Reflections on Women in Baseball Week
By Rebecca Herman
July 31, 2019
I truly enjoyed reading articles and Tweets throughout the Women in Baseball Week, July 21-27, 2019. To be completely transparent – I’ve never played baseball outside of gym class or summer camp and I’ve never truly had a desire to play baseball. However, that doesn’t change my long-standing love of the game and my desire to see baseball for everyone.
Huge props to the International Women’s Baseball Center for developing and promoting this awareness and celebration event. I received amazing stories from them as well as Women Belong in Baseball, Women’s Baseball UK, and Baseball For All to name a few. I was also impressed by the collection of stories and promotion by Baseball Prospectus.
As much as I appreciated interacting and learning more and more about what various groups and people were doing, there was some disappointment to not see a lot in the media. Where were ESPN, MLB Diversity & Inclusion, and MLBNetwork that week? Why weren’t they featuring stories about women in baseball or at least sharing the hashtags #WomenInBaseball or #WomenInBaseballWeek?
So why do I care? What got me so immersed in this particular subject?
Over the past year, a work-related project got me immersed in the history of baseball. I am a leadership professor for Purdue University Global and both Purdue University and Professional Baseball celebrated their sesquicentennial anniversaries in 2019. I was asked to create an online, six-week course that would take students on a 150-year journey of American culture, gender, diversity, analytics, business, leadership, and more all through the lens of baseball.
It was through the course creation process that I discovered the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) and that I could become an Associate Member. It was a bit stunning to learn what the women had been doing since their playing days. When I realized they were having a 75th Reunion (2018) in Kansas City, I knew I had to be there. It was an overwhelming experience to meet the women, hear their stories, share in their love of the game, and learn about the many organizations that are working tirelessly to make a home for women to once again play baseball.
I kept digging for information on women in baseball. It would be included in two separate weeks: Unit 2 – Patriotism and Women in Baseball and in Unit 3 – Diversity and Race Relations. My goal was to ensure that my students would leave the class knowing about the role that women played in baseball history, where they are today, and what they desire for the future. I didn’t want fans of America’s Game to be like I was – uninformed! I read books, found articles online, and subscribed to numerous pages on Facebook. The AAGPBL website was incredibly helpful and so were the articles and stories that were regularly shared by the International Women’s Baseball Center (IWBC) and the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR).
After much research, interviews with baseball leaders at the Winter Meetings, teaming up with Purdue’s History professor Randy Roberts, and consultation with MLB’s Official Historian John Thorn, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame: 150 Years” was officially launched. From January through June of this year, nearly 700 students took part in the course: men & women, millennials to baby boomers, casual fans to former collegiate players. Engagement in the various topics included nearly 2000 discussion threads created and almost 4500 replies to those threads. It confirmed what I already thought – people love talking about baseball and there is a wide variety of opinions regarding every related topic. It was an honor and a pleasure to teach and facilitate discussions about all aspects of baseball with so many fans.
One of the most vigorous discussions was about women in baseball. There were those who felt that women should not be involved. Period. However, the vast majority were stunned much like I was to learn about USA Women’s Baseball and that there had just been a Women’s Baseball World Cup. There were fathers who have daughters who love playing baseball and want to keep playing but they weren’t sure of their options. There were women who were channeled into softball and even played at the collegiate level but they desired to play baseball. Title IX discussions were both positive and negative – yes, it had opened many opportunities for women, but the thought remained that it certainly wasn’t about “equality.”
We had numerous lively debates about the viability of having a women’s baseball league today. The previous week we had focused on the business of baseball; thus, my students wanted to challenge the notion of a women’s league from a sustainable business perspective. Each day I was asked another question or given a scenario that led me to do more research. My oh my – it was invigorating to facilitate the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs of such a diverse group of people, and it pushed me to become more and more informed.
While the course ended a month ago, my research inquiry has continued, and I want to share my findings and ideas with you and perhaps open new debate and generate new ideas. I know that many of you reading this may be thinking, “it’s about time!” or “good, you are catching up!” But my hope is that a new group of baseball fans will come to question why there isn’t a women’s baseball league and ask the question – “What can I do to help?”
In Part II of this series, I will share what I have found to exist today and talk a bit about the various groups who are promoting women in baseball. I hope you will stick with me and become both a fan and join me in becoming an advocate of women’s baseball!
For now – a huge THANK YOU to all who have been tirelessly promoting Women in Baseball and for promoting Women in Baseball Week!!!
Please visit these organizations and follow them on social media:
|Organization & Website|
|All-American Girls Professional Baseball League|
|International Women’s Baseball Center|
|Baseball For All|
|Women Belong in Baseball|
|USA Women’s Baseball Team|