The metallic “ping” of bats hitting baseballs and the softer thuds of baseballs hitting gloves punctuated cries of encouragement from the members of Miami women’s club baseball. Seventeen people took to Cook Field last Wednesday for the club’s first clinic – the first step in a movement to encourage girls to play baseball.
“This is such a big movement,” junior Jeremy O’Bryan said. “Girls just don’t play baseball anymore, girls play softball and us being out here is making a statement. It’s something that is out of a lot of these girls’ realm of experience and comfort zone. Being out here today is nice to see that everyone’s really embracing the game.”
The women’s baseball club at Miami is the only active collegiate club in the U.S. and the second club of its kind in North America. For the past several months, the club has been working on spreading the word about their organization, reaching out to other universities about forming their own club and planning Miami’s student-run clinic.
Seventy-five degrees and a warm breeze welcomed the players at dusk. When the bell tower tolled 6:30 p.m. the participants stopped fielding pop-flies and hitting off tees to scrimmage. Cook Field’s lights turned on, but were unneeded by the baseball players and the ultimate Frisbee players in the background.
“This event today was definitely a step towards the future,” club president Lexi Ross said. “We have six new girls and we got to get out on the field and see how everyone plays. More team bonding, which is always important in sports — hitting, fielding and basic drills we can do.”
Those with more baseball experience and who had been leading the drills let the girls rotate through various positions on the field. Everyone took turns hitting the safety baseballs off a tee into the uneven field. Though the balls bounced over gloves, double plays were made and several slid into home plate to ensure a run in a game where no one was keeping score.
“Go go go go go go go go!” Assistant Professor in SLAM and co-advisor to the club Brody Ruihley encouraged each batter. After the ball was dead, he reminded the players, “Play at second and third, nine outs.”
The light-hearted atmosphere was needed for an event from a club that’s faced skepticism. Girls are encouraged to play softball instead of baseball throughout their growing up and there’s resistance to girls attempting to break into a male-dominated sport. Members and non-members of the club acknowledge the stigma and ignore it.
“[The members] are really passionate about it. I thought it would be fun to play again,” non-member and former high school softball player Anna Kate Schmeling said. “I think it’s really cool and a really cool community because everyone’s excited and supportive instead of competitive.”
The club is reliant on its members to spread the word and its message, and has been supported with equipment donations from Club Sports. Players supplied their own gloves and exchanged gloved high fives when rotating positions. The scrimmage ended with an uncountable number of outs and home runs and a meeting in front of home plate.
Popsicles and Fudgesicles were supplied by Ross but the players waited to cool off until the club’s other co-advisor, Dr. Callie Maddox, finished her closing remarks.
“Keep the momentum going because in the fall we’re really going to push hard,” Maddox said. “We have a great core.” She promised a couple more meetings before the end of the semester and a trip to a Cincinnati Reds’ game.
As the clinic ended and as the final weeks of spring semester approaches, the club aims to maintain their movement’s momentum. Baseball and softball experience or not, the attendees of the clinic all played for the girls who cannot. They huddled closer together as the closing remarks ended – united by their love for the sport, the movement or both.
“Team on three,” Ross said, raising her hand. Sixteen other hands joined hers. “One, two, three.”