This month, Major League Baseball (MLB) and USA Baseball hosted the first-ever Trailblazer Series, a girl’s youth tournament in Compton, CA. The event was held at the MLB Youth Academy, and 100 girls came from 20 states, Washington D.C., and Canada to participate. The series, which lasted April 13-15, honored Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday. Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, so it was fitting to host this groundbreaking event in his honor.
In 2015, MLB pledged $30 m to increase women’s baseball and softball participation, and we are finally seeing this money being put to use. The tournament was meant to encourage girls to pursue traditionally male-dominated sports like baseball, and to bring exposure to the fact that women are often pushed out of the sport.
“In memory of Jackie Robinson, MLB is committed to making our sport accessible and inclusive for all those who want to play, coach, or participate,” said Robert Manfred, Commissioner of Baseball. “MLB and USA baseball have listened to the growing demand for girls’ and women’s baseball by launching this unprecedented event.”
Over 100,000 girls play youth baseball, but only 1,000 girls continue playing in high school. What happens to make 99 percent of female baseball players quit? According to Justine Siegal, the founder of Baseball For All, they are probably told that they should not play or are not allowed to play at their high schools, and are instead encouraged to play softball.
At the age of 13, Siegal herself was told by her coach that she could not play baseball for her high school team, and that she should instead pursue softball. Despite this, Siegal decided to never quit playing baseball. Now she helps other girls facing the same issue with the program Baseball For All (BFA).
BFA fosters, encourages, and provides opportunities for girls to participate in baseball. It also provides information to parents and players about what they can do after having been denied entry to their school baseball team. BFA wants everyone to know that having a softball team is not a legal reason for a girl to be prohibited from playing baseball, and that everyone trying out for a team is protected under Title IX. Title IX states that everyone has a legal right to a fair tryout for any baseball team that uses public resources.
“I didn’t know there were girls’ teams,” said Ja’nae Wray, a 12-year-old from Georgia who participated in the tournament. “I didn’t know there was a USA baseball team. Now I’m really interested in it. [The Trailblazer Series] showed me that a lot of other girls play baseball, and I can play too.” Wray made a three-run home run during the games, which happens when two runners are on base when the batter hits a home run. Because of Wray, three runs were scored.
The Trailblazer Series was a successful event, but what is next for women in baseball? MLB has a plan to make the series a yearly event, but more needs to be done in order to ensure a stable future for women who wish to play.
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