bullets didn’t fair well against the men’s teams. They had their moments but from the outsider perspective it was hard for many to take them seriously. Why are you putting these frail little women up against these strong talented men? But their lack of a winning record wasn’t due to a lack of talent or their size but from a lack of support for women in baseball in general. As a country we don’t support or encourage girls in baseball and we need to change that. If we encourage more girls to play they will stick with it and if they stick with it it will allow for enough girls playing baseball that an all women’s league within the US can be formed.

But there is good news! Many more girls’ dreams would be reignited when a women’s USA baseball team would be formed and, get this, played other women’s teams from around the world. How cool is that? At least it’s a step in the right direction.

So what have we learned? To never give up on your dreams. Ever. Even if the thing you want so badly in life no longer exists. And we need to start promoting the hell out of women’s baseball because most people don’t even know that a women’s Team USA baseball even exists.

Were you lucky enough to see the Silver Bullets or Team USA play? I wanna know! Share in the comments below. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I Once Wrote a Term Paper About the AAGPBL

I never really liked writing, yet it’s become a large part of the profession I’ve chosen. English class was my least favorite subject in school and I hated writing 5 paragraph essays. I still don’t see the point. I can make and fully support any argument in once sentence. Anyway. When it came to history class I was drawn to it. Maybe because for the most part history doesn’t change. We may discover new things or learn a new perspective but the events themselves don’t change, and I for one, like consistency and reliability.

My junior year of high school focused on early to mid 1900s American history. For our end of year term paper we were allowed to choose any topic we wanted between the years 1900 and 1950. There was no question in my mind what I was going to write about. And since you’re here reading this I assume there isn’t in yours. 

I’d venture a guess that 99% of people my age or younger learned about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball league from the movie A League of Their Own. It was a great introduction (and my favorite movie), but as a baseball player, lover, fan, and female athlete, I wanted to know more. No. I wanted to know everything. So, in case you haven’t put two and two together, I wrote my paper on the AAGPBL. 

This was probably the most fun I had doing homework and “school writing”. I love research. I can get lost in learning about something I love before it hits me that I should probably not only focus on a specific angle or topic for what I would soon be writing but actually start writing. I think this lack of focus and my attempt to cover every aspect of the AAGPBL was the reason my history teacher was not over the moon about my paper. He didn’t hate it, but well, he was not overly thrilled with my in depth coverage of the entire inaugural season. 

To me that was the most interesting part: the games themselves. Yes, it was a history class and blah blah blah I should have talked about the significance of the league and its place in history, and yes, that is fascinating, but ugh! I wanted to know how good the fame athletes were! Which teams won! What they did to win! I wanted the play-by-play of each and every game to unfold in my mind! Is that too much to ask for?!?!?

Needles to say, if I were to write that paper now, I would definitely have a different perspective and write about how amazing, talented, risk taking, trailblazing leaders these women (and men) were and how they changed the culture of women in America. Because that is pretty awesome. 

Don’t expect me to actually write it though, I can’t bear the emotional trauma of not getting another A on this topic so close to my heart.

Am I the only nut job to write a school paper about the AAGPBL? Share in the comments below. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


I switched to softball when I was 13. It was my choice and only comes with the smallest amount of regret. Most of that regret comes years later as an adult feminist who looks back and thinks, “Why’d you give up?!” But 13 year old me didn’t give up. Thirteen year old me wanted to play. 

I mean, isn’t that what organized youth sports are supposed to be about? Having fun? If teenage me can subconsciously recognize that then certainly adult me can get the eff over it and move on. I know adult me only thinks this way because if a young girl in those cleats today were to ask me if she should stick with baseball or switch to softball adult me would, without hesitation, say, “Baseball!” Well, honestly, I'd scream baseball then attempt to have a frank and honest adult conversation with a teenager. 

Sigh. I'll just go play softball. Leave it to me to not rock the boat. 

The point is, it’s a tough decision to make when you’re that young. Each individual is different, but for a kid who didn't care about making waves, and was not even remotely aware of furthering or fighting for equality or making a statement and who just. wanted. to. play. The choice was rather easy, and yet, still heartbreaking.

Stick with baseball when you’re no longer guaranteed playing time (and smart enough to know you most likely won’t get much playing time) OR switch to softball where you will be with your friends and probably be the best player on the team, if not the league? What would you do at that age? 

(Yes, softball and baseball are different sports, and one doesn’t necessarily translate to the other, but every girl I knew who played baseball was always one of the better softball players.) 

After T-Ball, when I played baseball I was either 1 of 1, 2, or 3 girls in the league. One was my age, who switched to softball a year or two before I did. The other was a year younger than me who switched to softball at the same point I had the year prior. Unless your undying, stop-at-nothing, life’s passion is to play baseball to the point where that is all you think and dream about, you will most likely switch to softball because it can be a lonely road and takes a lot of effort just to achieve the bare minimum. 

I didn’t switch to softball because I didn’t love baseball, I switched because I just wanted to play. I didn’t want to sit on a bench watching when I knew I should be on the field playing. Baseball wasn’t my life; I also played other sports, so to put myself in a position where I might get to play that would still likely require playing baseball all day everyday on my own seemed pointless. Eating, sleeping, thinking baseball. Sounds like fun, right?! If that's your life’s passion, then sure! Go for it! But we shouldn't be forcing young children to make this decision, or worse, making it for them. I've talked to some adults who never knew that playing baseball was even an option when they were kids. There was only one choice: softball. That's a shame. 

If you read Jennifer Ring’s book A Game of Their Own (and I suggest you do) you can read multiple first hand accounts of the lengths women did and continue to go to to follow the obsession. 

What I discovered in moving to softball was, for starters, a steep learning curve. Why do they give women a bigger ball when we have smaller hands? Softball was originally developed for men then designated a lesser “girl's sport” that’s the “equivalent” of baseball. It’s not. Ask anyone who’s played both. Ask every one of the MLB hitters who struck out against Jennie Finch. Or, better yet, ask my former high school teammate who did the same thing to one of our school’s baseball players years before that viral incident.

The ball is bigger. The base paths are shorter. There is no grass on the infield.  This means you grip the ball differently, need to be a lot faster and won’t have the same type of weird infield hops that grass provides. Because everything is so condensed it’s like baseball on speed. Go go go. Quick quick quick. Your reaction time is instantaneous. One could go as far as to say that softball may even be, gasp!, a harder sport to play than baseball. Then why, in my experience, were the former baseball players the better softball players? No idea. Maybe they were just better athletes overall. Maybe they were athletes who could/should have stuck with baseball if they so desired. Life's funny that way. 

Were you one of the many who switched to softball or did you stick it out with baseball? Share in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Second Class Citizen

I played second base my entire baseball career because I supposedly couldn’t make the throw across the diamond from third base. Am I projecting here? Possibly. But only slightly. It was definitely the reason I was put there initially. I wonder what justification my coach gave himself after I threw out a runner at third from my knees on the outfield grass. Which would have been farther throw across the diamond. Hmmm, I wonder? I’ll choose to believe the reason I stayed at second base was because I was good and knew how to play it.

Ultimately, I grew to love the position. I mean, it was future first-ballot MLB Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg’s spot for the Cubs his entire baseball career. I wore his glove my entire baseball career. I like to think it served me well. Only some resentment came to the surface when, in high school, I switched to softball and had to play second base. I had been the starting shortstop on my Little League softball team. What gives?! 

I get it, the starting shortstop for our school was a senior, and even more importantly, very good. I would be there the next year once she was gone. And I was. Until senior year, when I had to switch back to second. I’m sorry, what? Ooph. Feathers ruffled. Confidence gone. Walls high. It wasn’t until years later when I became a coach (and got over myself) that I fully realized having me at second base was strategically the best move possible. Hitters couldn’t get around on our pitcher and were always late, thereby consistently hitting the ball to… yup, second base. Duh! I feel so stupid now. But try rationalizing with a teenage girl. They’re/we’re the worst. Having been one and coached many, I can say this without fault.

But that’s my point. I grew up thinking and believing that one spot on the field was less than because some adult made a decision based on nothing but his own beliefs. Yes, some positions are better suited for a certain type of player with a specific skill set. Center fielders tend to be fast. Catchers tend to be slower or bigger physically. A first baseperson tends to be a lefty. The main difference between second base and short stop? The throwing distance. 

This is what years of being told, through actions and words, can do to a young girl. It made me feel like playing second base was being a second class citizen. I wasn’t good enough for any other position where they might actually hit the ball. My arm wasn’t strong enough to make the throw from anywhere else but the closest possible place to the generally “easy” out at first base. In youth baseball lore it’s only slightly better than being stuck in right field. 

Which, in Little League, most definitely is a thing. But when it comes to softball, nope, right field is key - you can gun a hitter down at first base if you have a strong enough arm. You can catch a slap-hit before it hits the ground if you’re fast enough. And in higher levels of baseball, there is nowhere to hide. 

It took years for me to not only come to terms with, but enjoy, playing second base. I was so conditioned to believe it was inferior that until I took a step back, did I see that there is so much to nuance to the position: covering first on a bunt, turning a double play, the quick throw needed to gun a runner down at the plate because they will always try to score when it's hit to you. Do I think my male Little League coaches thought about this when they put me there? No. Absolutely not. But that doesn't diminish my respect for the position and the joy I ultimately found in playing it, at least not now. 

In the future, when little girls are playing baseball with little boys maybe let’s judge them on their merit and skill, huh? Or better yet, let everyone play every position to see where they shine. They might surprise you. 

When was a time in your sports carer you had to prove your worth just to be on equal footing? Share in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

There it Goes! A Long Drive! If It Stays Fair... Home Run!

I was the first girl in my Little League to hit a home run. I did it on Opening Day. 

Yet the main thing I remember from that day was that my mom (who came to every one of my games) wasn’t watching when it happened. This sticks in my mind not because I was sad, disappointed or upset, but because I thought it was funny. It’s absolutely perfect and makes complete sense. She’s a talker. A socializer. She was turned around talking to another parent when they kindly interrupted her to point out, “Uh, hey, your daughter just hit a home run.” You would have thought the cheering (I’ll just assume the entire place went nuts) would have gotten her to turn around to see what was going on. Nope. Too deep in conversation. I hope it was worth it, Mom, because I'm scarred for life! That must be why I was drawn to comedy.

I will give her this, at least she had the balls to tell me the truth and not pretend like she witnessed it. I can pretty much guarantee my reaction was the equivalent of the facepalm emoji. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We wouldn't know it at the time, but turns out she’d see me hit many, many more home runs in my baseball and softball careers, so I guess we’re good. 

There wasn’t much fanfare on that spring afternoon. I probably got a banana split after the game, which is shocking that I can’t recall that in vivid detail. The ball sailed past the left field fence, down the foul line. I always was a pull hitter. I do know my teammates stormed home plate, and quite honestly, I’m not even sure if I touched it. This was before the days of everyone clearing the way so the umpire can see the foot hit the plate and officially count the run. I also don’t know if that run actually meant anything. It was the 6th inning (top? bottom? who knows) and the 6th run scored for our team so we were either winning or losing by enough to make it (the run, not the moment) inconsequential. 

What I do know is that it reinforced (to me) that I could play baseball. I may have only been allowed to play the league required minimum of 3 innings and 1 at bat for most of my Little League career, but I proved that if I had been given more chances, maybe I could have hit a few more dingers. I guess we’ll never know.

As a humble trailblazer is wont to do, I like to hold my self-worth in high regard and think that I paved the way for future girls in the league to maybe be given more of a chance and get a few more at bats. I know this much, the following season when I had aged out of the league my female counterpart, and soon-to-be softball teammate, hit 2 home runs thereby doubling my previously set record! Well, they say records are made to be broken. It would have been nice to hold on to that one for a little longer, yeesh.

You would think with a substantial moment like this the details would be so perfectly etched in my mind. That in reality I had my very own Carlton Fisk moment of waving the ball to stay fair. Other than the details I already provided, I got nothing. What really sticks with me are the little things I experienced, both good and bad. 

These major milestones are just that, milestones. Markers that something really great happened at some point in time which propelled me forward to create the next marker and so on. I guess that's what life is all about. 

What's a milestone event in your sports career that your parent(s) conveniently missed? Share in the comments below.