Gender Division in High School Baseball Participation Rates

High school baseball is dominated by boys, but maybe it's time to encourage girls to play. (via K.M. Klemencic)

Boys dominate high school baseball, but maybe it’s time to encourage girls to play. (via K.M. Klemencic)

Major League Baseball is the biggest corporation associated with baseball. In many ways, it affects the way we see and interpret the game, but it is not the only place where the game is played.

People play baseball all over the world, with varying rules and at very different skill levels. Some people play in college while others play in high school, and some play Little League. In the grander baseball realm, we don’t often think of these other levels or institutions, but they have a big impact on the game we know and love.

The more kids play baseball in high school, the better chance they will have of becoming fans of the game. Having more kids play high school baseball will also increase the size of the talent pool. The more kids play, the more talent there will be for scouts to pick from.

These other subcultures, though, can also bring a sobering reminder of the inequalities in the sport. They can provide a reference as to why, for example, we don’t see more women in baseball. Not just playing the game, but on television, in front offices, and writing about the sport. You don’t have to look beyond this site to know that women are discouraged from playing and participating in the game—both Alexis Brudnucki and Corinne Landrey have detailed such experiences here at THT.

I was curious about the precise gender disparity, so I did some digging, and I was able to find data on high school participation rates in baseball. The data was gathered from a survey done by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). According to Chris Boone, the Assistant Director of Publications and Communications at NFHS, the NFHS rely on their member state associations to gather the data for each state.

The survey goes back to 1969-1970, but due to irregularities in the data (mainly in 1975-1976 and 1976-1977), having the same values for baseball participation rates, and some inconsistencies with the years, I’ve decided to start my analysis with 1977-1978. Let’s start with overall participation rates for girls and boys in baseball.

 
If it wasn’t clear before, it should be clear now—there is a huge divide between girl and boy participation rates in high school baseball.

For the boys, it’s pretty clear that more and more of them are participating in baseball, while for girls, the trend isn’t easily detectable—at least not in this view. In the filter option, you can deselect the boys participation rate, and you will have a clearer picture of the girls participation rates.

Since 1977-1978 there is an upward trend in girls baseball participation rates, but not a substantial one. In fact, since 2002-2003, girls participation rates have been going down. Now, this information can be misleading as it doesn’t consider all sports participation rates for girls. But as a proportionality of all girls sports participation since 1977-1978, girls participate in baseball at an average clip of 0.0003 percent, and that number since 1977-1978 has never been over one percent. For boys, baseball participation makes up 12 percent of all other sports, and that number has had little variance over the years. In fact, that figure has never dropped below 10 percent and never exceeded 13 percent during that time span.

In general, however, baseball is a very popular sport among high school boys.

 
Since 1977-1978, baseball ranks fourth in boys participation rates behind football – 11 player (apparently sometimes football is played with fewer than 11 players), basketball and outdoor track and field.

The girls picture is very different.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

 
Basketball and outdoor track and field are the most popular high school sports for girls, followed by volleyball and then fast pitch softball.

Now that we’ve looked at participation for boys and girls separately overall, let’s compare them to each other.

 
The difference here is apparent. Barely any high school girls play football while it’s by far the most popular high school sport among boys. Wrestling also has quite the gap. More specific to our interests here are baseball and softball. The difference in high school boy and girl baseball participation rates is that baseball, for the girls side, is seemingly replaced with softball.

There have been many improvements for women in sports in recent decades. Womens tennis, volleyball, and basketball—among others—are becoming increasingly popular, but some sports lag behind. Baseball is one of them, and the gender binaries seem to be playing a factor.

As mentioned above, Alexis Brudnucki and Corinne Landrey detailed this beautifully here at THT. Brudnucki described her transition from baseball to softball as such:

Lifelong friends saw me grow up playing the game [baseball], first as one of three girls in the Eager Beaver Baseball Association — two of us played together — then as one of two, and finally as the only one, before my parents decided it would be best for me to move on to playing softball.”

Landrey didn’t even get to have a transition, as she only played softball growing up:

As a kid, you don’t question the reality with which you’re presented and if that meant softball was as close as I could ever get to playing the sport I loved, so be it. I played from elementary school through high school without a single regret. I loved having a physical outlet for my love of the game, even though it wasn’t exactly the game. But with the perspective brought on by time and adulthood, I’m struck by the absurdity of it all. I wanted baseball but baseball didn’t want me back. The message was crystal clear: Baseball is not for you, it’s for boys.”

It doesn’t need to be like this. We know there is no truth to the notion that doing things “like a girl” makes us inferior. Nancy Doublin has also argued that, “With the advent of Title IX, which required that schools offer all children equal opportunities in all areas of education, girls were offered more opportunity to compete, but were generally allowed to do so in separate arenas. Girls could now be excluded from baseball because schools offered softball, a more acceptable sport for women.”

Since the implementation of Title IX, there has been a precipitous rise in girls participation rates in softball. (Here I combined soft pitch softball and fast pitch softball).

 
In 1977-1978, 179,739 girls played softball in high school. In 2014-2015, 373,892 girls played softball in high school, which is a 108 percentage point change.

So, do as many girls play softball and baseball as boys play baseball and softball? With the increase in girls playing softball, it seems like a natural question. Let’s take a look:

 
If we include softball with baseball, and look at it as a proportion, a larger percentage of girls who play high school sports play softball/baseball than boys. This reinforces Doublin’s argument and displays the problematic nature with the patriarchal social system of baseball. Baseball as a system is keeping women out by putting them in a different game.

These type of institutional problems can be difficult to change. The first step toward change is recognizing the issue at hand. Often in the baseball community we will talk about the problems at the major league level, without considering the underlying institutions. This isn’t definitive proof — we can’t assume that every girl playing softball would want to play baseball, but it’s pretty strong evidence nonetheless. Girls (and boys) should be given the choice to play whichever sport they want.

Because, let’s face it, finding girls to play high school sports is not an issue.

 
More girls are playing sports, and it’s likely that more than the ~33,000 girls currently playing high school baseball would if given the opportunity. It’s time to not only give them that opportunity, but to encourage it.

References & Resources


Julien Assouline is a journalism student at Ryerson University, and writes for Baseball Prospectus Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @JulienAssouline.
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Carl
6 years ago

One of the interesting facts I found the other day while researching the great Corrine piece is that softball is not a legal equivalent of baseball. Providing softball does not satisfy Title IX.

WorkFast
6 years ago

Though I have recently move full-time to an academicinstructor role, I coached amateur baseball for twenty years including eleven at the high school level. When I was scouting and umpiring the local youth leagues for talent to encourage to play baseball when they became of junior-varsity age, I also looked over at the girls’ softball action hoping to find players (who irrelevantly happened to be female) to help out my program. I identified two talented women but could not close the deal to get them to fight for the right to play baseball (school board policy prohibited girls in HS baseball at the time; ). The reason for declination each time: college softball scholarships were likely for them (they both scored decent rides: one played NCAA D1 and the other NCAA D2).

My two daughters: One a tennis player–turned down small-college tennis for a large university chemistry lab internship; the other is still in high-school–after two leg surgeries, she is a clarinet player and worldwide-soccer fan.

Bruce
6 years ago

Fascinating analysis. As I look back on my sports “career” my baseball days ended at the high school level, but transitioned to men’s softball leagues as an adult. Adult baseball leagues were hard to come by in my area 20 years ago.

Why is this? What is it about the nature of the game of baseball that drives this behavior? Speed of the game and perceived difficulty, or just societal norms?

I see no reason why baseball leagues, at all levels, should not be gender neutral. But then you have the daunting discussion of why not make all sports gender neutral…….

AT
6 years ago
Reply to  Bruce

It’s not a daunting discussion at all. If all sports leagues were gender-neutral, women’s representation in professional and NCAA Division I – i.e., visible – athletics would plummet in the short and long terms across all major sports (except the ones that are now exclusively male; these would see little change) unless leagues mandated a gender quota akin to that seen in many co-ed intramural sports leagues. With visibility for women athletes down and with increased competition from their male classmates, it’s not a significant stretch to believe girls’ participation in high school sports would fall also. I doubt that’s a desirable outcome.

Gendered sports leagues undoubtedly limit women’s athletic participation in some sports, but they also protect women’s athletic participation overall. That doesn’t explain or excuse the lack of girls and women in baseball, football, and other traditionally male sports – stereotypes and inertia play the largest roles – but let’s not pretend like equal representation and equal opportunity for women are simultaneously achievable at high levels of many sports without altering human biology or introducing authoritarian legislation.

MarylandBill
6 years ago

Lets first start with the admission that Softball is baseball, its just a somewhat different code that is probably about as close to the “baseball” game that was played in the mid 19th century as modern baseball is to that code. Now I am not pointing this out to argue that women should be satisfied playing it. Rather, it is to point out that by giving it a different name, we have allowed baseball to highlight a fact that is common in other women’s sports but is hidden by the fact that they have the same name. Women and girls are usually given different codes than the boys. In some cases, like basketball, the differences are relatively minor (slightly smaller ball, slightly closer 3 point line, etc.) and doubtless would only be noticed by an aficionado of the game; in other cases, like lacrosse, the rules result in virtually two different sports.

Now one could argue that some of these differences are necessary because of the physical nature of some of these sports (or given the fact that we are starting to understand the long term risks of repeated physical contact, perhaps the Men should adopt the women’t code rather than the other way around), but its hard to see why baseball should be counted among those sports. As far as I can tell, the biggest differences between fast pitch softball, and baseball have little or nothing to do with physical contact, and everything to do with the fact that it is played on a smaller infield (well except the ball size and allowed pitching style).

When it comes to H.S. and Collegiate ball, lets stop pretending that women need an “easier” game than men.

Tom
6 years ago
Reply to  MarylandBill

This article is misguided because it starts with the faultiest of premises. Softball and baseball are two totally different sports. Fastpitch is to many a more exciting sport at the college level. This makes fastpitch unique among college sports. Look at women’s basketball: it is the exactly the same sport as men’s basketball played at a lower level. But fastpitch softball is a totally different sport than baseball. There are many men who are huge fastpitch softball fans who care nothing for college baseball. How may MEN are bigger fans of women’s college basketball than men’s?

So Julien, I think in the end encouraging women to play baseball will only hurt the great sport of fastpitch softball. And it is ultimately all little more than a token gesture of political correctness. Seriously, how may women will make teams starting in high school? There will be a few certainly, but it’s no coincidence that one of the few women to play baseball professionally threw knuckleballs.

james wilson
6 years ago

Baseball laughs at your notion of equality. Before puberty, girls can, in a few instances, compete with boys. At and after puberty the gulf becomes insurmountable. The boys who are left on the field by the age of 16 are there because the game has not embarrassed them, and that is no large percentage. Not only do girls not belong there, they are giving up their opportunity to excel by being there. The biggest impediment is a slow bat, but there are others. A wood bat is a death sentence. As it was for most of us.

You all need to grow up, or grow a set. Baseball is not a contact sport, but it is no less a game of intimidation, an imposing of the will. There is no equality in baseball. The truth is, what we pay to see is magnificent inequality, but not shooting fish in a barrel.

Search all the championship pool tournaments around the world, you will not see a woman competing even there. They have women’s tournaments, not because they are excluded from the men’s, but because they cannot compete with them, and it’s only a stick and a ball on a table.

MarylandBill
6 years ago
Reply to  james wilson

Where to start… well lets start with the fact that you are arguing against a case that this article was not necessarily trying to make, which is that men and women should compete on the same team. The actual point of the article was to suggest that by steering women to softball, we were in fact steering them out of the sport except as fans and ultimately treating them as second class citizens.

Further, I am not convinced that women wouldn’t be able to hit a male pitched baseball in a high school or college setting. While a fastpitch softball generally tops out in the 60 MPH range, it is also true that it only travels roughly 2/3rds the distance of a baseball pitch. That means, a woman’s bat has to be as fast as a man’s would be to hit a 90 mph fastball. Now mind you, up until now, this is all untested because women aren’t even generally allowed to play organized baseball.

Final thought… there are a lot of reasons why women may not be competitive at billiards. A lot of it might be due to sexism that has discouraged a lot of women from even picking up a cue.

james wilson
6 years ago
Reply to  MarylandBill

I’ve played a lot of baseball and I never met a social justice warrior on the field. They are all over sports journalism and nerdy baseball blogs like white on rice.

Fact: gaining a spot on a high school baseball, football, or basketball team is very competitive. Exponentially more competitive than getting a place in a women’s game. There are ten boys if not more trying out for each sport at the next level for every girl interested in getting onto a woman’s team. There would be no way to field a woman’s baseball team, and no way to retain them. The very nature of the field does not suit them. One of the marvels of baseball is that the dimensions have held up so perfectly over a century, but it was designed for men. If it were designed for women it would have different dimensions, obviously.

Only a fool would think women are discouraged from playing billiards. Even if you have never spent time in pool halls, two seconds of reflection would tell you that men can’t get enough of them.

MarylandBill
6 years ago
Reply to  james wilson

First thought, the competitiveness of men’s versus women’s teams is totally irrelevant to the discussion at hand because, if that were a logical argument against women in sports, it could be used to argue against any and all women’s team sports… assuming it is true, which I actually find somewhat questionable. Maybe it was 20 or 30 years ago, but I know (or know of) tons of girls participating in varsity HS sports.

Secondly, I fail to see how it would be impossible to field a women’s baseball team. Right now, fast pitch softball is quite popular among girls and women. Many of them might be perfectly happy to switch, especially considering that they were probably steered to softball from baseball to begin with. Yes the baseball field is bigger, but during the 12 years there was a professional women’s baseball league, they kept increasing the distance to the mount, and between the bases until in its last year, the mound was only 6″ closer to home plate and the bases were only 5 feet short of the men’s field. One could imagine that the women could have stretched those last 5 feet.

As for billiards, everything depends on the pool hall. I have been to more than a few were you wouldn’t see a woman in the place unless she was there on a date… and lots of women have picked up on the fact that many men can’t handle getting beaten by their girlfriends. Oh, and the very reason you suggest that men welcome women in pool halls, also can make a lot of women uncomfortable.

55 in 41
6 years ago
Reply to  james wilson

Thank you for some sense on this issue, James. It is not the popular opinion in this gender confused world but it is nice to see an intrepid voice in the midst of the dross.

Richie
6 years ago

I was going to disregard all this, but sorry, if you present me with a pinata I have to take one swing at it:

“You don’t have to look beyond this site to know that women are discouraged from playing and participating in the game—both Alexis Brudnucki and Corinne Landrey have detailed such experiences here at THT.”

Citing from your OWN! site to support your argument that what you say exists actually does exist?? Jeepers. You can’t mail it in any more thoroughly than that.

Tommyp
6 years ago

Is there anything liberals won’t try to ruin? I’m done with this site and the ridiculous SJW’s BS. How bout more baseball and less politics? Is that too much to ask? Evidently

Coach W
6 years ago
Reply to  Tommyp

No, Tommyp, there is nothing that they won’t try to ruin. They couldn’t play baseball themselves, so they want to hurt those who could and can by ruining the game. Fight them to your last breath.

Nate
6 years ago

And to what level do we give the opportunity? There’s two major options here:

1. Offer women’s baseball. Okay, but that would likely ruin the existence of softball, as schools likely won’t be able to offer both softball and baseball. I can’t imagine that all of your major organizations that help promote softball, teach the game, and officiate it’s rules would be too keen on ending all their work for the sake of getting baseball.

Not to mention, this article provided no actual support the idea that there are millions of girls knocking down the doors to play baseball instead of softball. Schools will have to pick one or the other, and I’d imagine many women wouldn’t want to spend time re-learning tactics and skills to switch from the game they spent their whole life playing.

2. Allow women to play at the men’s baseball. There are, in fact, some women who compete at the men’s level, although it’s exceedingly rare at the higher levels of the game. We know that there are vast differences in the athletic talent and makeup between men and women. Men are naturally stronger, physically. (Women are much stronger in many, many categories, so I’m not suggesting they aren’t strong at all, before anyone tries to lambast me.)

There will always be coaches willing to integrate women into their teams, so long as they believe women can compete and be a value-add to their team. Sadly, there will always be coaches who won’t care if those women exist and won’t provide them the opportunity.

The way I see it, if women want to be integrated with the men, great. They better be able to compete, but I remain skeptical that, sans a small number of women, they would be able to.

I’m curious as to what option we want. I’m open to both, but both have major disadvantages we have to consider.

Coach W
6 years ago

This article is SJW horsecrap from beginning to end.

If you don’t stop publishing this SJW nonsense, I will stop reading your website. And I doubt strongly that I am alone in that.

KEEP YOUR POLITICS OUT OF OUR BASEBALL!

Brian
6 years ago

It’s interesting how this is framed. It could similarly be said that boys aren’t given the opportunity to play softball, could it not?? As a man that has played competitive fastpitch softball his whole life, I was never given the opportunity to play on the many girls’ teams while in school, instead told I had to play baseball (which I chose not to outside of trying out once, and being cut, in middle school). I still play fastpitch, and have to drive out of town for all league games and tournaments since locally there are only womens leagues. So why is the lack of availability for men to play softball (or field hockey, or volleyball at most schools, etc) not a Title IX issue??

Julien Assouline
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

The point or the goal of Title IX is to make sure that people on the basis of their sex will not be excluded from participating in educational programs, which involves sports. If you were left out or denied the entry to a softball team because you were male. Then YES, that would be a Title IX issue.

I personally and unfortunately don’t know if men are being discriminated against in softball. With that said, I do know that women are in baseball. Through the numerous sexist stereotypes, such as, “throwing a ball like a girl”. Or the sexist commentary on live broadcast, or the number of articles that have been written by women about their experience in the game.

The problem here is not relevant simply to baseball or women. The problem is that many sports are gendered bias. People often associate a certain gender to a sport. For example, women figure skate, while men play football. The goal is to eliminate that discrimination or bias and have a world where no one based on their identity, gender, or sex is prevented from playing sports.

Brian
6 years ago

Equality is not the goal, here. Otherwise this article would have been framed about trying to find a way to get men accepted into softball. It seems that girls simply choose to play softball rather than baseball. Just like boys choose to play golf rather than field hockey. I don’t see that as a problem. Not every sport, or group, or profession, needs to have an equal balance of males and females and racial breakdown. There are genetic and cultural differences between us that lead us to make choices in life. Keyword: choices. We shouldn’t automatically assume there’s a problem that needs to be fixed in those cases, but for some reason we always do unless it involves white people or men being under-represented.

There was of course the #nbasoblack hashtag that jokingly went around when there wasn’t a single white player named to either NBA all-star team this year, but I don’t think anybody is really concerned about discrimination causing a lack of opportunity for whites in the NBA. And nobody is concerned about discrimination causing a lack of males in softball (trust me, aside from your feigned concern, I have never once encountered it in my 27 years playing the sport competitively). I know why men overwhelmingly choose baseball; softball is a “girls sport”, and that’s fine. I don’t need to be treated like a helpless child just because there aren’t many men that prefer the same sport as me. Why must we infantilize people who make choices we might not understand?? To me that is more demeaning that not having the option to play on the opposite gender’s sports team in high school.

Howard
6 years ago

Your thinking is the classic case of the diseased ultra liberal mind. Woman simply aren’t good enough to play men’s baseball at the HS level. There may be exceptions, like 1 in 10,000. And that one, if EQUAL IN TALENT AND SKILL TO A MAN, should definitely be afforded the opportunity to play!

Now, is your liberal mind ready for this >> EXACTLY THE NUMBERS you show in disparity equates exactly in the talent level concerning this particular sport. So, the liberal diseased mind only focuses on what they want to see. But, we have to be ‘fair’ right libby?

Why not just take the championships and competition out of sports? We can have an equal amount of men and women in HS baseball and no one has to strive to win anything, we can just all hold hands in our new utopian progressive liberal world!

Jacob
6 years ago
Reply to  Howard

We have no idea how many women could play HS-level baseball because they are never given opportunities to play baseball as children. While I don’t think it is at all controversial to say that there would be many, many fewer woman ballplayers in a mixed-gender HS baseball situation, the differences would not be this drastic. I grew up in a small-town where the talent pool was sufficiently thin that I have no doubt that a couple of our best softball players would have been good enough to be on the HS baseball team if they had been trained in baseball instead. They were just better athletes than some of the men on the team.

In any case, I honestly thought from reading this piece that the author was open to or hoping for the possibility of women’s baseball teams at the HS level. If some of the women on the women’s teams were good enough to play with the boys, then great, let them play with the boys.

Perry Barber
6 years ago

Thank you for the great research and insights, Julien. It’s always instructive to read the comments about articles related to this topic, that of girls being told they shouldn’t be playing baseball and the reasons for that exclusion. The rationale justifying this attitude is always the same: that softball is a more suitable sport for girls because of its less rigorous physical demands, that the dimensions of the baseball diamond are too expansive for women to be able to play well, that softball offers a far better chance of a college scholarship. These are all false justifications for steering girls away from baseball toward softball, especially the one about scholarships. In fact, according to NCAA statistics, out of about 372,000 girls who played high school softball during the 2013-’14 season, only 19,047 or 5.1% of them even MADE an NCAA roster, much less played on scholarship. To dangle the carrot of a college softball scholarship before a young girl as the primary reason why she should switch from baseball to softball is therefore delusional and deceptive. Why dash a young girl’s dreams so early in life? Why not take the position that if a girl wants to play baseball, she should not be discouraged – which is the current paradigm, unfortunately – but rather encouraged? Why is taking the easy way out, to simply remain passive and accepting, to NOT demand that opportunities be open to girls who want to play, the better, more acceptable policy? If commenters like “Coach W” and “Howard” were exposed to the thousands of girls I have seen playing baseball all across the globe during the last ten years, playing with heart, hustle, and skill, they might change their minds about girls’ desire to play being some sort of liberal plot to ruin the game. That’s a very tired trope that deserves to be thrown on the trash heap of history along with all the other ones about girls being too delicate to play hardball, about not being able to keep up with the boys past age twelve, about being too much this or not enough that to satisfy someone’s outdated ideas about what makes a successful ballplayer (or coach or umpire, because women have been excluded from these positions as well, jobs which require no particular physical size or strength – which pretty much exposes as a sham the mantra that “baseball is suitable for boys but not for girls.”)

During the past five years, three women I know of have gone to college on BASEBALL scholarships, and Sarah Hudek, the daughter of a former major leaguer, is pitching spectacularly for a small junior college right now. The USA National women’s BASEBALL team – yes, there is such a thing – routinely mows down the competition in international tournaments where countries like Japan, Korea, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere field teams supported by national programs designed to draw girls and women into baseball playing, coaching, and umpiring. Here in the USA, there is no similar infrastructure of support for girls who want to play baseball the way there is for boys from the time they’re in utero, and as another commenter points out, that lack of infrastructure for young girls is a huge reason why more girls don’t play when they’re young and develop the skills they need to keep up later on. If given the chance and the training, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t. After all, as legendary pitcher Jamie Moyer so wisely pointed out, “If you think through sports and life, how many times have women been told they can’t or they won’t – and then they eventually do?” If more parents were willing to go to bat for their daughters instead of just buying into the fake, ginned up inducement of a college softball scholarship that will probably never materialize, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Playing baseball demands intelligence, agility, hustle, focus, finesse, and heart at least as much as it does muscle mass or physical power, and girls and women possess all those qualities in droves. So why perpetuate the phony meme that inferior upper body strength means girls shouldn’t even want or try to play baseball? That’s utter nonsense. As for “cost” considerations at the youth and high school levels. that’s just another red herring designed to justify the exclusion of girls from the baseball diamond without any real facts or figures to back up the spurious claim that allowing one or a few to audition for a little league team or a varsity high school squad would somehow bankrupt an entire organization (or conversely, lead to the demise of another sport.) There’s no reason to fear an unstoppable onslaught of shrieking, estrogen-crazed banshees determined to take over the field and ruin the game for all of us if the doors are opened for one; it will just be a few dedicated, determined girls and women with the skills, stamina, and determination to make it as far as possible who will be the ones to shatter the stained grass window of baseball and open it up for others with similar dreams. Baseball will not be ruined by our participation, it will be better! Girls and women who play baseball raise the standard of skill and success for their teammates and opponents everywhere I have ever seen them play, and that’s all over the world for at least a decade now.

Thanks again for the outstanding research and analysis, Julien. As for the conclusions to be drawn from your graphs and inferences, those, obviously, are in the eye of the beholder and leave a lot of room for discussion, which is a good thing. Shining a light on entrenched, obsolete attitudes about girls playing baseball that have kept them off the diamond for too long is the best way to bring them out of the shadows and ultimately dispel them.

Bill
6 years ago

If there are a lot of girls that want to play baseball, certainly they should have the chance. But schools and communities cannot field teams in every sport. There are financial and other limits. Are there many girls that play little league baseball?

You imply that for some reason baseball is superior to softball, that the fact that girls are playing softball means it isn’t as good as the sport that the boys are playing. Why? Does one provide more exercise than the other? Or more pleasure?

The graphs that you display could just as easily be used to arue that girls aren’t interested in baseball, that they prefer softball. Their participation rate seems to have peaked in 2005 and dropped since then. Boys participation rates have continued to climb.

Jacob
6 years ago

I have the sense that it would be very difficult to unseat softball to make room for women playing baseball. And while you can say that it doesn’t have to be one pitted against the other, it clearly would be in many cases. I grew up in a small town in which we fielded “good” softball teams (compared to similarly-sized schools) and the talent pool was just deep enough that some would get cut, but by the time HS rolled around there were fewer people being cut from the teams than making the teams. You would never be able to field a softball and baseball team.

But beyond that talent pool issue, there’s a lot of money in women’s softball. Sure, it’s nothing like baseball, but at the youth level it is not so different. There are people who make plenty of money running club softball teams, manage fields, and things like that who I strongly doubt would be accepting of baseball coming in and stealing off talent and/or replacing their sport. You would need an entity like MLB to throw their weight behind an initiative like this to have any chance to take on these interests, but it’s an open question whether MLB would see enough payoff to take the risk of alienating people.

And then we have the problem of the many women and girls who grew up playing softball. I have no qualms saying that in an alternative universe, they’d have all loved playing baseball. But that’s not the world they were born into. Just like many men like me love baseball in part because we played it and have so many memories attached, many current and former softball players won’t like seeing baseball promoted as the clearly superior sport that women now get to play. Again, this may be true that baseball is better–I sure feel like it is! But people don’t like being told they devoted their time and love to something that was really just a pale imitation of this new thing they need to switch to.

Brian
6 years ago

This is dumb. Girls are naturally weaker and smaller that’s why they can’t keep up with the guys. If someone is good enough to play there is nothing stopping them.

gc
6 years ago

Would be interested to see whether girls SB teams would be interested in playing occasional baseball exhibitions against each other by putting a mound behind the FP rubber, maybe at 55′ and bases 80′ apart on the SB field. Just because the 3P line is different and the ball is smaller does not mean that women’s basketball is not basketball. HR’s would go up, K’s would go down, pitcher arm injuries unfortunately would probably spike.

gc
6 years ago

But the big unanswered question is why RUGBY and DANCE are capitalized.

Rally
6 years ago

“Fascinating analysis. As I look back on my sports “career” my baseball days ended at the high school level, but transitioned to men’s softball leagues as an adult. Adult baseball leagues were hard to come by in my area 20 years ago.

Why is this? What is it about the nature of the game of baseball that drives this behavior? Speed of the game and perceived difficulty, or just societal norms?”

For me there was an unbelievable difference in recreational softball vs. adult baseball leagues. I played one year in a baseball league like that when I was 30. Played about 2 games per week on average, but the time involved in the sport was tremendous. Pretty much every off day I spent time at a batting cage, or working on some indoor hitting drills I devised in my house with plastic golf balls and a broom handle. It certainly helped, once you can hit a golf ball with something that thin a baseball looks huge. There was no way to hold down a full time job, put in the time needed for baseball, and have any kind of social life. So for one summer, the social life had to go. Now I have kids, so going back to that baseball plan (in a 40+ league) is not an option. If I tried to play without training like a maniac, the result would be me striking out 4 times every game, and I can’t accept that.

With slow pitch softball there is no need to train. I play once a week during the summer, and generally I show up for the first game after not playing for 6-8 months and hit a home run. Slow pitch softball is a sport for men or women who don’t have the time to make baseball (or fast pitch softball) their primary focus in life.

Bruce
6 years ago
Reply to  Rally

Rally,

I think you hit the nail on the head- thanks for the edifying response.

Bruce

Alvaro
6 years ago

I support the idea of expanding choice for everyone, specially for people to play baseball.
I am not sure that girls baseball could take enough athletes from softball to make a legit league, or that -even if allowed and encouraged- enough girls would crack roster spots in gender neutral league, but anything that grows the demographic for the game is good and has my support*.

*As long as we don’t introduce gender quotas, or change the game in any way to better accommodate girls.

willis
6 years ago

These articles are ridiculous. There will never be a woman in major league baseball, unless she was born a man and then took hormones to “become” a woman. If women want to be fans of major league baseball, they can be fans of major league baseball.

This series of articles belong in a social engineering journal, not on a baseball blog.

Frank the Tank
6 years ago
Reply to  willis

I don’t know about that, but you could certainly make the case that some of these responses belong on 4chan or Twitter with the #Gamergate hashtag.

There are some thoughtful and respectful responses here and in the previous article that argue against the idea of women playing baseball, but they are few and far between. The majority of posters responding in opposition really just serve to illustrate the extent to which misogyny and bigotry is present among baseball fans. This, to me, is a very unfortunate situation.

Jfree
6 years ago

This is the easiest thing in the world to fix. One MLB team with the balls to draft a couple women (probably in the late rounds where they normally waste picks on unsignables) and send them to rookie ball. Questions about whether they can make it to MLB or can women play or whatever are irrelevant in year one. Just draft them and watch the girl’s baseball leagues in HS and before grow like kudzu.

Question really is – do the men running MLB have balls or not?

Nate
6 years ago
Reply to  Jfree

“This is the easiest thing in the world to fix. One MLB team with the balls to draft a couple women (probably in the late rounds where they normally waste picks on unsignables) and send them to rookie ball.”

And then what? Do you keep them in rookie ball for 3 years? Do you pay them next to nothing just to prove a point?

What do you do if they don’t pan out? If they can’t compete, and you have to cut them to make room for people who can compete, what happens then?

How long before people catch on and realize you are using these women for a publicity stunt and not because you genuinely want to give them a chance?

The worst thing we can do is make a couple women the “token women” in the league for the sake of trying to grow the game. That seems to go against everything women have set out for years to do.

Jfree
6 years ago
Reply to  Nate

I don’t see what the big deal is. MLB teams currently deliberately each draft about 5-10 players per year who they don’t even sign (ie chances of playing in even rookie ball = 0). There are women who can be drafted now – Eri Yoshida, Ryleigh Buck, Sarah Hudek – plus others I’m sure. 29 teams have their club rookie team and all 30 have extended spring training which is precisely where a team deals with any basic developmental stuff. If/when they are ready for competitive rookie or beyond to full-season, then they are promoted. And MLB treats them just like the drafted guys – pay them a nominal signing bonus, pay them well below minimum wage for a few years, and treat them like shit because FYTW.

It may well take years – or maybe even never – before a woman actually makes it to MLB. That’s not the point. The draft is the way MLB fills ALL its baseball leagues below the MLB level – including rookie league. So drafting a woman is just saying that one team’s rookie league might now be co-ed. And it will be up to women players to move that bar up one level at a time.

What is 100% certain is that, within days of that draft, hundreds of baseball leagues beyond Little League will open up for girls to play in. So someone like Mo’ne Davis can keep playing baseball rather than just switch to basketball – and in five years or so there WILL be a pipeline. A far more certain pipeline than MLB spending tens of millions trying to develop a ‘baseball culture’ in countries that don’t even play baseball.

This ain’t rocket science.

Nate
6 years ago
Reply to  Jfree

You seem to buy into the nonsensical notion that one spark will start the whole forest fire. It’s not one spark. It’s one spark plus a multitude of other accelerants that get the ball rolling.

Sarah Hudek or any of the women you mentioned getting drafted late in the draft, given a ridiculously small signing bonus, and stashed in a level of the minors that the casual fan doesn’t realized existed is not the likely path to spark girl’s participation in baseball.

It’s going to require visibility and success for such an act of drafting a token woman to light a fire.

For what it’s worth, I think Mo’ne Davis’ success in the Little League World Series has a FAR GREATER chance of getting more participation than your scenario. Why? Because visibility and success are the accelerants that get the fire started, not the one little spark.

Jfree
6 years ago
Reply to  Nate

I think you underestimate the ‘spark’ of drafting a woman. The only woman drafted by MLB to-date was Carey Schueler – but she was the daughter of the White Sox GM and was drafted by the White Sox 25 years ago so the story was about nepotism not talent or opportunity. A legitimate draft selection would be very different. It would be legitimate news – read by millions. The team itself would pay for the signing bonuses overnight with increased ticket sales with families taking their daughters to see a baseball game – so no risk AT ALL. And when those kids go to bed that night dreaming that they might – someday – be able to play that game, they will wake up interested in learning how to play baseball. Just like boys have for over a century.

And if they don’t – so what? If girls have no interest in baseball and the pipeline doesn’t fill, then we will be right back where we are now. The girls who were drafted will go as far as their talent can take them. But with no pipeline behind them, it will be a noble experiment that failed. Which is still a freakload better than a noble experiment that isn’t even tried because a bunch of constipated fools are too gutless to do anything different.

And the reality is that Mo’ne Davis herself has said that she isn’t going to keep playing baseball. Her dream is playing point guard in the WNBA. Because that is what is POSSIBLE.

And by the way, the Negro Leagues had three women ballplayers when they existed – Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson, Connie Morgan. Some minor leagues had women players back when they were independent. Jackie Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1931 – and her reward was to have her contract voided by Kennesaw Landis (and the teams reward for going along with that was that they became affiliated with the Washington Senators the next season). MLB then made it illegal to sign women in 1952 – a restriction which lasted until 1992.

Alex
6 years ago

A couple of points. One, what exactly is wrong with softball?

Two, Why do we need to force women out of a place where they have room to succeed and profit, improving the rest of their lives?

There is actually nothing stopping women from playing baseball. But why would they want to, when the rewards for softball are so much greater? It’s easy to see a difference in enrollment and cry foul, but who are we to tell a young woman that she should be sacrificing the rest of her life to change the numbers a bit?

Jfree
6 years ago
Reply to  Alex

You assume there is some level playing field here. MLB owns professional baseball and it has a long history of abusing its anti-trust exemption to kill off anything they don’t want/like. Including the AAGPBL (A League of Our Own) – along with the independent minor leagues in the 1950’s. They weren’t even OK with pro softball for women until about 15 years ago. And they would almost certainly blacklist any man who played in (or financial backer of) a coed baseball league

‘Professional opportunities’ is obviously not the reason girls play softball. But ‘lack of any remotely possible dream of success’ is a pretty good reason why girl’s or coed baseball isn’t even offered beyond Little League. If something isn’t offered it won’t be played. So it is dubious, at best, to point to the disparity and say that it is the result of any free choice (unlike say volleyball or basketball). Or that offering a choice would be viewed as ‘forcing them out of softball’.

Nate
6 years ago
Reply to  Jfree

“And they would almost certainly blacklist any man who played in (or financial backer of) a coed baseball league”

Proof for that statement would be excellent.

Jim
6 years ago
Reply to  Jfree

Jfree, you are full of ridiculous hyperbole and unproven claims. But I swear, once you guys get started there is no stopping you. More girls challenging the boys in baseball will only kill the rising, exciting sport of fastpitch. You, of course, no nothing (or care nothing) about fastpitch, but instead see here an opportunity to stand on your soap box and play Abraham Lincoln.

So when you have destroyed the uniquely different sport of fastpitch and have a handful of women playing D1 college baseball and one woman in the low minor leagues will you be happy? What exactly are you trying to accomplish with this other than smugly standing on your soap boxes and claiming you are fighting for some kind of equity? It is people like you guys who have given rise to Donald Trump. People are tired of political correctness and all of the empty rhetoric behind it. There are already girls playing baseball in Babe Ruth and other youth leagues all over the country. Big deal. Most of them switch to softball for better opportunities, and I can’t think of any reason why they would want to abandon that great sport for baseball. Isn’t if funny that this article was written by a guy and all the comments in favor seem to be from men also?

This is the kind of foolishness that University culture has produced in the last 50years.

This is

Jim
6 years ago

Fastpitch softball is a totally different sport than baseball. What the author fails to understand is that there are a lot of fastpitch fans out there, women and men. How many men watch women’s college basketball? Not many because it is exactly the same sport as men’s basketball only played at a lower level.

There are a lot of men who follow women’s collegiate fastpitch. It is a faster game and in many’s opinion a more exciting sport than college baseball. Why would anyone advocate getting rid of fastpitch softball?

This “research” epitimozies what is wrong with the smug social justice crowd. They feel like any effort on behalf of an “oppressed” group is above reproach. It is a terrible idea to try and funnel girls into baseball and weaken the rising sport of fastpitch. Sure there are a few women who could play college baseball.

So my point is that if women just played baseball no one would watch women’s baseball because it would just be an inferior version of the men’s sport. Fastpitch is different and that is part of the reason for its popularity.