A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
By Jill Painter, Staff Writer
L.A. Daily News
Marti Sementelli shared laughs with a Birmingham High assistant baseball coach Thursday, feeding him balls as he hit grounders during an afternoon practice.
Her hair was tucked under a blue cap, so you couldn't tell she was a girl from a quick glance.
Sementelli was behind the plate, but on Saturday, she'll take center stage on the mound in a historic game against San Marcos High of Santa Barbara.
Sementelli will start for home team Birmingham and visiting San Marcos will start a female pitcher, Ghazaleh Sailors. It is believed to be the first time that two California high school baseball teams have faced each other with girls as starting pitchers.
"I'm really excited. It's something you don't see everyday," said Sementelli, a senior.
"It's a special thing. It might not ever happen again. I look forward to it. When we first heard it was possible, we were like, `how sick would that be?"'
Sementelli and Sailors have known one another since they played on the USA Baseball women's national team in international competition. So when Birmingham coach Matt Mowry confirmed that the matchup would happen last weekend, Sementelli celebrated with her father, Gary, then called Sailors, who didn't know yet.
San Marcos initiated the conversations and Mowry and Sementelli agreed.
"Their athletic director called me and I said, `I'm all for it. If your coach is willing to throw his girl, I'll throw mine and we'll make history," Mowry said. "I talked to Marti about it. She's all for it."
Seating might be difficult to come by since there are only three rows of seats on either side of Birmingham's baseball field and one set of grandstands. Mowry said he was thinking about adding more seats, remembering one game that drew about 1,000 fans, most of whom had to stand the entire time.
Gary Sementelli worked with his daughter every day. She played in Sherman Oaks Little League and now is working on playing collegiate baseball.
"There are so many girls that play Little League and then they stop," Gary Sementelli said.
"People tell them, `you can't play anymore. There's no scholarships. They'll be bigger and stronger than you. They're meaner than you. So don't do it.
"There are thousands of girls who play. What if you have a lot of success. You're supposed to quit? To be able to see these two girls, that will be great. There's an opportunity for girls to play baseball."
Jim Nemerovski, who founded the Web site www.girlsplaybaseball.com, lives in Northern California and hopes to make it to the game with his baseball playing son and daughter.
"It's highly likely one or both of these girls will end up playing baseball in college," Nemerovski said. "That's huge. The thing we're experiencing they're truly respected and admired, especially when they can get up there and deliver the goods. It's a truly amazing reaction."
Sementelli have talked to each other before on Facebook, and Sementelli hopes they'll be able to talk about Saturday's game decades from now.
"I keep seeing the words gender barrier," Sementelli said of the attention that has come with the rare all-girls pitching matchup. "You want to be recognized, but then again, this should be natural and normal. It's like a girl playing volleyball. Or a girl can play tennis or golf. Maybe years from now it won't cause that much attention because it means we've done what we needed to do. It would be a normal game."