Home Field Disadvantage

The USA women’s baseball team prepare to face Canada during the super round of the Women’s Baseball World Cup 2018 in Viera, Florida at USSSA Space Coast Stadium on Wednesday, August 29, 2018. (Cassi Alexandra for Longreads)

The moment the members of Team USA disembarked their plane in Orlando, their fears were realized. This was the first Women’s Baseball World Cup ever played on United States soil, and they expected to be ignored.

At the last World Cup, played in 2016 in South Korea, Team USA didn’t make it to the final round of the only competition they ever play in. But at least in Korea they had been acknowledged. More than that, they’d felt important and beloved, barraged by reporters’ questions at every turn and hounded by fans: fans holding handmade signs with sparkling lettering, fans who knew their names and numbers, fans who sent love notes down to the dugout in the middle of their games.

For every day of the past two years each woman had trained, practiced, and dreamed about playing baseball. According to USA Baseball, the members of the U.S. women’s national baseball team are among the top 20 players in the country, but here at home, almost no one knows they exist.

Before Team USA played Team Japan, the defending, five-time World Champions, on the first night of the tournament’s second round, a five-year-old girl threw a ball back and forth with her father just outside the stadium. She wore a glove, and he caught her lobs with his bare hands. She said she wanted to play baseball. Her father said “hell yeah,” he’d let her play. “If she wants to fight for it, I’ll fight with her.” But to play baseball as a woman in America, you have to be willing to fight your entire life, because at every phase, you’re set up to fail.

It’s no wonder when Team USA played Japan on the first night of the Super Round, they made a couple mental errors: a ball not thrown on a steal, a miscommunication at second base. They are a team in uniform, but not in time spent on the diamond. They haven’t been given the time or resources to become a team the way Japan has.

In 2009, Kenichi Kakutani, a wealthy Japanese business owner, invested heavily in women’s baseball in Japan after watching a baseball tournament for high school girls. He formed what would eventually be called the Japanese Women’s Baseball League (JWBL), a tiny, four-team league that has made Team Japan an absolutely dominant force, taking gold at every WBWC in the past decade. Because more than 25 private high schools in Japan had women’s baseball teams, the talent was there to fuel the league, and the league itself encouraged more private high schools to start teams.

U.S Federal courts have ruled under Title IX that baseball and softball are separate sports and that girls cannot be excluded from baseball teams just because a softball team exists at the same school. Softball is played on a smaller field, with a different ball, and different rules. In softball, runners cannot take a lead off bases. With a runner firmly on base, an infielder has to change her entire job, watch the pitcher for a throw-over, watch the runner for a steal, maybe even change her positioning. Without lead offs, there are far fewer steals, no balks, and far less nuance. “People come up to me and tell me on a daily basis that I should switch to softball,” Sementelli says. “You have to be the only girl on the team, or you have to switch to softball. It takes a lot for a little girl to fight to play on the big field.”

Let’s say a young girl is willing to face all those battles and she wins. She plays varsity baseball in high school, loves the game. Maybe she even gets to attend the new Trailblazer series for women. “We have seen tremendous success in getting young men who have participated in our Breakthrough Series to play collegiately and so we wanted to apply the same approach for young women,” MLB’s Reagins says. There are no women’s baseball teams at any level of the American college system.

If a woman can reach the college level, she often can’t afford to fight her way onto a men’s team. Anna Kimbrell, a catcher for Team USA, played baseball through high school but switched to softball in college because she was offered a big scholarship to play. She returned to baseball after graduation. “You have to be pretty stubborn to refuse to play softball,” Ring says. “If you’re being rational and you want a college scholarship, it’s softball.”

Most of the women on 2018’s Team USA won’t get to play again until the next World Cup in 2020. Underwood, at 37, is still deciding whether or not she’ll keep playing. They will return to their lives and their real jobs. They will dream about playing on the diamond again and wake up disappointed. Each year, thousands of girls will switch over to softball, or quit playing the game entirely because no one has made a path for them to go forward.

“That’s the story of women’s baseball,” Underwood said. “We don’t get to play in the same facilities. We don’t get the same attention. We don’t get the same opportunities.”

Read the complete article in Long Reads here.


Another ebook author scam tied to Download Provider

This morning I received notice that my ebook “If I Only Had A Tattoo” was being promoted on a typepad site containing a Download link to fee-for service site Download Provider which, if you read my previous post on Download Provider, has a history of complaints against it.

The description for my ebook contained a bunch of gibberish only good for search engines attracting traffic to this site.

On the site were: a work on Baseball by Peter Morris, William J. Ryczek, Jan Finkel and Leonard Levin; work by Susan Spalding, Armando C. Alonzo, and other authors.

The site containing my ebook, and those listed above, is npioupy.typepad.com/blog/

I don’t know if those authors have given permission to promote/sell their works on Download Provider or through any site run by typepad, but I know I didn’t.

I wrote to typepad and am awaiting their reply to my request for removal of my unauthorized copyrights. You may want to check the site yourself.

UPDATED: On May 19th, 2013, Typepad informed me the offending site had been removed.

Before Jackie Robinson, There Was Jimmy Claxton

Before Jackie Robinson, There Was Jimmy Claxton” is the title of an article on The Tyee about James Edgar Claxton, born on Dec. 14, 1892, in Wellington, Robert Dunsmuir’s coal-mining town on the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway line. (The old town site is now part of Nanaimo.) His father, William Claxton was a coal miner of black and aboriginal ancestry who had been born in Virginia. His mother, Emma Richards, was of Irish and English ancestry.

The family moved to Tacoma, south of Seattle, three months after Jimmy was born, though they later returned to Vancouver Island where a sister was born four years later.

Claxton’s brief foray across baseball’s odious colour line would be the last for a black player until the great Jackie Robinson joined the Montreal Royals for the 1946 season. Robinson’s subsequent ascension to the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League the next season is the subject of the Hollywood biopic 42, which opened this weekend.

Claxton’s story is little known outside of a coterie of baseball historians and fellow obsessives. James A. Riley, the author of the landmark reference work “Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Major Leagues,” figures Claxton would have been a major leaguer were it not for the colour barrier.

After Claxton returned to playing black baseball, newspapers praised the pitcher as someone who “would be in organized baseball but for his color” (Oakland Tribune) and as “the foremost negro ballplayer in America” (San Jose Evening News).

As it turned out, Jimmy Claxton slipped across the colour line in an auspicious week. While the Oaks were flailing and the day in which he pitched included an incident where the umpire was chased across the diamond by enraged fans, Claxton’s time on the roster coincided with a visit to the ballpark by a lens-man hired by the Collins-McCarthy Candy Co. of San Francisco. He snapped an image of Claxton in his pitching follow-through, stepping forward on his right leg while his empty left hand is thrown across the body.

This likeness later appeared on a Zeenut baseball card. It is now one of the most coveted pieces of cardboard in the hobby, as it depicts the first black player to appear on an American baseball card.

Ignored in his lifetime, the British Columbia-born player is now remembered for defying convention.

After baseball closed the door on Claxton, another 30 years would pass before Jackie Robinson opened it for himself

You may read the full article by Tom Hawthorn at The Tyee site here.