Part 1: The Tryouts
As the father of three girls, ages 13, 11 and 11, I was encouraged when, at different times, they all tried out for different sports. The usual suspects of soccer, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, gymnastics and softball were all attempted at one time or another. There were varying levels of success, but the main point was to get out and try, be fit and make new friends. I found that the social element is particularly big with my girls.
What surprised me was when one daughter told me she wanted to play baseball. I said, “You mean softball?”
“No, I want to play baseball, with all of the boys.”
Now keep in mind that my daughter, Sasha, stood about 4-foot-3½ and weighed maybe 45 pounds — with weights in her pockets.
I wondered, to myself, “Why? Will they allow that? She could be overwhelmed. How will the boys treat her? What will the coaches think? What if she got hit by the ball and started crying?”
There was plenty more to think but I said, “OK, let’s sign you up. And we have to start practicing. We’ll play catch and then go to the batting cages.”
So that is what we did. We played catch on the side of the house, then she would practice alone when I couldn’t be there. She would throw the ball off the house 100 times before she came in for dinner. Keep in mind that she didn’t always catch it, and that sometimes she missed the target, but she was trying to get better.
Tryouts came, and each player got three pitches to swing at to show what they could do. At the tryouts, I overheard one boy ask, “Why is there a girl here?” He wasn’t mean, he just wanted to know. Sasha didn’t hear him as she walked to the plate for her chance.
She got in her stance and was ready for her first pitch. Tentative swing … and a miss. She seemed a little unsure and overmatched, but she had two more chances to show her stuff. The coach told her to get ready and the second pitch was on the way. Swing and a miss.
Now, I am a man of somewhat tattered faith, and this is when I decided to make a deal with God. There are no atheists in a foxhole … nor when your daughter is trying to compete with the boys! Please, just let her foul the last one off! Anything but a swing and a miss.
Sasha got in her stance for the final time and tapped the plate with her bat. Third pitch was on the way. Sasha swung the bat with the violence only used when trying to destroy a piñata. Then, it happened, she trickled a ground ball to the left side. But in the force of her big cut the momentum swung Sasha around, and she got twisted up like a pretzel. As she started to run she stumbled, tried to catch her steps, but it was too late.
Face plant. It got quiet as everyone was stunned at what they had just seen.
I cringed waiting for something. The boys making fun, the coaches babying her, Sasha wilting in a pool of tears.
But that didn’t happen. Sasha slowly got up on her knees, her long hair over her face, and when she brushed her hair away she had the biggest smile. She did it. She hit the ball!
“Way to go, Sasha. Good swing. Now run it out and get back in line," yelled the coach. And that is what Sasha did.
I looked around and everyone was enjoying the moment. People thought it was awesome. A girl trying out for Little League. Other parents started to clap and cheer her on. The other boys either congratulated her or ignored her, both good things.
And in the end Sasha proved that she could be one of the boys if she wanted … even while she was a girl. The only girl in her town’s Little League.
More to come ...