Little League baseball lessons for girls

“Way to go, Alex!”

I think it was a mom shouting that, from the red shirt team’s side of the baseball field. Walking home Friday night from dinner with a friend, I passed two Little League games in action on the local playfield. The first was being played by younger kids, maybe six and seven years old, their awkward efforts at hitting, running, throwing, and catching sweetly painful to watch. I walked on to the second field and was immediately captivated by the lone girl on the diamond, about nine or ten years old, her long brown hair swinging with determination as she positioned her push-off foot on the mound.

Her first pitch whistled across the plate for a called strike that made me say holy shit out loud, then look around sheepishly, hoping none of the smattering of parents watching their children play heard me swear.

Alex was her name, and she took the ball and threw the ball. Threw overhand. Threw hard, fast, accurate. Strike, strike, foul, finally a ball but the kind of ball a pitcher throws on purpose, ahead in the count, down in the zone, to see if the batter will swing and miss.

With good fielding behind her, Alex would’ve been out of the inning fast, but the weak grounders the blue shirt boys hit off her rolled through the legs of one, then another teammate. A base stolen while her catcher hunted for the ball behind his heels didn’t help, and a run finally scored. But Alex stayed focused and calm, somehow, and as she finally got the third out, I said it too – “way to go, Alex.”

Way to go, and enjoy it now, with too few adults there to see you, who might someday turn into a high school or college crowd cheering you on, until you run into the end of the line while a couple of the red and blue shirt boys who let the ball go through their legs find themselves with a shot at the majors.

Way to go, Alex.

(For another example of the sad discrepancy in options for talented women, check out this great piece by Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times about University of Washington softball phenom Danielle Lawrie.)

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