Inspiring Women in Baseball

When my cousin’s daughter was five or six years old, she was obsessed with becoming a professional baseball player. She would only wear a baseball uniform, including a baseball cap for her favorite team, and was rarely without her catcher’s mitt. It broke my heart to know that she would never be able to realize her dream because she was female. That was a long time ago, but not much has changed for women in professional baseball. For this reason, I found it inspiring to read about two women who are pioneers in the sport: Jessica Mendoza and Claire Smith. They are ESPN baseball analysts and journalists who are battling sexism in the sport to have their talents recognized. My niece never had a chance to see women in these roles when she was young. While not in center field, sports analysts and journalists are still important roles. Almost as inspiring to me is their male ally, Doug Glanville, who wrote the story about these women in the New York Times to acknowledge them and urge others to appreciate and support them. Glanville is an ally in the true sense of the word because he understands and is willing to give voice to the unfair challenges that women face in professional sports. He also appreciates the importance of role models for young girls and boys who have dreams that are blocked by stereotypes. Glanville begins by telling us about Jessica Mendoza, ESPN’s first and only Major League Baseball (MLB) analyst. Even though Mendoza is an Olympic gold and silver medalist in softball, a trusted insider, and a highly competent commentator, she is routinely disparaged by sports fans on social media and told she does not belong in baseball. Yet she persists as trailblazers must. Glanville also writes of Claire Smith, an African American baseball reporter for the New York Times, who just became the first woman ever recognized in the Baseball Hall of Fame with the highest honor in baseball journalism. Hers will be the first female face on the wall of journalistic award recipients. Both Mendoza and Smith have faced enormous challenges that men do not face. Glanville identifies some of these challenges as double standards based on gender. For example, men are allowed to be both competent and likable, unlike women. Glanville argues that “sports, on and off the field, should set an example for fairness, decency and humanity for all of our children, not just the legacy of boys already in the boys club.” Our children need to see that they can break barriers and be whatever they aspire to become. My niece would still not be a professional player in center field, but today, at least, she would have role models for other ways to be seriously involved in the sport she loves. Thank you to Jessica Mendoza and Claire Smith for being pioneers.   Photo courtesy of greg westfall (CC BY 2.0)]]>

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