Just two weeks ago, Major League Baseball sent out a tweet saying, “Baseball is for everyone,” in response to a young girl who worried the sport was only for boys.
According to the nonprofit, Baseball for All, roughly 100,000 girls play youth baseball each year, but only about 1,000 play high school baseball. Most girls end up switching over to slow pitch and fast pitch softball.
Locally, the Eastern Women’s Baseball Conference has been providing opportunities for women and girls to play baseball for about 20 years. The league features four teams — Montgomery County BarnCats, Baltimore Blues, Virginia Flames and Virginia Fury. Their season runs May to August and they also field a travel team, D.C. Thunder, for tournament play.
Most of the players range in age from 25-40 years-old. There are no age restrictions though, so the actual age span is 13-73.
“There is a lot of recruiting involved to maintain the four teams that will play 12 games,” says Jackie Greco, league president. “This league is a unique situation with such a wide array of ages coached by the same coaches. Anyone who wants to feel the camaraderie of a team will fit in here.”
Greco offers a sampling of the players who have found their place in the league.
One woman was a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan, never played sports and joined at age 60. Two years later she has found her happy place out on the field and just attended her first Orioles Dream Week.
Another woman grew up playing softball and looked up to her brother who had a successful baseball career. She always wanted to play baseball and finally fulfilled that by joining Eastern Women’s Baseball Conference
“It’s true that our players come from anywhere and everywhere to start in the league,” Greco says. “We want everyone to give baseball a try.”
Greco is in her fourth season with the league. She had played slow pitch softball in St Louis four days a week before moving to the area. She began umpiring locally in high school softball and was recruited to the league.
“I went to a practice, threw one ball and was hooked from the start. I was missing that competitive flair,” Greco says. “Once I joined the tournament team and saw there were other lesbians, I knew it was totally OK for me to be myself.”
The league has its share of LGBT players, but they don’t market it that way in an effort to draw anyone in that might want to play the sport.
The players will begin their preseason training soon and can often be found at batting cages in the area until the weather lets up. On Memorial Day weekend, they will host six to 10 travel teams at the Diamond Classic in Purcellville, Va.
They also travel to other tournaments including a stop in Rockford, Ill., in the revamped Rockford Peaches stadium which is now home to the Rockford Starfires. One of their other stops is in historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach.
“A lot of people assume they aren’t athletic enough to play baseball, but it is a slower game,” Greco says. “By playing, you not only learn about the sport, but also about yourself.”