BASEBALL, GIRLS AND MIGHTY KATIE AT THE BAT

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The young Canadian team from South Vancouver has had a lot of attention at the storied Little League World Series in Williamsport, despite losing all three of its games. Without taking anything away from her fine team-mates, It’s mostly because of Emma March.

Amid all the media hullabaloo over the amazing “girl hurler” Mo’ne Davis, who was striking out boys at an unprecedented rate (what fun!), it’s been noted that she wasn’t the only girl playing with the lads at Williamsport. The long-haired Ms. March was there too, first sacker and occasional pitcher for Canada’s own Little League champs. In fact, the two girls roomed together for the first half of the tournament. This is a lovely story about their new-found friendship. And don’t neglect the affecting video that accompanies the story. The fresh-faced enthusiasm of Emma March, in particular, is a joy to behold. http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/11365891/mone-davis-emma-march-find-friendship-secret-hiding-place

images-1The two had much to talk about, including those strange beings who are 12-year old boys. But note also how cool, calm and collected both are about their sudden turn in the media spotlight. To them, the game’s still the thing. Girls just want to compete. 

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Unlike Mo’ne, however, Emma didn’t have a particularly good tournament. Despite one long drive that curved foul only at the last moment, she went hitless, garnering only a couple of walks. She was then knocked around pretty good during a brief turn on the mound in the team’s 10-0 loss to Venezuela. But the whole team played poorly that day, and she was flawless in the field.  

Of course, the hype on social media and in the regular press about Mo’ne Davis is, as usual, totally out of control. She’s just a kid, after all. Do we need pontificators weighing in on how much money she might make from her sudden fame. “Should she cash in now?” Gag me with a spoon. Yet , the advancement of girls and women in sports traditionally the preserve of guys is very real. “Throwing like a girl” is taking on new meaning.

Heck, during the time of the Druids when I went to high school, girls played only field hockey, volleyball and a stupefying form of basketball that allowed them to dribble the ball only three times, before they were obliged to pass or shoot. Otherwise, they might get winded or hurt or something equally dire, the fragile dears. On the track, these same brittle species of femininity were restricted to races no farther than 100 yards. Talk about your stone age attitudes…

As a kid, I well remember when Abby Hoffman was discovered to be a girl disguised as a boy in a Toronto peewee hockey league. The story went what passed for viral in them there days, making headlines around the world.

How times have changed. Today, Canadian women are among the world’s best in so many sports that were never on the radar back then: hockey, rowing, soccer, boxing, wrestling…The list goes on and on, up to and including, as we learned just recently, the ferocious sport of rugby.

At the same time, however, let’s keep matters in perspective. For all sorts of reasons, occasions when girls and women are able to compete equally with boys and men remain exceedingly rare, especially as they get older and guys go through that growth thing. The fact that Hayley Wickenheiser played a few games for a second division, professional men’s team in Finland doesn’t mean women will soon be playing in the NHL. Nor should one expect Mo’ne Davis to make it to the majors.

Still, there’s no denying that more and more girls are showing up on boys’ teams these days, and whenever they do, it’s wonderful. For Canadian girls playing baseball, their way to the field was pioneered by the great Katie Reyes. (And no, Tom Hawthorn, I am not forgetting all those terrific players from the Canadian prairies who dominated the wartime professional women’s baseball league in the United States, well captured by the movie A League of Their Own. But that was even before my time…)

Katie Reyes held down first base at the 2009 Little League World Series for the gallant Little Leaguers from East Hastings. Not only that, she stroked the winning hit in a spine-tingling, come-from-behind victory against Germany. Emma March knows all about it. Asked to name her baseball hero, she spurned the likes of Canadian major leaguers such as Justin Morneau, Brent Lawrie and Joey Votto. “Katie Reyes,” she replied.

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This old codger was so moved by Katie’s celebrated hit that he broke into verse to celebrate the first time in the long history of the Little League World Series that a game’s winning run was driven in by a girl.

 The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Hastings nine that day, /

 The score stood 13-10, with but an inning left to play, /

 But Cusati hit a homer, and fielder Woo worked a walk, /

 And so the sacks were loaded, with just one more needed sock.

 Then from a thousand East Side throats and more there rose a roar. /

 It rumbled through the streets, resounding store to store. /

 It sounded loud on Renfrew and drowned out neighbours’ chat, /

 For Katie, mighty Katie, was advancing to the bat.

 Martin was the twirler. He laughed. They couldn’t lose. /

 A girl can’t hit my pitch, he thought. It’s just some crazy ruse. /

 He looked at all the bases, and let the horsehide go. /

 And then the air was shattered by the force of Katie’s blow.

 Oh, somewhere in this fabled town, the sun is shining bright. /

 The Coaster’s scaring someone, and elsewhere, hearts are light. /

 And somewhere, girls are laughing, and Germany’s in shame. /

 But there is joy on Hastings – mighty Katie won the game.

P.S. Five years later, Katie Reyes continues her progress on the diamond, although she is now playing softball against other young women. She’s still pretty good. The great goddess Google informs me she was in line for a sports scholarship at Howard College in the heart of Texas. Good on yuh, Katie Reyes. And girls under Little League caps, everywhere.

 

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5 thoughts on “BASEBALL, GIRLS AND MIGHTY KATIE AT THE BAT

  1. A propos poems about girls and baseball:

    Pianoball
    by

    Jocelyn Shipley

    I’m practicing piano while

    MY FRIENDS ARE PLAYING BALL!

    My fingers stick, my fingers slip,

    my fingers trip and fall.

    Sloppy scales and clumsy chords and—

    TWO WILD BALLS ZIP BY!

    I miss the second sharp again—

    FINN JUST POPPED A FLY!

    I fumble my arpeggios.

    Off-key, I lose the beat. But—

    JAKE JUST WHACKED A GROUNDER

    RIGHT BETWEEN THE PITCHER’S FEET!

    I turn the page to “Serenade,”

    my new piece for the week.

    THREE UP, THREE DOWN. HEY, HEY! GO TEAM!

    WE’RE ON A WINNING STREAK!

    The notes are tricky, still I try,

    until I hear Coach shout,

    “IT’S THE BOTTOM OF THE NINTH!”

    BASES LOADED, NO ONE OUT! “

    KIDS YELL AND CHEER LIKE CRAZY CAUSE

    OUR BATTER’S GOT IT MADE!

    KAYLEE SMACKS A GRAND SLAM HOMER!!!

    I strike out on “Serenade”.

    (Could have substituted “Katie” for “Kaylee”)

    The poem is in a colllection of Sports poems for kids called ” And the Crowd goes wild”.

    http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000005903283

    the book won a bronze medal in 2013

    It’s a fun book. The illustrator is Kevin Sylvester who was/is a CBC sportscaster and now a very successful kids book writer and illustrator.

  2. Wonderful…..thanks!!!

  3. My brother played with Katie on Team Canada in 2009 – this brings back great memories from that summer, thanks!

    PS: I sent an email to your Globe account, not sure if you’re still checking it! I have a few questions about a past colleague at the Globe. I’m a writer with the Ryerson Review of Journalism, sorry for the odd comment – I thought this may be the best way to reach you.

  4. Bob, huge thanks for that link. It moved me to tears….now I want to watch “Baseball” again

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