Nineteen people gathered in room 123 of Phillips Hall, 13 women and six men. Three faculty members and 16 students. Several sat next to each other, some thumbed through their phones and a couple decided to introduce themselves and chat quietly until the meeting began. Callie Maddox began to talk. The room got quiet but the enthusiasm level got louder.
It was the women’s baseball club’s first meeting at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday. Week four of school and several of the attendees coughed and yawned, but all were turned to face the PowerPoint at the front of the room. Phones were face down, some had notebooks out.
The only North American women’s collegiate baseball club is in Alberta, Canada. Maddox and Assistant Professor in SLAM Brody Ruihley are trying to create the second in North America and the first in the U.S.
Girls grow up playing baseball and are then forced to switch to softball – a rare occurrence in our sports world that usually offers parallel women’s leagues. Title IX legally allows the creation of a women’s collegiate baseball league, but supporters of women’s baseball face cultural barriers and stigmas. The attendees of the interest meeting know this and it doesn’t deter them.
“First and foremost everyone is welcome. No experience necessary, this is not necessarily about baseball,” Maddox said. “It’s about empowerment. It’s about equality. It’s about creating something new that doesn’t exist. It’s about having this attitude of ‘Why not? We can do this. Why not? Let’s try it.’”
The meeting started with recognition of the success of women’s baseball internationally (there’s a World Cup for baseball, where the U.S. team lost in the first round this year). The enthusiasm for the sport shifted to enthusiasm for a club team at Miami.
Several of the students attending have never played baseball, or softball, before. Several have. Othello Harris, an associate professor in sociology and gerontology, teaches classes in social justice and is interested in how the club can be part of a social movement.
“The idea of empowering women using baseball as a way to change people’s attitudes about themselves, the perceptions about their lives and what they can do. I think that’s a great thing,” Harris said. “I think it’s incredible, absolutely.”
Harris spoke up during the meeting to share a text message from the head baseball coach at Arizona State University. From Tracy Smith came enthusiasm as a Miami alumnus, as the former head coach of Miami’s baseball team and as a supporter of the creation of a women’s club baseball team. He offered to contribute equipment and used baseballs.
Jeremy O’Brien, a junior who played for Miami Hamilton’s baseball team for the past two years, now interns in communication and media relations for Miami’s Track and Field and Cross Country teams. He wants to help Maddox with publicity and media for the club. He’s also thinking of coaching.
“I really can’t explain it, but it’s something that getting it restarted at the collegiate level is an interesting task,” O’Brien said. “If we have this many girls at our first meeting at a school like Miami, a mid-sized school, having a first meeting at Cincinnati, Ohio State, Xavier, relatively bigger schools, I think the interest would be really good. It could spread.”
There were a couple girls wearing Miami softball t-shirts, sitting at the front of the room. Towards the back sat two girls who were merely fans of the sport – one a Cubs fan and the other a Detroit Lions supporter.
Morgan Wright, a sophomore, came because her friend Maria Pappas asked her to. She would consider playing but doesn’t have experience past tee-ball. It doesn’t deter her excitement.
“It’d be cool to be a part of something like this,” Wright said. “I’ve always loved baseball, but it’s a hard sport to love as a woman because pretty much every other sport has a women’s team.”
Pappas, also a sophomore, has played softball before and is thinking of being an officer.
“I’d really be willing to be involved in something that could provide opportunities for women,” Pappas said. “It’s more about the inclusion, more of the message behind it instead of women just playing baseball.”
The meeting ended 20 minutes after it had started, a dozen PowerPoint slides later. Once Maddox had said her final remarks, everyone stood up, stretched and stayed. Students milled about and spoke with faculty and with each other. Regardless of age and athletic or managerial ability, the room didn’t clear out for another 15 minutes.
On a Wednesday afternoon, a select handful of individuals shared their enthusiasm for women’s club baseball.
When asked about what Professor Ruihley would tell people who couldn’t attend the meeting he said, “Show up next time.” And he laughed.
“Next time” is February 27 at 5:30 p.m. in 127 Phillips Hall. Enthusiasm welcome.