Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Athletic Support Isn't Just For Your Boobs

My Mom used to regularly hit me ground balls in our backyard. The yard was… very uneven. I like to think that’s why I became a great fielder. There was no hop I couldn’t immediately adjust to and snag with my glove. Backhand, forehand, right at my face, didn’t matter. It was getting stopped. It also didn’t hurt that I loved fielding and could do it for hours. 

My Dad would catch for me when I practiced pitching. I didn’t pitch a lot, nor did I care about it enough to learn how to throw different pitches but I did enjoy the accuracy and cunning it takes to strike somebody out. When I threw a pitch that just grazed the corner I can vividly recall my dad doing his best umpire impression, “Steeerike!”

My Nana and Papa would sit in their car beyond the fence in right center during games and honk the horn every time I got a hit, scored a run, threw someone out. Essentially, any time I did something good. The car horn honked a lot and I proudly smiled every time I heard it. 

Without a supportive family it’s really hard to be “the girl” in a boy’s sport. Every step of the way you have to have someone who’s got your back and is cheering for you. A shoulder you can lean on. An ear that will listen. Unfortunately, my baseball experience, like so many girls before and after me, ended sooner than I would have liked. And like most it was our own choice. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the support to continue, clearly I did. I know the discrimination, judgment, and doubtful looks I received. I can only imagine how much harder the ups, downs and hardships my fellow athletes faced who stuck with the game into high school and throughout college.

I admire these young girls who recognized that their passion could not and would not be compromised no matter what and decided to forge ahead on an unknown path. I admire these young women who continue to sacrifice everything to play the sport they love knowing they will gain nothing*.

*Not necessarily true and used for slightly dramatic effect. Women who continue to play baseball gain strength, satisfaction, mental fortitude, joy, lifelong friendships, opportunities to see the world, experience things most will never get to and maybe even win a fucking gold medal to boot. What they won’t gain is money.

They say that behind every strong man is a stronger woman. Well, behind every strong female baseball player is an unquantifiable amount of strength from a multitude of people. The next time (or the first time) you meet a female who plays baseball show her the support she deserves. Tell her you got her back. She'd appreciate it. She might even smile like she's hearing a car horn.

Who's your support system? Share in the comments below.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Girls Have Bigger Balls

Before I fully delve into the world of personal experiences I want to start you all off on the right foot by sharing some resources where you can learn about and follow women in baseball. This is by no means a finite list but very good places to start. Make sure to give them a follow on the social medias!

Have fun going down the rabbit hole. See ya in a few years!

Justine Siegal (@JustineBaseball) (@JustineSiegal)
Baseball for All (@Baseballfor_All)
Women Belong in Baseball (@WomenBaseball1)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Congenital Baseball Disorder

You could say baseball is in my blood. That may be a bit of an exaggeration as well as an unproven and unsubstantiated fact, but it might as well be true. For some reason that I have no knowledge of, that transcends all logic, baseball was, is, and always will be in me and a part of my life.

Like many, sports, specifically baseball, was passed down to me through family outings and youth summer activities. Until recently, it was a cheap way to take your kids on a fun-filled exciting adventure to watch adult men hit a ball with a stick while other adults watch and scream while drinking beer. Now it's an expensive way to experience all that. But I digress.

You could say my loving baseball is a forced upon or learned behavior but I stopped giving a shit about soccer when I was 8. Baseball, however, yeah, it's still in there, running through my veins. Neither of my parents played. My older sister didn't play. So why me? How was I so fortunate to be chosen? I don't know and I choose not to question it. 

Some of my earliest memories revolve around baseball: playing t-ball on a grass-covered, barely-kept baseball diamond outside the Navy Base adjacent to a major road. We were 5 and 6, so I guess car traffic wasn’t a major concern since none of us were hitting bombs, that's if any of us were even hitting anything other than the rubber tee.

I remember hanging carved-out gallon milk jugs over the fence to get autographs from up and coming minor leaguers at McCoy Stadium.

My Nana would tell me how she’d faithfully listen to the Red Sox during World War II while her husband was overseas. She knew all the players names. As she was passing away an all important September Red Sox game was playing on the television set by her bed.

Then there's the day in Little League when I wasn't allowed to play third base. The coach, who I don't have to clarify was a man but will, didn't expressly state why I couldn't play there. I was innocent enough to not really put too much thought into it, hell I just wanted to play, but also inherently wily enough to have my suspicions. Shortly after, when I saw the lucky boy (whose name is seared in my brain but shall remain nameless) at third barely throw it past the pitcher's mound (from my great view at second base) I thought the pre-teen equivalent of, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

And on it goes. 

See, when you’re a girl who plays baseball, who loves baseball, there are assumptions made about you. Oh, so many assumptions. You're not strong enough, you're not tough enough, you can't make the throw, you can't hit, blah, blah, blah. It can be hard when the sport doesn’t necessarily love you back. Not only does the sport not care about you, sometimes it feels like your fellow players and coaches don’t care about you. You’re a girl. Playing a boy's sport. The sport itself is an inanimate game, I'll let it off the hook because I know deep down if it were a person it would truly love me as much as I love it. But the people? C'mon, guys, grow a pair! 

I will take this moment to state that yes, there were men and boys in my baseball experience, as well as men and boys in many other girls' experiences who do support women who play baseball. And believe me I will delve into that more, but in general, the women playing baseball are going to hit more roadblocks than the boys as far as support and encouragement. Overall, I'm glad to see that things are changing for the better. 

There's a stigma that sometimes comes along with being a girl who's into baseball. Whereas you're not considered tough enough to play the game, you're also not feminine enough to simply be a female. There's no middle ground. It's an arbitrary dichotomy imposed on us when really, can't we be both? Can't we be whoever the hell we are? Can't we just be? We are both tough enough and feminine enough. 

And also, why is it bad to “throw like a girl”? I'm pretty sure I could throw better than at least one (*cough*) of my former teammates. 

That’s what this blog is about. I'm not unique. My stories are my own, but I'm willing to bet that they’re also universal to many other girls and women who have played and continue to play. Ask any female who’s played America’s game and you’ll hear the same sentiments: feeling of loneliness, exclusion, the pressure to play softball.

While I’ll write to inform and entertain, I do hope you'll look at things a little differently, whether you’re a man, woman, boy, girl, transgender, non-gender conforming, baseball lover, baseball hater (do those exist?), parent or relative of a girl who just wants to play. Why? Because it's in her blood. It's who she is. She can't help it.

What are your experiences with baseball? Share in the comments below.