Baseball For All: Empowering Girls to Play Ball

By Susan Ashworth

Updated Friday October 14, 2016 by El Cerrito Youth Baseball.

SAN FRANCISCO — First and foremost, they were ballplayers.

Of all of the nine players in position on the ballfield, not one of them was distracted by the glint off the distant San Francisco Bay nor the cadre of noisy, cheering supporters in the stands. This team of baseball players, outfitted with the same logo of the original East Bay Oaks minor league baseball team, were losing by two to the Los Angeles Monarchs. The first priority: keep the runner on third from getting home.

A meandering bicyclist who looked to be in his 70s squeezed to a stop behind the backstop, inquired after the score, and then pulled his reflective glasses from his eyes. “Wait,” he asked. “Who is playing baseball?”

First and foremost, they were ballplayers. Secondly, every one of them were girls.

This game pitting the Oaks vs. Monarchs was the culmination of a week of festivities with one primary goal: to remind girls that baseball is a sport for them. That was the goal set by the nonprofit Baseball for All organization, which hosted a week-long youth tournament in San Francisco this summer involving 20 teams and more than 220 female players from around the country.

The goal of the annual tournament is, at its simplest, to empower young girls. The director of Baseball for All, Justine Siegal, addressed the teams and supporters on Day 1 of the tournament, saying that she wanted girls — like herself, like her daughter — to feel that they could do and accomplish anything. In 2015, Siegal was hired by the Oakland A’s to serve as the first female coach in Major League Baseball.

“Many girls are told they can’t play baseball because they are girls,” she said. “I worry if you tell a girl she can’t play baseball, what else will she think she can’t do? Here in San Francisco we are empowering these girls to be who they want to be and to follow their baseball dreams.”

It’s clear that the basic notion of the idea — girls playing baseball alonside other girls — has had an immediate effect.

“Playing with an all-boys team is different because you only have one thing in common: baseball,” said Christina Noonan, a ballplayer for the East Bay Oaks who also plays baseball during baseball season with a co-ed team in the East Bay.

“I liked just knowing so many other girls play baseball and I'm not alone,” she said.

Teams came from around the country to attend the Baseball For All event, even from as far away as Texas and Canada. And as the tournament came to a close, it was clear that the bonds made during that week had stuck. A number of teams expressed a desire to continue to play in the 2017 national tournament, informally with their Baseball For All teammates as well as in local youth co-ed baseball leagues.

A number of ballplayers from ECYB joined in this summer’s tournament, including 2016 Mustang Rockies players Susannah Bader and Radha Feist.

The hope is that more girls will be empowered to come out on the field and play this beloved game.

“It was an absolute joy to see so many girls playing baseball,” said Donna Noonan, Christina’s mother. “It’s so amazing to see all the female talent.  I also feel that playing with all girls helped my daughter improve more rapidly as she saw other girls with more experience than her.

“This is a different type of motivation because now she is not a 'novelty' being the only girl on a team and this made her push herself in new ways,” she said.

For Christina, her favorite moment was not keeping that Monarch runner on third; in fact, that runner scored, and the Monarchs won the game.

“My favorite moment was at the end in the championships when the LA Monarchs invited us to take a picture with them at home plate,” Christina said. “I just felt so warm inside. It made me smile.”

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