By Cassie Froio
“You mean softball?”
“No I mean baseball.”
I have heard that a million times and I gladly say I’m still playing baseball.
My love for the game is unlike anything else. When I get on that field everything comes naturally. I feel at home and I wouldn’t want to be any place else. I have never played softball because it’s a totally different sport to me. Currently, opportunities in baseball are far fewer and girls often go softball as a result. I know of girls who wanted to continue playing baseball, but were told by someone they HAVE to switch to softball. NO! You don’t have to switch. If your girl loves the game baseball let her keep playing. I’m telling my story because I want other girls to know they have the opportunity to choose between baseball and softball.
My baseball story started when I was about two or three. My brother, John, at the time, was about five. He was a huge Red Sox fan. I just followed his lead like I did with just about everything else. I wanted to be just like him, so I just followed his lead. I first started playing organized baseball when I turned five. My older brother and I play would baseball all day. He taught me to love the game.
I grew up playing baseball with the boys from Tee Ball, to Minor Farm, to the Majors and beyond. It was normal to have other girls playing baseball in Tee Ball, Minor Farm or even the Majors. I had four girls (including myself) on one of my minor farm teams. It was a different story once a girl turned thirteen and would be moving up to the Senior League. All the girls in the league had switched to softball at that age except for me. I couldn’t make the switch. Baseball was a completely different sport to me and I just become accustom to playing with the boys, it was normal to me and I honestly didn’t even notice it.
I would consider myself a good ball player, but nobody really recognized it when I was younger. Probably because I was a girl and was just pushed along. In the majors, my dad was my coach so he knew I could play. I pitched, played everywhere and rarely sat any innings. I would’ve have made all-star teams if I was a boy, but the other coaches never gave me a chance. It didn’t matter that I was the hardest worker on the field or that my passion was insurmountable compared to my teammates. All that mattered was that I was a girl.
When I made that jump to the Senior League I played the minimum and was stuck in Right Field. I would hit well, but was always batting last. No matter what I did I would never be considered a good ball player. One game we only had 7 players and had to borrow two. I still was stuck in Right Field when the other team’s players were in the infield.
I suffered through many hard years of not being given enough credit for my playing ability. And I took it hard, but that never stopped me. My opponents would complement me. That didn’t matter. My coach still didn’t think highly of me. It came to point that I felt so isolated that I wanted to quit.
My confidence level was at an all-time low. I thought I was the worst baseball player. I saw all my friends having fun playing softball and I thought maybe I should switch. I was even embarrassed to tell anyone at school that I played baseball not softball. I was at the age where you just want to fit in, but I started to realize baseball meant so much more to me.
So, I didn’t switch. In my final year in the seniors, my previous coach left because his son aged out. My dad took over again. I was once again given the credit I deserved. I was very fast so I started playing center field a lot that year. I would never miss a fly ball and I was that ruthless player who would sacrifice their body to catch anything. Although I was playing well I still didn’t feel like I was very talented.
I was finally voted an all-star my final year in the Senior League. The coach puts the names of players on their team they want on it and then the coaches voted. I never got my name voted for even though I deserved to be on the team. It may have helped that my dad had volunteered to coach the team.
My confidence level was finally heading up, but I felt like I had to prove myself every time I was on a new team. I took the next step to play in the Big League. I made an immediate impact on the team as their star center fielder.
In one of my first games I was playing center field and was just eating up everything hit to me. Then a shallow line drive was hit to the right of me. I sprinted in and without even thinking I laid out. I made an amazing diving play. That’s when the tides started to turn. The other coach came up to my dad the next inning as I got my helmet and batting gloves on. He said jokingly, “Can you move her to another position.” Then I get up to the plate and rip a shot into left. After the game he could stop talking about how good of a ballplayer I was. The entire team loved seeing me play and were always, so excited to play our team. Those were some of the best games I had ever played because I just had fun.
One thing that I wish I had known about during my younger playing years was an organization called Baseball For All. The organization is made up of All Girls baseball teams that play in tournaments around he country. It would’ve been an a good outlet for me to be more comfortable in my early teenage years with the fact that I played baseball and not softball.
In recent years, Major League Baseball has create many opportunities for girl and women in baseball. A new baseball tournaments for girls called the Trailblazer series for girls 13 and under. 96 ballplayers around the country have the opportunity to come together on one field.
For girls 13-18, Major League Baseball created the Grit series. These are a series of one day workouts to identity talent to that will later develop elite girls baseball events. For girls and women older than 18, tournament play occurs across the country although not as frequent.
If women are interested in careers within baseball, MLB Take the Field, a program designed to educate and engage women with a variety of MLB clubs. The three categories of focus are coaching, player development and scouting and takes place during MLB’s winter meetings.
Although I had an opportunity to play baseball unlike many girls (which I am grateful for), I struggle mentally because of coaches who didn’t believe in me. Too many girls are told they can’t play simply because of their gender. This goes beyond baseball, girls are told everyday that they can’t do something. Well, I’m done with hearing a girl can’t do something. And if you think that way, then guess what, you are wrong.
If you are passionate about something, GO FOR IT. If you want to be the first girl in the MLB, GO FOR IT. Or you want to a MLB coach or in the front office, GO FOR IT. You can be anything you want to be you just have to set your mind to it.