Women and Girls Play Baseball Today
By Rebecca Herman
August 2, 2019
In Part I of this series, I reflected on the most recent Women in Baseball Week and shared how I became passionate about this topic. In this article, I will highlight a few of the many activities and events that provide opportunities for women and girls to play baseball.
High School Players
Here is a video story about Maddie – who plays on her high school varsity baseball team and is the co-captain.
Maddie Saven is the only girl on her high school baseball team and the co-captain as a sophomore. ⚾️💪
— FanSided (@FanSided) June 12, 2019
Baseball For All
For anyone thinking that young girls play Little League but then they all transition to softball, that’s not truly the case. More and more would prefer staying with baseball but find there is a limited opportunity. Grassroots efforts have started to change this. The map below (and accessible here for more exploration) shows the five age divisions and locations of 46 teams in North America.
In July, Baseball For All was notified that they had been awarded a grant to give more girls access to baseball.
BIG NEWS: We are proud to announce that MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, a joint initiative of @MLB and the @MLB_PLAYERS, has awarded us a grant to help us be give more girls access to baseball, providing over 50 need-based scholarships to this year’s #BFANationals 💪 pic.twitter.com/OBNJfUPrOA
— Baseball For All (@baseballfor_all) July 19, 2019
Right now (July 31-August 4, 2019), there are over 350 girls attending the Baseball for All Nationals in Rockford, IL.
Want to see where the 350+ girls coming to #BFANationals are from? We’re looking at 35 states, 5 Canadian provinces, and four countries total, including South Korea and Australia #growthegame pic.twitter.com/IBUxtXCYed
— Baseball For All (@baseballfor_all) July 31, 2019
Baseball For All has already held clinics in Pittsburgh, PA, Reno, NV, and Chicago, IL, as well as series in Milton, NY, Hoboken, NJ, and Albany, CA with another planned for later this month in Cooperstown, NY.
American Girls Baseball (AGB)
This is a new subsidiary of the All-America Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) and Sue Zipay, who played for the AAGPBL, is the president. The Atlanta Braves Florida baseball operations team worked with Sue and the AGB association to bring girls ages 8-17 to their new CoolToday Park training facility in North Port, FL last month. The inaugural camp was limited to 60 participants and boasted a strong coaching staff.
— AAGPBL Official (@AAGPBL) July 19, 2019
Day 2 of the American Girls Baseball camp! The players are learning a lot and they got a chance to do a Q&A with their coaches. pic.twitter.com/sgbgxbAkyN
— AAGPBL Official (@AAGPBL) July 20, 2019
— AAGPBL Official (@AAGPBL) July 21, 2019
The camp was deemed a huge success! Here are some more fantastic photos from the event.
MLB Youth Player Development
A department of Major League Baseball (MLB), the Youth Player Development programs seeks to “fulfill the needs and desires of young people who want to play our game.” Both the Trailblazer Series and the Breakthrough Series offer events for female baseball players. The Trailblazer series was officially introduced in 2017 and focuses on offering coaching and competitive play for girls under the age of 13.
This is an amazing start but an all-girls Little League seems to be what is truly needed to grow the sport. If MLB would then partner with these other organizations and their tournaments, perhaps more girls would get involved and awareness would increase exponentially.
USA Women’s Baseball Team
The women’s national team began competing in 2004 and won the Women’s Baseball World Cup that same year. There are only 20 spots on the women’s national team. In addition to competing in the WBWC, there are sometimes team development programs as well. This year, August 7-10, 2019, a 34-player roster will participate in the Women’s National Team Development Program (NTDP) in Carrollton, TX. The 2019 Women’s National Team Manager is Veronica Alvarez, five-time on Team USA alumna.
A dozen of the players participated in the Girls Baseball Breakthrough Series, seven played in the MLB GRIT Invitational and three in the Trailblazer Series. Ten of the women are returning Team USA alumnae. Check this page regularly for updates on the team.
World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC)
The WBSC is the organizing body for the Women’s World Cup. Yes – there is a Women’s World Cup. How did I not know about this? Last Fall while doing research for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame: 150 Years” I discovered that the event had occurred in August in Viera, FL – the first time the tournament was ever held in the US. Honestly, had I known this, I would have found a way to be there. I have to think that there simply isn’t enough media coverage and based on attendance, that seems to be the case. The total official attendance for all 50 games was 17,969. That puts the average attendance for each game at 359 people.
The US was one of twelve countries that competed. Although baseball may be America’s Game, for the women, Team USA hasn’t won the World Cup since 2006 and that is largely due to the focus and professional status of many other countries for their women’s teams. Team USA members get acquainted at tryouts and then train together for five days before the series. In any situation, building team chemistry and team skills require more than a few days, regardless of the individual talent level.
Japan has dominated and won the gold six consecutive times from 2008-2018. In 2018, Chinese Taipei came in second place after being fourth in 2016. Canada defeated the US to take bronze. Overall, the US won in 2004 and 2006, took third in 2008 and 2010, were runners-up in 2012 and 2014. Twelve countries competed in 2018, including the Dominican Republic for the first time. The next World Cup will be in 2020.
Women’s Baseball in Other Countries
Japan has had a professional women’s team – the Japanese Women’s Baseball League (JWBL) – since 2009 when a wealthy business owner invested. While the league has only four teams, their success can be linked to more than 25 private high schools having women’s baseball teams as a funnel for the league.
Canada has a national team as well as ten provincial girls baseball websites. Teams include Junior National 18U, Senior National, and Women’s National.
There are many more but these particular countries have really stepped up to the plate to take a proactive approach to women’s baseball.
My goal was not to cover every aspect of women and girls playing baseball today but to demonstrate that it is growing – it is real – it is here to stay. Females desire to play baseball versus softball – they are not the same sport! We must continue the mission of the many amazing organizations and help the desire for women to play baseball be realized without having to battle norms and be a “trailblazer” each and every day.
In Part III of this series, I will seek to build a business case for a women’s professional baseball league. As always, I welcome your ideas and collegial debate. Together, we can do anything!
On a related note, it was recently announced that SABR’s Arizona Fall League Experience will be focused on women in baseball, co-hosted by the International Women’s Baseball Center, and held in conjunction with the Arizona Fall League. It will take place in Phoenix, AZ October 10-12, 2019. For full event and registration information, please check here.
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|