Justine Siegal Champions “Baseball for All”
A lot of girls say baseball is their favorite sport. They love playing it. If so, why do girls drop out of baseball?
The answer comes from Justine Siegal, a pioneer baseball player who now directs a nonprofit organization called “Baseball for All,” which makes opportunities for girls as players, coaches, umpires, and leaders. Justine knows from experience why girls give up. Here is the answer:
“Girls are told to give up on baseball. There is so much pressure from other parents, coaches, and sometimes even their own parents to quit. Too many people think that softball is the equivalent of baseball so when they suggest the girl drop baseball for softball they often think they are helping. When in fact they are teaching her that her dreams are not as important as boys’ dreams and that girls do certain things and boys do other things–and to not cross that line.”
Parents and coaches who advise girls to quit baseball for softball don’t realize they are ruining the girls’ dreams. They give their advice to quit baseball because they are looking ahead to the girls’ future. They know that college ball is the only solid avenue to a professional career and that colleges, although they sometimes give scholarships to softball players, never give them to baseball players.
College coaches are therefore the blocking point for skilled girl players to get ahead in their chosen field. Only one girl in the entire United States is now playing on her college varsity baseball team. What is behind college coaches’ unwillingness to select skilled females for their varsities? It’s got to be those who appoint and direct the coaches: athletic departments, college administrations, and ultimately the alumni. Do you know any alumnus who would want to go back to visit his or her college and watch a baseball game with a female on the team? Most alumni don’t even know that females play baseball.
Our education system has failed to reveal that men are not the only players of the American National Pastime, that women have been playing baseball since at least the middle of the nineteenth century, that they have formed their own teams to travel around the country and play against other teams of women, of men, and of coed teams. But just ask a college alumnus about women’s baseball history. The person you ask may never even have seen the film, “A League of Their Own,” about the professional league that operated successfully a full century after women started playing in this country. How can we expect college coaches to rise above the alumni’s lack of knowledge and permit women to try out for a team of young men who might not be willing to accept a female player?
That’s why, as the saying goes, “It all comes down to education.” Maybe we need to have some of the elite teams of women baseball players put on their tournaments in college towns and invite the coaches to see them play. Maybe we need to inundate these colleges with information about the history of women in baseball and about current skilled players. Waiting till college athletic departments wake up and begin to recruit women baseball players is a slow process. They need stimulus. Information. Publicity. Reminders. A big push, aided by the women’s history departments.
Perhaps Justine’s organization could take the initiative and prepare Information Packages to go out to key college coaches and the women historians at those same colleges, who could invite the baseball historians to put on panels, exhibits, PowerPoint presentations, and live interviews with women players, supplemented by videos showing them playing baseball competently. Zeroing in on the colleges, which are the blocking points to women’s baseball careers, might move matters along.
All this would take a large grant from a women’s organization, a history organization, or an athletic organization. Or all three.
Anybody ready to take the plunge?