My friend is visiting from Madison this week (we went to a Cubs game last weekend if you missed that) and we did a lot of baseball-related stuff. I don't usually get to air it out on throws because my son is only 9 and he doesn't have the mechanics or arm strength to go past about 40 feet or so, and I felt it in my arm, shoulder, elbow, and also in how difficult it was to maintain consistent mechanics. I could barely throw it 100 feet, let alone 150. It took a while before I could get the ball past 100 feet without a bounce, but at least I could catch. No, wait, I couldn't do that either because the pocket of my new glove wasn't broken in yet so the ball kept popping out, haha.
The other thing we did was to go to Stella's batting cages. For those of you who don't know, it's way out in Lyons and I went there last year with Mauricio while he was still with WSD. Anyway, after not having swung the bat at even a batting practice fastball in something like ten years, I could barely catch up to the 54 mph cage. I did a lot better at the 38 mph cage, and anything past that? Hopeless. Timing completely off, swinging on top or below each pitch, and barely able to foul tip maybe 10% of the pitches that whistled my way. I did a lot better when playing pickup ball with my friends in North Carolina (I even hit a few Little League home runs, haha) but this was pretty poor. Maybe it was also because I couldn't pick up the ball very well coming out of the hutch, but that's just me making excuses now.
Halfway through my session of fail, a girl not much older than 13 came to the cages and started putting on a show. She started off at the slow cage to warm up, and obviously did okay. Then she kept going up in velocity until she was in the 70 or 80 mph cage. She didn't get cheated, hitting every pitch on the nose, stopping every now and then to lay down a bunt. It was incredible. I talked to her mother for a bit and learned that she had been playing since she was 7 and was on a travel team, but for softball. I thought that if she could hang with the faster pitches, she should try out for baseball as it really did seem she could compete with the boys. It really was impressive and I wondered what would happen if she could develop that skillset against tough competition in a baseball setting.
You may also remember that I went to the Hall of Fame, and there was a cool women in baseball exhibit there. Aside from the women of the AAGPBL, I can't really remember any big push to have women play baseball professionally. Every now and then you hear about the random female pitcher in the minors, but obviously none have made it to the majors. I think there have been some who get to throw batting practice, but not in an actual game. I also believe the issue has come up again with the Little League World Series featuring a very good female pitcher in Mo'ne Davis. Unfortunately it sounds like baseball is a side venture for Mo'ne as she is more interested in playing basketball for UConn.
Craig Calcaterra wrote about a couple articles that discussed women in baseball over at HardballTalk today. While ultimately conceding that girls can probably play major league baseball someday, he does outline some of the obstacles that work against them. The biggest one is probably the softball/baseball divide, where girls are steered towards softball rather than being allowed to play women's baseball, or even consistently try out for baseball with the boys. It would probably take a perfect storm of sponsors, interest, and a group of female athletes gifted enough and dedicated enough to break through.
If girls like the one at Stella's and Mo'ne Davis are any indication, those girls are out there. Far be it for me to try to steer a dream, but if they do dream of becoming baseball players at the highest level, maybe it's not so bad for us to cheer them on and hope for the best. I hope, at least, my brief conversation with that little girl's mother had some effect because I really do think she could be great at baseball.