14-year-old Niamh Mayhew is the niece of A. Ross Mayhew, former editor of the University of Delaware’s student newspaper, and one of my role models. Today, she visits jeffpearlman.com to explain why women should be accepted as baseball players.
Everyone knows Major League Baseball. Even people on the other side of the earth know about men’s baseball. Yes, I said “men’s.” Why am I being so specific? Because women play pro baseball, too. Never heard of it? Look up the USA Women’s Baseball roster. I’ll give you a second to click the link.
Personally, I played baseball for seven years. Two years were T-ball, so I really had no choice there. I’ve heard everything about my involvement—from ‘You’re a girl,’ to ‘Go play softball.’ I’ve heard everything probably 10 times. Even strangers would tell me to play softball for scholarships.
I think what people don’t understand is that girls can play baseball … and they have. It dates back to 1943, during World War II. The men were being sent overseas, and baseball would’ve been shut down for the duration of the war. Then the women stepped up to take over the male dominant sport and play the game they love. Ever seen A League Of Their Own? It wasn’t until last summer, when the Sonoma Stompers in California signed Kelsie Whitmore, Stacy Piagno and Anna Kimbrell, that women were to play professional baseball. That’s 73 years. In my opinion that’s too much of a gap.
I believe people just thought women stopped playing baseball and went back to their normal lives. But the truth is that girls and women have been playing baseball for a while now. There were at least half a dozen girls in my local baseball Little League when I was playing. All of us dropped out, and I’m not proud of the reasons why I personally quit. Some went to play softball or pursue other sports. I dropped out from playing because I did not want to be with the same people who told me I was a) A terrible player b) A girl c) I had better chances with softball. I’m not proud for the reasons why I left, but I’m glad I stopped playing with those people. My whole self esteem would’ve crashed and I would’ve been miserable.
Thanks to a friend, I’ve met Stacy Piagno, Kelsie Whitmore and Anna Kimbrell. I legit cried when I found out I was going to meet them because they were the first women in professional baseball since the 1950s, so how can you not get excited for that?! They are the nicest people I’ve ever met. I saw all three of them play, then we went out and got pizza in the nice downtown of Sonoma. They gave me tips on how to deal with boys in baseball and how to just play the sport I love and not care about anything else. It was amazing and life changing. I had never heard of the USA Women’s Baseball Team. They ran a camp for girl baseball players only. It was two days in Anaheim and an inexpensive camp.
I ended up attending. Kelsie was there, and that was really funny because I didn’t know she was going to be there. I got to say, best two days of my life. We got jerseys with the USA logo on the front and our own USA hats. There were about 14 girls in attendance all in the age range of 13-17. Some were local or from California, but most were from out of state. There was one girl from Virginia, and her mom knew my aunt. Small world. Anyway, they all were amazing and so nice to play with. They put my skills to shame. I had never felt so intimidated in my life. The coaches were all amazing, too. They were all there for one reason, to sharpen out skills and have fun. I learned so much and I can’t wait to go again.
I walk around my hometown, wearing that USA hat with pride. I would go to baseball camp with it, and the other boys would look at me funny. One boy there went to one of the USA camps in North Carolina, and he recognized the cap immediately. But I have to explain that I went to the GIRLS baseball camp. It shouldn’t be like that. People should automatically ask, ‘Did you go to the women’s baseball camp, or the one in North Carolina?’ I shouldn’t have to explain that there’s a USA women’s team. Stacy Piagno, Kelsie Whitmore and Anna Kimbrell should be on the tip of people’s tongues. They should be getting multimillion dollar contracts for playing the sport they love. I shouldn’t be told to play softball because I’m playing a male dominant sport. Girls and women should be able to say ‘I play baseball’ and have no one bat an eye.