Photo Credit: TimeInc.com
Although Little League dugouts and diamonds are slowly clearing out as fall approaches, there remains a lingering issue that has yet to hit home. In 2014, Philadelphia Taney Dragon Little League baseball player Mo’Ne Davis took the world by storm with her unique curveball and 70 mile per hour fast ball silencing the notion that girls can’t throw or compete with the boys. But why is Davis and many other girls competing with boys instead of competing in a league of their own? On one hand, there aren’t any baseball leagues for girls so they’re forced to play with the boys. On the other hand, girl’s softball leagues are lacking because many girls are playing baseball. Furthermore, the difference in the two games hurts girls once they get to high school and have to play softball, although many girls choose to continue to play baseball with boys in high school. These young ladies will likely experience some challenges once they make it to the college level. However, some colleges allow women to play baseball with the men. But this run will eventually come to an end, as there isn’t a professional baseball league for women. Many coaches and female players don’t consider softball to be equivalent to baseball because the dynamics of the game are different – different pitching styles, different distance between bases, different number of innings and different sizes of balls and fields. Many females prefer to pitch overhanded opposed to the unorthodox, underhanded pitch. The 1992 film “A League of Their Own” depicts the women of the 1940’s All American Girls Professional Baseball League pitching overhanded with baseballs instead of the larger softballs. So, if women had their own baseball league over 50 years ago, why are girls and women being limited to softball today? Actually, the only limitations are the differences in the sport names- baseball and softball – and pitching styles. But just as women play baseball, there are men who play in their own softball leagues without taking any offense to the name. However, it’s understandable that girls and women would feel some type of way about the sport they play being referred to as “soft.” But, when compared to a sport like basketball, females and males play with different size balls and have different rules at different levels. Although the sport is universally referred to as basketball for both genders, it’s still not equal based on gender. Nevertheless, the overhanded pitching style would be an interesting switch for the girl’s and women’s game.
Now, within this issue lies another issue of the lack of softball leagues for girls in inner cities. As stated earlier, some girls don’t want to play softball, but many play Little League baseball because the means to play softball isn’t available to them. There are a lot of factors that play a role in this issue. For one, baseball is a more expensive sport to play than basketball and football. This is why many inner city youth are drawn to the latter sports. It’s already challenging enough to get young males involved in baseball to develop these leagues, so it’s a greater challenge to get enough girls involved in softball to have its own inner-city league. But with the right support, sponsorship and promotion, it’s possible. Birmingham, Ala. native Ron “Papa Jack” Jackson – who was the hitting coach for the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox – is the founder and executive director of the Willie Mays Youth Urban League. It is a part of the Reviving Baseball in the Inner City (RBI) program, an initiative by Major League Baseball to recruit and maintain players from underdeveloped communities. Over the past few years, he has gotten many 11 and 12 -year -old, minority males involved in baseball through his program. In July 2014, the youth baseball team won the MLB Junior RBI Classic tournament that was held in Minnesota during All-Star weekend.
The same effort and support the Youth Urban League has received for males should be translated to females. The earlier girls are able to develop in softball – it’s still softball until it’s universally changed, meaning girls should be trained to play by the rules of softball – the less they will be at a disadvantage the older they get because they have played baseball all of their lives. There aren’t many minority females playing college softball because of the short amount of time to transition from baseball to softball and a lack of financial resources. Hence, many college softball players have played the sport most of their lives and have been able to perfect their craft because they’ve had the resources to do so. Due to the fact that she’s already proven herself, Davis will be easily accepted to play baseball with the boys in high school if she chooses to. But every female can’t do what she’s been able to do, so more attention needs to be given to the enhancement of softball players. This topic creates an obscure line and deserves further discussion. So, what’s your take on the issue?