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July 2018

Lifer: The Baseball Way

Welcome back to third installment of Lifer by All Heels on Deck! I’m so excited for everyone to take a look at this issue. We’ve put together some really great content that every baseball fan is sure to love, so this edition is worth the wait. 

We asked, you voted, we listened. During my last AHOD Twitter takeover, I ran a poll that asked our readers what you’d like to see more of in Lifer. The results: ballpark food! Who doesn’t want to see some unique menu selections from around baseball? In this issue, our Helen Silfin showcases two of her favorite things to eat at Citi Field. After reading her feature, I cannot wait to try them, and am sure you’ll all feel the same way.

Teams have been getting pretty creative with their giveaways this season. Some teams are putting a baseball-fan spin on an everyday commodity with exclusive items you’ll want to add to your collection of baseball memorabilia. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas is here again, except this time, there’s baseball. Several Major League and Minor League Baseball teams are getting in on “Christmas in July” with fun holiday inspired giveaways and promotions. It’s all the joy of the holiday season without the ridiculous cold weather. 

Finally, the hilarious Victoria Edel is back! Baseball is a sport of tradition and integrity, so she presents to you new traditions that will surly spark outrage among some fans. 

This edition of Lifer is one you don’t want to miss! So, join us as we do life the baseball fan way!

~RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

My Citi Field Staples

By Helen Silfin

Even though the Mets may never be known for their quality of baseball, they are near the top of the league for their ballpark food. With so many options, it can be overwhelming trying to choose just one or two things to get at a game. I always head to the area behind section 105 where Keith’s Grill and DO sit, home to both of my favorite Citi Field eats. 

The “Mex” burger at Keith’s Grill is the perfect guilty pleasure for a ballgame. The burger is on a sesame bun and is topped with cheddar and jack cheese, bacon, jalapenos, guacamole, and chipotle aioli. It comes with potato chips and a Tootsie Pop (Keith Hernandez’s favorite treat). The crispy bacon and gooey cheese complement each other perfectly, and the spice from the jalapenos and aioli drive home why the burger is so special. (My mouth is watering just writing this.)
Mex Burger

Citi Field has A LOT of food, and eventually I might try a quarter of it. But for now, I am happy to have my go-to noshes that I can always count on.

 

 

Not Your Normal Mugs

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

Who doesn’t love mugs? They’re practical and useful, and when you can get a little extra with the design, they can be a fun souvenir to collect. Some MLB teams are getting in on the creative mug trend. Lucky for us, some of our favorite teams will be having promotional mug giveaways this month. These just might be two of the most unique mugs I’ve ever seen. 

 

This isn’t what it appears to be. On the surface, this looks like the barrel of Atlanta Braves legend Chipper Jones’ bat. But, it’s really part of the Braves’ “Signature Series Dugout Mug” made from a hollowed out wooden barrel. This limited-edition mug will be given to those fans that purchased the Hall of Fame ticket package on Sunday, July 29th when the Braves take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This giveaway honors Chipper Jones’ induction into the Hall of Fame in one of the most unique ways possible. The mug is usable, but I think it’s just too sentimental to drink out of. When I first saw this image, I really thought it was a replica of Chipper’s bat. I think this is the most “baseball fan” mug out there, and I can’t believe I’ve never seen anything like it before. I hope more teams catch-on to this idea, because I would definitely want a mug like this celebrating my favorite player to put out on display. 

Chipper Jones Mug

The San Francisco Giants have some of the most creative giveaways every season, so it’s no surprise they’re getting in on the mug trend. On Saturday, July 28th, the Giants will be giving away a Heat Reactive/Color Changing Mug presented by Bigelow Tea to the first 20,000 fans in attendance. With the addition of hot liquid, you can watch the black mug that features a few Giants players turn into a full panorama of several fan favorites. This seems like a giveaway that Giants fans of all ages would appreciate, and if I was in the San Francisco area this weekend, I would definitely want to pick one up! More information can be found here

Posey Mug

It’s Christmas In July, At All The Parks You Know

By: RoseAnn Sapia

Editors' Note: Due to scheduling issues, this list comes in a bit late and reads more as a "Best of" write-up. The lateness was in no way the fault of RoseAnn.~Jessica Quiroli

It’s the greatest time of year! The sun is shining, it’s the middle of the baseball season, and Hallmark is playing their Christmas favorites. Could there be a more cheerful time for baseball fans than Christmas in July? Major League and Minor League teams alike are getting in on the holiday spirit with special Christmas in July theme nights that include festive giveaways that are sure to make it feel like it’s Christmas at the ballpark. 

Giveaways for Christmas in July nights are putting a summer-spin on classic holiday favorites. Everyone has an Ugly Christmas Sweater, but it’s way too hot to wear those. That’s why some teams are giving away Ugly Holiday Sweater T-shirts. Among those teams are the San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers, and Kansas City Royals. This is definitely what your wardrobe has been missing!

Giants Christmas

Some teams are getting even more creative with their Christmas in July promotions. In case you didn’t get socks for Christmas in December, the Philadelphia Phillies have you covered. Perhaps the best of all team apparel giveaways this “Christmas” season is the Atlanta Braves’ Holiday Onesie. It’s cute and looks comfortable, and will be the perfect thing to wear when opening presents come Christmas morning. 

Team apparel isn’t the only thing teams will be giving out this holiday season. The St. Louis Cardinals are giving away an exclusive Santa Fredbird Bobblehead for their celebration. Santa Fredbird and other Christmas characters will even be available for photo opportunities prior to the game. 

Louie Claud Bobblehead Phillies Socks

Along with giveaways, some teams are sharing the holiday cheer by asking fans to bring in unwrapped Christmas gifts to donate to “Toys for Tots” or a similar toy drive. Christmas is the season of giving, and just because we’re celebrating in July doesn’t mean that has to change. This just might be the best part about Christmas in July theme nights. The Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, and Philadelphia Phillies are among the teams hosting one of these events during their Christmas celebrations. 

These are just a few of the fun festivities teams are hosting for Christmas in July. Most of these theme nights will be taking place this weekend, July 28th and July 29th, so be sure to check out your team’s website for a complete listing of promotions. 

 

10 New Baseball Traditions, Mostly So We Can Be Mad About Young People Disrespecting Them In 15 To 20 Years

By: Victoria Edel

 

All walkup music must be reggaeton or a sitcom theme song. Anything else is highly disrespectful. 

You must run to first base after a hit by pitch. Walking or trotting shows poor sportsmanship. If you don’t, the ghost of Brandon Nimmo will give you the yips.

Bat flips are mandatory for all monster home runs. Since “monster” is pretty subjective, you’re better off flipping the bat and being safe. 

Each game, one player chronicles their experience on Instagram Story. I’m talking reactions to specific pitches, how many cups of Gatorade they drink, and how many times the manager swears.

All ball boys are now ball girls. Boys don’t have the patience for the job.

It’s bad luck to not have a Pride Night. All ye who forego this sacred eve beware!

Anyone who wears a Yankees shirt to a game in which the Yankees are not playing has to buy a helmet cup ice cream for everyone in their row.

All replays must be done the way they show flashbacks on “Vanderpump Rules” — in black and white, with one object inexplicably pink.

Every ballpark must serve Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee. It’s honestly disrespectful that iced coffee is not already ubiquitous at all major league ballparks. It’s summer. People weren’t meant to live like this.

Players have to wear high socks. They just look better. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Mex” burger at Keith’s Grill is the perfect guilty pleasure for a ballgame. The burger is on a sesame bun and is topped with cheddar and jack cheese, bacon, jalapenos, guacamole, and chipotle aioli. It comes with potato chips and a Tootsie Pop (Keith Hernandez’s favorite treat). The crispy bacon and gooey cheese complement each other perfectly, and the spice from the jalapenos and aioli drive home why the burger is so special. (My mouth is watering just writing this.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I am in the mood for a sweet treat I head straight to DO. I mean, who doesn’t love cookie dough? I love DO’s cake batter cookie dough because it has a little bit of everything – chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and blue and orange sprinkles. It is the perfect alternative to ballpark staple soft-serve ice cream, too. And pro-tip: the small cup is enough to share with a friend, so it can actually be a ballpark bargain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citi Field has A LOT of food, and eventually I might try a quarter of it. But for now, I am happy to have my go-to noshes that I can always count on.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

Not Your Normal Mugs

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

Who doesn’t love mugs? They’re practical and useful, and when you can get a little extra with the design, they can be a fun souvenir to collect. Some MLB teams are getting in on the creative mug trend. Lucky for us, some of our favorite teams will be having promotional mug giveaways this month. These just might be two of the most unique mugs I’ve ever seen. 

 

 

 

 

This isn’t what it appears to be. On the surface, this looks like the barrel of Atlanta Braves legend Chipper Jones’ bat. But, it’s really part of the Braves’ “Signature Series Dugout Mug” made from a hollowed out wooden barrel. This limited-edition mug will be given to those fans that purchased the Hall of Fame ticket package on Sunday, July 29th when the Braves take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

This giveaway honors Chipper Jones’ induction into the Hall of Fame in one of the most unique ways possible. The mug is usable, but I think it’s just too sentimental to drink out of. When I first saw this image, I really thought it was a replica of Chipper’s bat. I think this is the most “baseball fan” mug out there, and I can’t believe I’ve never seen anything like it before. I hope more teams catch-on to this idea, because I would definitely want a mug like this celebrating my favorite player to put out on display. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The San Francisco Giants have some of the most creative giveaways every season, so it’s no surprise they’re getting in on the mug trend. On Saturday, July 28th, the Giants will be giving away a Heat Reactive/Color Changing Mug presented by Bigelow Tea to the first 20,000 fans in attendance. With the addition of hot liquid, you can watch the black mug that features a few Giants players turn into a full panorama of several fan favorites. This seems like a giveaway that Giants fans of all ages would appreciate, and if I was in the San Francisco area this weekend, I would definitely want to pick one up! More information can be found here. 

 

 

It’s Christmas In July, At All The Parks You Know

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

It’s the greatest time of year! The sun is shining, it’s the middle of the baseball season, and Hallmark is playing their Christmas favorites. Could there be a more cheerful time for baseball fans than Christmas in July? Major League and Minor League teams alike are getting in on the holiday spirit with special Christmas in July theme nights that include festive giveaways that are sure to make it feel like it’s Christmas at the ballpark. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaways for Christmas in July nights are putting a summer-spin on classic holiday favorites. Everyone has an Ugly Christmas Sweater, but it’s way too hot to wear those. That’s why some teams are giving away Ugly Holiday Sweater T-shirts. Among those teams are the San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers, and Kansas City Royals. This is definitely what your wardrobe has been missing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some teams are getting even more creative with their Christmas in July promotions. In case you didn’t get socks for Christmas in December, the Philadelphia Phillies have you covered. Perhaps the best of all team apparel giveaways this “Christmas” season is the Atlanta Braves’ Holiday Onesie. It’s cute and looks comfortable, and will be the perfect thing to wear when opening presents come Christmas morning. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team apparel isn’t the only thing teams will be giving out this holiday season. The St. Louis Cardinals are giving away an exclusive Santa Fredbird Bobblehead for their celebration. Santa Fredbird and other Christmas characters will even be available for photo opportunities prior to the game. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minor League teams have some of the most unique promotions all season long, so of course they’ll be participating in Christmas in July. The IronPigs are giving away a team branded Elf on the Shelf, sure to be very popular among the children in attendance. The Springfield Cardinals are having a whole weekend dedicated to Christmas in July. The “Fragile” Player Leg Lamp Figurine looks awfully similar to the infamous lamp featured in the classic A Christmas Story movie. The Louie Claus & Rein-Dog Christmas Ornament will be the perfect addition to your collection of ornaments, and will remind you of the hope of baseball season even during the coldest days of winter. 

Some Minor League teams are putting a different twist on Christmas in July. The Mobile BayBears will be giving away presents all throughout Saturday’s game, including the grand prize: a full season suite for the entire 2019 season. The Reading Fightin Phils are having a “Christmas in July Ticket Special”, which allows fans to purchase tickets to any remaining home game without paying ticket fees. Several MiLB teams will be selling discounted merchandise at their team stores, and will even have St. Nick himself wandering around the ballpark to take early Christmas requests.

Along with giveaways, some teams are sharing the holiday cheer by asking fans to bring in unwrapped Christmas gifts to donate to “Toys for Tots” or a similar toy drive. Christmas is the season of giving, and just because we’re celebrating in July doesn’t mean that has to change. This just might be the best part about Christmas in July theme nights. The Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, and Philadelphia Phillies are among the teams hosting one of these events during their Christmas celebrations. 

 

These are just a few of the fun festivities teams are hosting for Christmas in July. Most of these theme nights will be taking place this weekend, July 28th and July 29th, so be sure to check out your team’s website for a complete listing of promotions. 

 

10 New Baseball Traditions, Mostly So We Can Be Mad About Young People Disrespecting Them In 15 To 20 Years

By: Victoria Edel

 

All walkup music must be reggaeton or a sitcom theme song. Anything else is highly disrespectful. 

 

You must run to first base after a hit by pitch. Walking or trotting shows poor sportsmanship. If you don’t, the ghost of Brandon Nimmo will give you the yips.

 

Bat flips are mandatory for all monster home runs. Since “monster” is pretty subjective, you’re better off flipping the bat and being safe. 

 

Each game, one player chronicles their experience on Instagram Story. I’m talking reactions to specific pitches, how many cups of Gatorade they drink, and how many times the manager swears.

 

All ball boys are now ball girls. Boys don’t have the patience for the job.

 

It’s bad luck to not have a Pride Night. All ye who forego this sacred eve beware!

 

Anyone who wears a Yankees shirt to a game in which the Yankees are not playing has to buy a helmet cup ice cream for everyone in their row.

 

All replays must be done the way they show flashbacks on “Vanderpump Rules” — in black and white, with one object inexplicably pink.

 

Every ballpark must serve Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee. It’s honestly disrespectful that iced coffee is not already ubiquitous at all major league ballparks. It’s summer. People weren’t meant to live like this.

 

Players have to wear high socks. They just look better. 

 

 


The Rivalry of My Own Identity

By Helen Silfin

 

My identities as both a baseball fan and a member of the LGBTQ community should not come in conflict with one another. One should not matter to the other or influence the other or really have anything to do with the other. Unfortunately, the discovery of old tweets by Josh Hader, relief pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers, made it abundantly clear that these identities will clash until real steps are taken towards change and inclusion.

 

Hader’s derogatory tweets took aim at people of color, the LGBTQ community, and women. Despite the fact that Major League Baseball has fans spanning all three groups, their punishment of “sensitivity training” was merely a slap on the wrist. In a statement, MLB claimed Hader’s tweets “[fail] to represent the values of our game and our expectations for all those who are a part of it.”

 

Nowhere in MLB’s statement did they mention why Hader tweeted was wrong. Hader’s vague apologies only make it clear he regrets the sh*tstorm his tweets have caused, not that his beliefs have actually changed. He has yet to volunteer with any organization advocating for people of color, the LGBTQ community, or women. He has yet to even mention any of those groups by name.

 

Here lies why I do not yet feel like I am truly welcome in the baseball community. The soft punishment only deters players from tweeting slurs and derogatory statements. It does not encourage growth or learning. It does not teach players to embrace and support marginalized communities. It does not do anything to discourage bigotry; it only discourages sharing said bigotry on social media. It really is simply the easiest way for Major League Baseball to navigate this PR headache.

 

Even before the events of last week I found myself grappling with this topic. The Mets had just tweeted about this season’s Pride Night and while it is exciting to see how teams have made Pride Night an annual occurrence, the lack of player involvement bums me out.  After all, I watch baseball for the players on the field, so when I see they are happy to be a part of Faith Night but stay mum on Pride Night, it makes me feel like not everybody in the organization is truly on board.

 

I could go on for days listing instances of homophobia from former and current MLB players. There is Torii Hunter saying he would be “uncomfortable” “uncomfortable” with a gay teammate and Daniel Murphy saying he disagrees with “the lifestyle.” And I cannot forget about Lance Berkman’s blatant transphobia, and Kevin Pillar’s penchant for dropping out of frustration. Seemingly everywhere I turn there is another player I no longer feel comfortable supporting, another team I can no longer look at the same way.

 

And I will feel this way until there is some sort of cultural shift in baseball clubhouses throughout the country. Until there are more voices like those of David Wright and Sean Doolittle, I will keep preparing myself to be let down by my favorite players.

Until Major Leaguers make it clear that homophobia has no place in Major League Baseball, I will hold my breath waiting for the next incident. Until the environment is welcoming enough for the first brave soul to break the barrier and be an out-gay MLB player, I will keep parts of my identity separate in order to enjoy my favorite sport as much as possible.

 


Playoffs Picture Could Use Some Editing

By Karen Soutar

Playoffs.   It’s what all professional sports teams play for and what fans cheer for.     A chance to play in your league’s postseason and hope to be crowned champion of your league for that season.      Some major team sports leagues such as the NBA and NHL have sixteen teams qualify for the playoffs each season.   MLB on the other hand only has 10 out of thirty teams qualify each year, and only since 2012.  Prior to that it was 8.   

The mandate that 10 teams qualify for the MLB playoffs is included in the current collective bargaining agreement which runs through the 2021 season.  As part of the new CBA, they should expand to a sixteen-team postseason.    

What would the benefits be to expanding the number of teams in MLB’s postseason?     

Professional athletes are highly competitive.  They want to win.  Expanded playoffs gives more players, more teams a chance at a championship.   Owners want to make money.   Additional revenue generated by between 24-40 more playoff games every year would be very welcome, and some of that revenue could be used to pay players. 

Any team sports league is healthiest when competitive balance is achieved.    Understandably, fans are happiest when their team is doing well.   The better their team is doing, the more likely many fans are to attend games or watch on TV.    The flip side is that if teams are unable to be competitive year after year, fans become frustrated and all but the most loyal, die hard fans eventually lose interest, which costs the league much needed revenue. 

Three additional teams in each league qualifying for playoffs would give teams more to compete for, more incentive to be “buyers” – signing established quality free agent players and retaining their own proven MLB players rather than trading them away for prospects.    

Expanding the playoffs could also boost regular season attendance.     So far in 2018, MLB’s average attendance has fallen to its lowest in 15 years.    ( http://fortune.com/2018/06/15/mlb-attendance-rate-declining/)   Let’s look at a comparison of the average attendance so far in 2018 compared to 2017. Breaking that down in to three groups – the 10 teams currently occupying a playoff spot, 5 teams within 5 games (or just a hot streak away) from a playoff spot, and 15 teams at least 7.5 (and in most cases much more) games out of a playoff spot, you get a pretty clear picture of what is going on.     Of the 10 teams in a playoff spot, 7 have actually increased average attendance while 3 have decreased, for an average increase of 1,127 fans per game in those ballparks.     The 5 teams “within striking distance” have an average of 465 fewer fans per game so far.     The 15 “also rans” have suffered the most, with an average loss of 4,019 fans per game over 2017.    It’s pretty easy to see the difference contending makes to fan interest.

 

So how would this work?     The top eight teams in each league would qualify – the three division winners and the five non-division winners with the best record.   The extra round could be a five game series, just as the current division series is now, with games 1 and 2 in the home park of the team with the better record, 3 and 4 in the team with the worse record and a deciding game 5 (if it gets that far) back in the home park of the higher seed.       This would be much better than the current format which includes two, one game winner goes on loser goes home wild card games, one in each league.      As it currently stands, there are two divisions with two teams each on pace to win 100 + games, the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East and the Astros and Mariners in the AL West.     Since each division only has one winner, the best the non-division winner can hope for is to be a wild card team, which doesn’t seem like enough of  a reward for making the playoffs.    Imagine winning 100 or more regular season games and ending up with zero home playoff games to show for it.    All playoff teams should be guaranteed a minimum of one home playoff game, which the current wild card format doesn’t allow.  The second round would be best remaining regular season record in each league vs worst remaining in the same league with the other two first round winners facing off, best regular season record team holding home field advantage.

 

In order to do this, you need to find an extra week for the first round, including two travel days.

Owners don’t want to lose revenue by shortening the regular season and players don’t want to lose precious off days during a long season.     One solution could be to shorten spring training.     Many people think spring training is too long anyway.      In the distant past, players needed spring training, literally, to get in to game shape.       

Nowadays, most players stay in good shape all year round.     Sure, a certain amount of time is needed to report to camp, take physicals, begin work outs and play a certain number of exhibition games to build up the stamina needed for the regular season and to evaluate the talent level of prospects, players “on the bubble” to make the MLB team.     In 2018, spring training reporting date for all 30 teams fell between February 14-16 for pitchers and catchers, Feb 19-21 full squad and playing schedule ran from Feb 21-March 27, almost five weeks!      It wouldn’t be too difficult to reduce the length of spring training by a week, full squad reports one day earlier and eliminate 6 games – three home and three road.      The regular season starts and finishes one week earlier, maintaining the existing 162 regular season games and the number of off days during the season.    

 

In an attempt to minimize postponed games due to inclement weather, MLB could schedule a disproportionate number of early season games in the stadiums with retractable roofs (Toronto, Arizona, Seattle, Milwaukee, Houston and Miami),  or the one non-retractable roof (Tampa Bay), as well as the cities further south with warmer average temperatures (Atlanta, Texas and the five California based teams).      The other 16 teams would need to have their home opener no later than two weeks after the start of the regular season.      For that matter, when new MLB stadiums are being built in future,  strong consideration should be given to including a retractable roof in order to reduce the inconvenience created by postponing and rescheduling games, the unnecessary travel, loss of off days and so forth.

 

MLB owners and player’s union should discuss this possibility sooner than later in order to have a framework in place for the next CBA.   

 


Touching the Intersection: How DC Girls Baseball Is Changing The Future of Baseball

By Tammy Rainey

 

There’s a feel-good story in the Washington Blade that touches on the intersection of women, baseball, and being trans. Sometimes a seemingly minor profile actually holds layers of meaning and provokes a host of tangential thoughts and this is one of those occasions. I would not presume to step on the fine work done by Kevin Majoros in that piece but I feel like it’s worth ruminating on some of those related layers behind the story.

 

You should definitely read the piece, but to summarize he profiles female baseball player Paloma Benach and her coach, and teammate, and parent Ava.  The growing popularity of girl’s and women’s baseball (as opposed to the traditional softball) and indeed the increasing integration of female players into the same leagues and teams that had in the past been reserved for male players is a key element of the story. Almost incidental to that (which, honestly, is refreshing as so many writers would have made it the lede) is the fact that Ava is trans and has recently transitioned to life as her true female self.

 

There’s a lot of warranted positivity in the story (seriously, read it) and it’s remarkably free of the drama often found around both of these subjects. Every story highlighting the participation of females in baseball, as an equally available option to softball which of course many embrace and enjoy, is a story of the sort of progress our society should always be seeking. But of course, I also have a vested interest in positive stories about trans people not suffering tremendous loss upon transition because that turn of events is still all too common. Rather than dwell on that, though, my thoughts drift to another tangent entirely.

 

The evolving landscape in sexual/gender equality that gives rise to everything from integrated baseball teams to the #MeToo campaign to the increasingly complex reflections among fans to incidents like the Roberto Osuna arrest is challenging for some who are perhaps comfortable with more “traditional” conceptions but it is for that very reason that it is so important. In all aspects of human interaction people are seeking the balance between healthy tradition and toxic tradition. Far too often the default approach is “it’s a tradition for a reason” and challenging a tradition is seen as being a sort of agent of chaos. However we are increasingly becoming aware that it is not only healthy but vital that traditions be examined, tested, challenged, to see if they are worthy of continuing or if they have been causing harm all this time. Certainly re-evaluating the longstanding limitations on women in our society is a field ripe for that examination.

 

On a parallel track, much more out of the spotlight than the women’s movement, society is increasingly being asked to confront its assumptions in regards to the existence of trans people and the challenge our existence represents to “traditional” conceptions of gender roles, gendered behavior, and sex-based stereotypes. To my mind, these two tracks intersect in some ways when the subject terms to competitive sports and sex-based assumptions surrounding them.

There is, in less informed circles, the perception that there is a single “correct” trans narrative, but as Jennifer Finney Boylan has remarked, when you’ve met one trans person - you have met ONE trans person. That said, just as cis females (or males) have a loosely common set of cultural experiences, there are points of commonality in the life experience of trans people who transition at similar points in life. Which is to say that there are more points of commonality between myself and someone like Ava (in that we both transitioned in our 40’s, as married parents) than either of us would have with, for example, Avery Jackson. On this subject I could argue that there also exists some parallels with some of those points of lived experience and those life experiences somewhat common to cis females. Bear with me a bit longer.

 

I speak here in the context of trans women but it is certainly also true of trans men - I only mean here to do so for clarity of communication. As a young person experiencing gender dysphoria (almost universally before the last decade or so)  one would inevitably be confronted with moments in life which demand a “boyish” or “girly” performance. Prominent among these is sports. More and more we can see the progress society is making, in fits and starts, towards removing the roadblocks that traditional sex and gender roles associated with sports and it would be a gross overstatement to treat that as an accomplished goal however the experiences of those among us of a certain age is nonetheless radically different from the current state of affairs.

 

The reason for my disclaimer about “the narrative” above is that one major way it plays into trans experiences arises from the reality that often similarly situated closeted trans people will react to a “stress point” over gender roles and expectations in very much opposite ways. For some, leaning into the expected gender performance seems the only safe alternative. Many examples exist of trans women who spent most of their life trying to “man-up” and prove to everyone including themselves that no femininity would be permitted in their existence. It is a sort of performative equivalent to “pray the gay (trans) away” cliche (which was the particular form of self denial that trapped me for decades of my life). Others will just as strongly recoil from the gendered expectations even at the cost of being perceived as a “sissy.” The thing about sports in a youth setting is it practically demands you choose one or the other.

 

In my youth, I steered very clear of organized team sports (outside of an occasional “back yard” softball or football game) much to the disappointment of my father who was certain there were a lot of football games in my future. Fortunately, in one sense, I had a “pass” on some of this due to poor vision that rendered whatever marginal talent I may have otherwise had useless. But I was certainly aware of the pressure of expectations. I feel like the overwhelming majority of trans people who were self-aware in their youth (the considerable majority of us) can relate to all the various ways that our social culture demanded that one conform to the expectations associated with “their side.” In ways as “minor” as casual conversations about dating up to major facets of one’s life - like sports.

 

It seems to me that in the same way, a generation of women are having to confront the same sort of barriers rooted in tradition gender-based expectations. The assumption that women require an easier, literally “softer” version of baseball more in keeping with their abilities is a microcosm of that struggle. In that sense, the story of Ava and Paloma Benach is a weaving together of parallel threads of cultural experience and social progress that is refreshingly positive. Let’s hope that, even in the face of regressive social trends in some parts of our culture, that these stories become the norm and not the exception.


The Power of DC Girls Baseball

By Katherine Hasenauer Cornetta

Three Octobers ago, as Major League Baseball was rolling through it's postseason, five girls from Washington, DC got together and entered a baseball tournament in Georgia. They had to supplement their squad with a few siblings (including some eager little brothers) and a few players from other teams once they arrived, but that was okay with them.

It was the start of what is now DC Girls Baseball, an organization that now counts over 100 girls on their roster and is the only one of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic. In just under three years, the group has grown more than tenfold in players, and now boasts three teams headed to the annual Baseball for All Nationals in August, the premiere tournament for girls baseball in the United States.

It all started when founder Ava Benach saw what inspiration and joy her daughter Paloma gained from participating on an all girls team in a national tournament in 2014. That all-girls team won the co-ed tournament in impressive fashion (the championship game was a 18-0 romp.) “It was a team of girls who came together just for this tournament, and they won the whole thing,” recalls Benach. “I saw what a difference that experience made for her.”

The younger Benach had played baseball for years, but she was always either the only girl or one of a few girls on her teams. As she got older, a level of pressure to prove themselves emerged with that boy-girl ratio. Instead of trying to prove that they themselves deserved to play, the girls seemed to have to prove as such for their entire gender. Having every at-bat seem like a judgement for all girls, instead of just a reflection on their own personal skill, started to strip the joy from the game.

Ava Benach wanted to keep the joy that her daughter felt playing for an all-girls team going. She already was coaching her children's Little League teams, and added the formation of DC Girls Baseball on top of that.

The organization isn't meant to replace Little League, Babe Ruth or club team play. It's meant to supplement it. “I say it is important that they stay playing with the boys,” said Benach. “They should tryout for Little League, for club teams, for their high school teams. We will be there to supplement that. It's a way to get better.”

As their numbers have grown, they have started to offer more teams. They will be sending a 11U, 13U and 14U team to the Baseball for All nationals, and anticipate adding an 18U team to that next summer. “We're becoming an older organization everyday. The oldest girls playing with us are 15 years old now.”

Having older players introduces new elements to DC Girls Baseball. Instead of just offering chances to play, the organization now provides advocacy as their players seek opportunities at the next level of baseball.

“We are providing them support as they get on high school teams, including legal support if they need it,” said Benach, who is an immigration attorney full-time.

Benach and the rest of the DC Girls Baseball all-female coaching staff are always looking for more opportunities for their players, and have found them via MLB. They have sent over a dozen players to the league's Trailblazers and Breakthrough youth camps. And with the league's All Star Game in their own backyard, they had an opportunity to take the Play Ball Park field during the festivities.

The hype surrounding the Midsummer Classic and the great run some of the team's sports teams are having could grow DC Girls Baseball even more. “There always was such a perspective that DC wasn't a sports town, but that has changed in the past year,” said Benach. “Baseball is beginning to market their stars like other sports, and kids are definitely responding to the marketing around the All Star Game.”

That response is reflected in the inboxes and voice mails of Benach and the organization's coaches. DC Girls Baseball's steady growth seems the opposite of the recent media lament that baseball is dying in the U.S. “I don't think baseball is a dying sport,” said Benach. “Every day, we get inquiries. Right now, I have turn girls away from our spots at Play Ball Park.”

As girls continue to clamor for chances to play baseball, a sport they have grown to love, the purpose of DC Girls Baseball continues to become more and more clear.

“We want to keep girls in baseball as long as possible,” said Benach. “Everyone has a day where they stop playing baseball. That day should be determined by ability, injury, or interest, not because they think baseball isn't a sport for them.”

 


A Movie Of My Own

A Movie Of My Own

By Helen Silfin

 

Dottie Hinson was tall, strong, confident, and never backed down from a challenge.  

Dottie, played by Geena Davis, was a vocal leader and a leader on the field for the Rockford Peaches, in the 1992 baseball movie “A League of Their Own.” 

Catchers have to be somebody their pitchers can trust, but when Dottie stepped up as the player-coach in Jimmy Dugan’s (Tom Hanks) absence, she taught many of us that not only can we all be vocal leaders for ourselves, but for the team as well. 

Even though I’ve always been a quiet person, on the softball field I was not afraid to help teammates understand difficult plays or speak up if I noticed another player’s strengths or weaknesses. I would not have fully enjoyed my time playing softball if I had not grown into a leader. I have Dottie Hinson to thank for helping me grow as a player and teammate. When first watching “League,” I didn’t know the impact the film would have on my life, or how profound the connection to the characters would feel. The Penny Marshall-directed movie would influence every aspect of my future. As a softball player, baseball fan, and actress. There has yet to be another piece of art that touched my world so completely.

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When first visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame, there was a desire to see as much as possible. The agenda: see everything Mets related and everything from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The unveiling of the AAGPBL exhibit at the end of the movie showed us that there’s a place for girls and women in the baseball community, and seeing the exhibit in person made me truly feel at home. The movie opened my eyes to a whole new class of baseball players who were a whole lot more like me, more than anybody I’ve seen play in my lifetime.

I used school projects, particularly a monologue assignment in an acting class, to research and pay tribute to the amazing female ballplayers portrayed in the movie. The assignment was to choose a “famous” person and write and perform a soliloquy based on a potential turning point in their life. I chose Bonnie Baker, catcher for the South Bend Blue Sox, and pored over all available biographies and profiles online. I invested every bit of energy into the effort, in order to do her justice. 

I lugged my own catcher’s equipment into acting class, and transformed during my monologue. As my version of Bonnie Baker strapped on her shin guards and chest protector, she argued with herself about keeping her promise about leaving the game when her soldier husband came home. To this day, I still picture myself performing in the small changing area of the Rockford Peaches’ locker room shown in the movie rather than in a spacious high school auditorium. I have never lost myself in a performance quite like I did with that monologue, and even though it was only a high school assignment it is the standard I will personally hold my acting to for the rest of my life.

“A League Of Their Own” will always hold a special place in my heart. It has helped me grow into the person I am today and will continue to help me grow as I find my place both inside the baseball community, and out in the world. I love Dottie Hinson, Helen Haley, Marla Hooch, and the rest of the movie Peaches. I love Bonnie Baker and all of the real AAGPBL players. Here are a few more lessons I learned from my favorite ballplayers:

 

1. Be Yourself

 

Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanagh) is one of the best hitters in the league, yet she’s almost denied the chance to even try out because she is deemed too awkward not feminine enough. Standing in the small town gym she basically apologizes for her entire existence, but once she gets on the field she proves her apology unnecessary. While other players make flashy and flirty plays, Marla makes a splash simply by hitting the ball as far as she can.

 

2. Your Goals Are Allowed To Change

The majority of the movie is focused on the players baseball lives. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when Dottie leaves the team almost immediately after her husband returns from service. Even after initially coming back to the Peaches, and getting them one out away from a championship, she still decides she would rather start a family than continue playing baseball. Dottie’s at the top of her game when she changes direction but she doesn’t let the voices and expectations of others dictate what she does with her life. Dottie shows us all it is ok to do change course as long as you believe in the change you are making.

 

3. Never Give Up

Kit Keller, portrayed by Lori Petty, is so important. She is scrappy and unrelenting, and she never goes down without a fight (sometimes literally). Even when she is distraught after giving up the possible championship-losing runs, she refuses to give up in her next at-bat. And when Dottie and just about the entire world thinks she cannot hit a high fastball, she gets the biggest hit of her life off that very pitch.  So here’s to Kit and everybody else who refuses to quit – that attitude is essential in life.

Every time I see “A League Of Their Own” while flipping through TV channels I stop to watch, and I feel a sense of pride. I am so proud of the women who played in the AAGPBL, and I’m proud of the people who tell their story. I am proud to have a female-driven movie among the best baseball movies ever.

This movie is full of history and life lessons, and also just really fun baseball, and I think I need to wrap this up so I can go watch it again.

B1ie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow Helen on Twitter @HESilf