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.