To the parents who thought girls shouldn’t play baseball,
“Don’t get beat by a girl.”
That was the mentality you passed down to your sons simply by the way you treated me. You were the parents of players on the opposing teams. I heard the comments you made and the gossip that went around every time I stepped on the mound.
You wanted me to hear you when you said I didn’t belong. At first, it was not easy when you would shout that I was about to get crushed. You tried to rattle me, but instead, I learned to tune you out because I sure wasn’t going to give up.
I fell in love with the sport of baseball when I was five years old thanks to my dad, who introduced me to the game. By elementary school, I knew the sport would always be a part of my life. As a pitcher, I love taking control and having the command of the game.
Throughout Little League, I got a lot of attention. I made the all-star team each year. Camera crews showed up at games to film me but at times you refused to let your sons be on TV. It was not because you didn’t want them to have the spotlight, but rather because you feared that I would dim their shine. You didn’t want your sons to be embarrassed when I struck them out.
While my teammates and their parents supported me, many people through the years tried to convince me to play softball. But why should I switch sports? That’s like asking a tennis player to become a ping pong player. Yes, they have a similar idea but they are not the same game.
I always remained determined to play baseball regardless of the many hurdles in my way.
I wanted to attend a private school in Southern California, but the coaches wouldn’t even let me try out. So, I had to search for a high school that would be open-minded enough to give a girl a chance to play, which I eventually found. While my teammates had my back, there were still times I naturally felt left out. Sometimes, I sat on the bench by myself and that was hard.
Inside jokes didn’t always include me. If I had one bad outing, it was the end of the world for my coaches. I wouldn’t get playing time for weeks. No other player would get benched that long for a subpar performance. But I fought through it.
At 15 years old I finally got a chance to play baseball with women. I became the youngest player on the U.S. Women’s National Team and I won an international award for best pitcher. That was the first time I really felt included and truly a part of a team.
My teammates encountered people just like you. There was and is an unspoken connection between all of us. We all know what it is like to fight for a spot we deserve and to feel like an outcast. The Women’s National Team is truly a collective group, trying to succeed as one.
After high school, I received a scholarship to pitch in college at Montreat College in North Carolina, while still playing with the U.S. National Team. In 2015, the U.S. women won gold at the Pan American games and I led us to the championship game.
Throughout my entire life, you’ve snickered and you’ve doubted me. But instead of holding me back, I have learned to not allow your words or anyone else’s negativity impact me. With your help, I have grown into a strong and independent-minded woman.
I am 26 years old and I still play baseball.
I continue to play with the National Team. I run clinics at a facility and I work part-time at Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox. Baseball isn’t just part of my life, it’s a part of me.
When I see young girls, who love the sport as much as I do, I warn them about people like you. I tell them not to listen. I tell them to never give up and to stay true to themselves and their passion.
Because the truth of the matter is that no one, not even you, is truly mad that girls are playing baseball. What bothers you is that we are good.
So instead of teaching your sons to fear getting beat by a girl, teach them to respect a good athlete. Because despite your efforts, our population is only getting bigger and our talent is getting even better.
Who is up next?