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.