Since the fall 2016, I have been part of a group tasked with rebuilding baseball in Carroll Park. Two spring seasons are complete, with the 2019 season on the horizon. I have thought about how softball might become part of our project. A significant number of girls have played baseball with us, although the numbers decrease as age increases. Equal opportunities for female athletes to learn and play is essential, as well as complete pathways to match their interest and ability. I often argue girls can play with boys. And they definitely can. We are hearing consistently though in all sports that many girls would prefer to be separate from the boys.
At the moment, I am not excited about developing softball. I am also aware that many of my initial stances on questions turn out to be wrong. My assumption about softball was that it was developed as a variation for girls because of a belief that girls should not play baseball. Based on a couple quick internet searches, softball did in fact start as a variation, but it was for everyone to play indoors, with a “soft” ball. Without deeper research, it is not clear when softball became the female bat and ball sport. It is clear, however, that softball and similar modifications were considered easier and less dangerous. It was viewed as the game for beginners and the game for those who could not meet the physical demands of baseball. So softball was not developed for female athletes, but it is reasonable to think the gender divide has been influenced by the aforementioned assumptions about softball and assumptions about female athletes.
In no way am I questioning the toughness and competitive nature of softball or the athletes who play the game. I would get embarrassed if I stepped into the batters box in a fast-pitch softball game. I have no doubt there are women’s slow pitch games that are over my head. The only point I intend to make is female athletes can be great baseball players as well. They should have never been directed to softball. If both sports had developed without gender bias, there should be an equal number of male and female athletes playing competitive baseball. There should be an equal number of male and female athletes playing competitive softball. As a note, many men currently play competitive fast pitch softball. There is also competitive female baseball.
I can see an argument that softball should be the predominant sport for both genders due to the greater injury risk in overhand pitching. I cannot understand an argument that girls should play softball and boys should play baseball based on the demands or nature of the sports. I do recognize that with the current state of the two sports, there are greater long-term opportunities for female athletes in softball.
At this stage, our Carroll Park project does not have the capacity to provide softball as well as baseball. Long-term, I do not see developing boys’ baseball, girls’ baseball and girls’ softball as a good use of resources. As of now, I expect Carroll Park will become the premiere girls’ baseball program in the nation. Let’s get it.