It's time for the U.S. to stop discouraging girls from the national pastime.
By Jennifer Ring
JENNIFER RING, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno, is the author of "Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don't Play Baseball," to be published next year.
August 27, 2006
IF YOU'RE A baseball fan, you should know what took place Aug. 1-6. Eighteen American baseball players flew to Taipei, Taiwan, as the best women's team in the United States — and returned to Los Angeles as the best women's team in the world.
You didn't know that? The Japanese media covered the tournament, held at Tienmu Baseball Stadium, that included teams from Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Cuba and the U.S. But there was no ESPN booth, no U.S. reporters, and it was difficult to find news of the games even online, which probably explains why you missed hearing about the tournament. What a shame.
This year's U.S. team fielded some returning veterans from the inaugural 2004 team that competed in Edmonton, Canada. It included members of the Colorado Silver Bullets professional team of 1994-97. The team's two youngest members are 15 years old, and the oldest will be 40 this year. The team was coached by Julie Croteau, the first woman to play on a men's NCAA baseball team (St. Mary's College of Maryland) and the first woman to coach a men's Division I baseball team (University of Massachusetts). Now she is the first female manager to win a gold medal at the Women's World Cup Tournament.
My 18-year-old daughter, Lilly Jacobson, was a member of Team USA. She was selected after a three-stage national tryout. Neither of us had ever heard of a national women's baseball team — or of any organized women's baseball in the U.S. — until research for a book I'm writing led me to Jim Glennie, president of the American Women's Baseball Federation. When he learned that Lilly played high school ball, he invited her to try out for the team.
Lilly has played baseball with boys all her life, right through high school. After she completed Little League, coaches at the next level and parents who thought she shouldn't squander her athletic talent pressured her to switch to softball. My daughter resisted because she's good at baseball and loves the skills the sport demands — fielding agility, base-running savvy and hitting a hard ball. To Lilly, baseball is simply a more exciting, intricate game, with a long and colorful history.