The Girls of Summer

Girls didn’t play Little League when I was growing up. It wasn’t co-ed then. Girls didn’t have any sports teams of their own. Period. Sports were just for boys.

That old Mad Ave. slogan ‘You’ve come a long way, baby’ — aimed at women — is still mostly BS. Progress has been made in the decades since grade school, but ver-ry slow-ly and still lacking in so many ways.

It wasn’t many decades ago when I had to stay up ‘til 1 am to watch the women’s volleyball Olympic games, because the TV network wasn’t going to waste prime time air and money on women’s sports. My office colleagues thought I was nuts (complete with the ‘she’s crazy’ looks) to stay up to watch the women play until one day, the morning drive time sportscaster recapped that the men’s v-ball teams was unimpressive, but hey, you should see the women’s team. Yeah, the women’s team was kicking butt that year. It wasn’t until the following decade that women’s v-ball was aired in prime time.

Back to grammar school.
Fifth grade.
Spring weather.
We went outside to play softball.

Naturally all the girls were picked last for teams, because, well, girls. No one ever had a mitt that I could borrow when we went out in the field because I was the only left-handed student in the class. Consequently I always got positioned in the left outfield (yeah, stupid fifth graders) because a) no one in fifth grade could hit a high fly out there and b) I had no mitt. Mostly I just stood there kicking at the grass.

Batting didn’t endear me to my classmates either. I was a girl — and I was left-handed. Two strikes against me before the first pitch. I’d grab a bat, step up to the plate, make my stance — and then the pitcher would have a fit on the mound, complete with waving arms and head shaking.

How was he supposed to pitch to someone standing on ‘the wrong side of the plate’? Couldn’t be done. Where was he supposed to throw the ball? No. No. No. She has to stand on the ‘right side of the plate’. She can‘t play…

Apparently back when I was in fifth grade Little League coaches didn’t teach the boys that the object was to aim for the plate when pitching, not the batter (ooh, wild thing). Our teacher was never successful trying to teach this tidbit of info either (and that in recess sports everyone in the class gets to play — no exclusions, no excuses).

So yeah, I got all the wild pitches, high, low, way outside, way way outside. Pitcher wouldn’t even try to throw over the plate so that I could get a hit.

I always walked to first base.

No one cheered me on for getting to base. I didn’t cheer. I wanted the opportunity to get a hit and run to first base like everyone else. Wouldn’t even matter if I was tagged out at base. I just wanted to get to play and have fun like everyone else.

If there was one ‘do over’ in my life it would be fifth grade recess softball where I would take my batter’s stance and bark back at the pitcher ‘Hey bozo, just aim for the plate. Doesn’t matter where the batter is or if the batter is left-handed, right-handed, one-armed or legged, in a wheelchair or standing, just throw the ball over the plate!’

And I probably could have hit the ball to the outfield. Possibly even a line drive straight to the pitcher’s head. I always got hits and ran the bases playing stickball.

Stickball. No pitchers or mitts needed.

And that’s a different story.