A League Of Her Own: Boys’ Baseball Team Refuses to Play Against Girl

girls high school baseballPaige Sultzbach is a pretty normal 15-year-old girl in Arizona. In junior high, she started playing volleyball and softball. When she went to high school, she found out that her school didn’t have a girls’ softball team. Modern woman that she is, Paige tried out for the boys’ baseball team with the full support of both her coaches and her teammates. Take that gender bias!

Unfortunately, not all the schools in Paige’s conference are as accepting as Mesa Preparatory Academy, where she attends. One parochial school not only refuses to allow girls on their own boys’ athletic teams, they also can not play a team with a girl. Now, on the past two meetings of Mesa Prep and Our Lady of Sorrows, Paige sat the games out in respect for the team’s religious beliefs. But when it came to the championship game, Mesa Prep was done bowing to their opponents antiquated rules. Paige would not miss her championship game.

And so, Our Lady of Sorrows did the only thing they could. Oh, they didn’t suck it up and treat their female competitor like any other opponent. The school chose to forfeit the game, allowing Mesa Prep to win without ever throwing a pitch or catching a ball. Apparently, their tradition of gender discrimination was much more important that allowing their hard-working team to finish the season.

According to ESPN via The Mary Sue, the school explained its decision by saying,  ”the school teaches boys respect by not placing girls in athletic competition, where ‘proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty.’” The excuse didn’t ring true for Paige’s mother who noted that baseball is not a contact sport where boys would have to worry about inappropriately touching anyone. Pamela Sultzbach said, “It wasn’t that they were afraid they were going to hurt or injure her, it’s that (they believe) a girl’s place is not on a field.”

I have to agree with Mrs. Sultzbach and I also have to imagine just what this mom said to her daughter after the incident took place. Girls like Paige have grown up in a world where all women say that we can do anything we want to do. We had a viable female candidate for President not too long ago. We have more and more women CEOs stepping into the spotlight and talking about success in the business world. Girls are outpacing boys when it comes to college degrees.

It’s not too often that the youngest generation of women have to confront serious gender bias that says, “You can’t play with the boys.” This idea is so foreign to young women who see the gender wars continuing to move in their direction. So how does a mother explain to her daughter that pockets of judgment about “a woman’s place” will still pop up? How do we prepare our girls for these battles that seem so out of place in modern society?

We forget that our girls will still be stereotyped by their gender sometimes. We allow them to exist in a perfect bubble of gender neutrality for as long as possible. Then we have our “Paige moment,” where that bite of sexism surprises you.

I can still remember the first week at new job where I was nervous and eager to please everyone. Our company sold alcohol, so obviously every bar and restaurant in our city was a customer. One of our established salesmen told me that from then on, I would be in charge of all the promotions at Hooters, so that everyone could see me in a pair of those infamous biker shorts. He said it in front of a group of male salesmen who all thought it was hilarious. And in that moment, I felt the reality of sexual harassment in the office. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed, even though I wasn’t the one who had made an inappropriate comment.

This teenage girl just had to face the fact that some men will still try to limit her and place her in a position that works for them. They’ll try to box her in and make her fit the image that they believe is right. But Paige and her mother both seem like strong women, and I’m pretty sure that they’ll come out okay. As Nancy Hogshead-Makar, senior director of advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation noted, the boys are the ones who might be negatively affected the most. ”In real life, these boys are going to be competing against the girls for jobs, for positions in graduate programs or in trade schools. In every other area of their life, they are going to be competing side by side.”

So what would you say to your daughter if she confronted a situation like this? How would you explain this type of sexism that girls still face? And how can we prepare our young ladies to stand their ground in the face of such antiquated gender bias?

(Photo: The Mary Sue)

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  • Christine L

    As a mother of six boys and no girls, I think that the conclusion you have drawn about male-female repression in this case is unfair and quite frankly, the exact BS that I have to teach my boys about when trying to train them in the lost art of chivalry and self-sacrifice. It’s not always about “putting women in their place”. For these young men, it’s about caring for their female counterpart and not putting them in harm’s way. Baseball may not be intended to be a contact sport, but it is one that requires a certain level of awareness for physical safety. From concussions of wild balls or broken legs from bad base stealing or, yes, body contact from the catcher who is charged with doing anything possible to protect home plate, there is a lot of bodily difficulty. If a gentleman chooses to not participate in something that could possibly harm a woman/girl in a way that he finds to be unacceptable, then why is he considered a jerk, oppressor, jackass, woman-hater? He might actually be a considerate, loving, tender, and gentle man/boy who understands that in the bigger picture, caring for a woman and treating her like the treasure she is intended to be is a noble act worthy of praise not criticism. And if anyone should discount my approach to this topic only because I have no daughters, think about what kind of man I’m raising versus the one that you would prefer to beat your daughter senselessly into the ground for “sport”. Happy Mother’s Day.

    • Mistie

      I’m sorry, but that isn’t your sons’ place to decide for this girl what is a reasonable amount of bodily harm she is willing to accept. Nor is it your place. It is her parents’, her coaches’, and her own. By teaching your sons that a woman/girl must be protected at all costs, even over her own will, that for some miraculous reason, they know better than she does what she can take, you are effectively teaching your sons that women are stupid, weak, and not worthy of respect. Because when you tell someone you can’t do this because you might get hurt, even though you have trained for this just as hard as I have, you are telling them that they aren’t good enough.

      You can say that it comes from concern, chivalry, or any other word you desire. It doesn’t change the fact that you are teaching your sons to be sexist. You are teaching them that women are not strong, capable, autonomous individuals.

    • K.

      Amen, Mistie!

    • Jen

      Christine: It’s interesting. I’ve always been tall and as a kid was fairly bulky. I was at least twice the size of most of the boys around me through most of grade and high school. I played co-ed soccer and basketball and actually wound up accidentally breaking a boy’s leg. Perhaps we should have had rules that prevented “scrawny” boys from playing? Indeed, the only sports injury I ever received was in an all-girls’ league. Are you making sure that your “gentle, loving, considerate and tender” boys are equally respectful and treasuring of their fellow penis havers? Probably not and THAT is why people are going to discount your opinion.

    • Carolyn

      Thank you. Well said.

  • Lastango

    First, let’s notice that the decision by Our Lady of Sorrows wasn’t about whether baseball is a contact sport or not, and wasn’t based on this game or this player. Their policy applies to all sports, all the time.

    It’s also important to recognize that Our Lady of Sorrows was willing to take the downside of their own policies, which meant giving up their own chance to win. Every one of their players lost the chance. They didn’t try to force that negative outcome on a female. She gets to be on the championship team, they don’t.

    In this country, it is a private institution’s right to decide their own policies. For instance, if a school wants to be all-boys or all-girls, it can. Anyone who doesn’t like that can send their children elsewhere.

    So I would tell my daughter that this isn’t sexism at all, it’s an example of a different perspective with its own cultural roots, and ought to be viewed as an example of a group of people choosing to live their lives the way they want to. I would also tell her it provides a useful example of how different value systems exist in this world, and there isn’t always going to be a single answer that satisfies everyone. In real life, there are frictions, and problems.

    • T.

      I agree. Why American gets so worked up about such things? School policies, their choice. They haven’t asked to take her out of the team so they could play. They behaved admirably for me.

      I don’t understand this article.

    • Another Steph

      Agreed, and very surprised that the author who wrote this one is the same author who, only a couple of weeks ago, supported a Catholic school’s right to fire a teacher pregnant by IVF because private schools have the right to make their own rules.

      But to answer the questions posed, I would say something like, “See where outdated ideas get you?” and move on.

  • Vee

    I think most the posters on this thread are affiliated with the fundy church that has these 17th century rules. They have had LOTS of phone calls from people who are displeased with sexism in the new millennium, and are now trying to do damage control.

    It may be a PRIVATE school policy. That does not make it any less sexist and mean spirited. Jesus would be ashamed, but these people don’t have the decency.

    • Lastango

      STFU, Vee. Do you hear the rest of us insinuating that disagreement with the school’s policies, including “LOTS of phone calls”, is being astroturfed by networks of organized Leftists?

  • mathers

    She should be playing on a girls league or NOT AT ALL. Period. Boys aren’t allowed to play on girls teams so why should it work the other way around? Enough of these radical feminist mothers pushing their agenda thru their daughters.

  • mathers

    By the way, which locker room does she use to shower in? The one the boys use or a separate one by herself? Does she think she’s “ONE OF THE GUYS” to that degree as well? I mean, just how far do her and her mother take their mental delusion? Boys and girls are different for a reason. We don’t compete on the same athletic teams. Ridiculous. Feminish run amok.

    • Abby J

      well if you think that; you are so sadly mistaken.

  • Richard

    GENDER DISCRIMINATION ?? What about a boy that isn’t good enough to make the boy’s varsity and is allowed to compete on the girl’s team instead? Daddy? You must be proud of your boy making the girl’s squad !! Imagine that lunchtime conversation. You want true equality then combine programs and the best compete at level A regardless of sex, and the rest compete at level B. A few years into the program and Daddy no longer has bragging rights for his daughter and true gender equality exists among the sexes.. I’m all for this. How about you? Daddy? You want to see your son on the girls squad??? Sad truth is this is more about Mommy and Daddy having bragging rights. Sons and daughters just want to play the game so let them then. Combine boys and girls programs into one. THAT is true equality……. I am genious. But this will never happen. This is sadly the way America is these days. Nothing wrong with wishing the best for our children but everything is wrong with living vicariously through their success. All or nothing I say. Girls or boys teams or girls AND boys teams selected not about gender, but ability. That’s the way you want it right? Mommy and daddy ???