‘Better Than Boys’: Girls Relish First National Baseball Tournament
June 7, 2015 - Picnic Time
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — “The girls here have good sportsmanship,” Grace DeVinney pronounced as she plopped down on a wooden cruise bench, happy to take a few mins in a shade. “Better than boys.”
In about 90 minutes, DeVinney’s team, a Central Florida Rays, would face a Carolina Terminators in a championship diversion of a initial all-girls inhabitant round tournament.
DeVinney, an 11-year-old from Longwood, Florida, is high with large eyes and thick, fluffy hair that she refuses to lift behind in a ponytail or tuck behind her ears. She has an easy approach of carrying herself and a reversion vibe, like someone plucked her right off a set of “The Bad News Bears.”
Like scarcely all a players during a contest hold during a Fortune Road Sports Complex, she is a usually lady on her hometown round team. This week, she finally got a possibility to play with and opposite other girls.
“When a girls lose, they don’t disregard any other,” she said. “We don’t stomp, and we don’t let losing get to us. We’re usually some-more rival than a boys. When we lose, we get some-more pumped adult and keep going during it.”
DeVinney knows a thing or dual about examination boys lose. In May, she was partial of an all-girls Baseball For All organisation that done headlines by winning a USSSA Tournament opposite all-boys teams in southern California.
Back home in Longwood, she helps her all-boys Dixie Youth Baseball organisation kick teams full of boys all a time. But she dreams of being means to play girls’ round full-time.
Justine Siegel hopes to make that dream a existence — not usually for DeVinney, nonetheless for destiny generations of girls. The inhabitant tournament, a six-day eventuality hold in Kissimmee, Florida, is a brainchild of Siegel and her nonprofit, Baseball For All, that is dedicated to augmenting opportunities for girls in a game. The eventuality drew 12 teams of 10 13-year-olds from all over a country, as good as a organisation of 8- to 10-year-olds who participated in clinics and played in developmental games.
Over a march of a tournament, a girls got to work with a handful of mentors, including knuckleballer Chelsea Baker, who pitched batting use for a Tampa Bay Rays final year, and Ghazaleh “Oz” Sailors, who usually finished her college pitching career and inked a understanding with a Virginia Marlins in a World Baseball League.
The girls got autographs and recommendation from former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players Maybelle Blair and Shirley Burkovich and attended a hospital put on by MLB Director of Umpire Development Rich Rieker. The contest was a pile-up march in baseball, a manners and a story put on by a lady who has spent many of her life around a game.
Siegel grew adult personification baseball, went on to manager in both a men’s collegiate and veteran ranks, and was a initial lady to chuck batting use to an MLB team. She started Baseball For All in 1998 as a 23-year-old in Cleveland. For her “day job,” she’s a executive of sports partnerships during Northeastern University’s Center for a Study of Sport in Society.
Over a years, Siegel has schooled from each tiny contest she has run, each primogenitor who has yelled during her and each lady she has helped coach. She put all that believe into formulating a contest in Kissimmee, that she believes will be a branch indicate for girls in baseball.
“So most of what we do is usually about a suspicion that once they see it, people will understand,” she said. “I’m confident that after saying a success of this tournament, a inhabitant lady round organizations, like Little League, Dixie and PONY, will wish to get concerned and emanate a girls round program.”
Women played round in leagues and during colleges dating to a 1830s. The pro joining done famous by a film “A League Of Their Own” spanned 12 years, with some-more than 600 women personification pro ball. Girls fought for and won a right to play Little League some-more than 40 years ago. Yet girls are still fighting to play baseball.
“I have hundreds of stories — and I’m certain we could collect thousands — of girls being treated poorly,” Siegel said. “Being stranded in right field, being flatly told to quit. That’s a fundamental taste a inhabitant round organizations need to step to.”
DeVinney knows all too good how tough it can be personification round as a immature girl. She says she gets a satisfactory shake on her stream team, coached by her dad, nonetheless remembers a initial organisation she played on, when she always batted final and got stranded in right field, even nonetheless she was distant from a misfortune actor on a team.
Others during a contest talked about likewise unsatisfactory experiences. A 10-year-old from Los Angeles — who once told her first-grade clergyman she wanted to be a subsequent Jackie Robinson — gets batted final in her Little League lineup, no matter how most she improves or how many boys she outplays. A mom from San Francisco finds a coaches in her daughter’s joining tend to caring some-more about removing their sons to all-star games than formulating a good knowledge for all a kids.
For some girls, a trail has been a small easier. Two of a tournament’s tip players, a Carolina Terminators’ Taylor Bowen and a New Mexico Fusion’s Kendra Levesque, follow in a footsteps of comparison brothers.
Bowen, whose fastball tops out during about 68 mph, is not usually a initial lady to play on a Grifton Middle School round organisation in Grifton, North Carolina, nonetheless also a MVP final season, as a seventh grader. She hasn’t had any difficulty wise in in center school, nonetheless she is not nonetheless certain how welcoming people during a high propagandize will be, nonetheless her hermit warranted all-county honors there.
Bowen likes distinguished out a boys — “It’s good when they go behind and impact their helmet and cry,” she giggled — nonetheless she desired a possibility to play alongside other girls, including Levesque, who was her teammate on Baseball For All’s Sparks organisation final year in Cooperstown.
Levesque, who sports a long, thick plat and boasts a grin as large as her swing, won a Home Run Derby during a Cooperstown eventuality by violence 104 boys. She’s also got an arm and hits scarcely 70 on a gun. Levesque initial played round during a age of 4, when her comparison hermit indispensable her to fill in on his shorthanded team.
“It usually clicked from there,” she said. “I started personification round and usually never suspicion about personification softball. My brother’s always been understanding of me and pushed me a additional mile. we wish to play during LSU or ASU.”
Her dad, Troy, pronounced Levesque has always had copiousness of support from coaches and will even try out for a high propagandize organisation subsequent year, as an eighth grader. The manager there coached her hermit and has watched her play over a years.
“Boys get bigger and stronger, and she has to work twice as hard,” Troy said. “But if she keeps her work ethic a approach she’s going, she can contest with any of those boys. She’s played with them for years, and she’s really competitive. She’ll fit right in.”
Troy encourages her to continue personification baseball, even when a boys’ relatives try to pull her into softball. “They contend she needs to send to softball: since in Division 1, she’ll have no possibility in baseball. But she’s a 4.0 student, and we tell her, ‘Follow your dreams, and we can always tumble behind on your education.'”
Siegel agrees that branch girls to softball for a consequence of scholarships isn’t a right move, adding an 11-year-old’s life shouldn’t be formed on a intensity of a destiny scholarship. Siegel pronounced a pivotal to a destiny of girls’ round isn’t usually to continue to pull for acceptance on boys’ teams, nonetheless also to emanate some-more opportunities for leagues of their own.
“We’re already removing emails from relatives who listened about this contest and said, ‘Hey, we wish to start a team. How can we do that?'” she said. “By carrying these tournaments and incentives, it’s a approach to inspire girls to start a team, and afterwards they have an event to start a league. And those communities that are already prepared for an all-girls league, we’ll be means to assistance them with that.”
Siegel anticipates that 5 years from now, there will be during slightest 100 girls’ teams opposite a country, with exponential expansion each year. “Just since ‘baseball is for boys’ is a approach it is now,” she said, “doesn’t meant it has to continue this way.”
In Thursday’s Baseball For All contest pretension game, Bowen’s Terminators degraded DeVinney’s Rays for a bullion medal. Afterward, competitors from a winning and losing teams took photos and sealed commemoration bats for one another.
The detriment stung, DeVinney said, nonetheless “we finally got to feel what it was like to play opposite a garland of girls.”