Reframe Podcast: Episode 10

Miami University Women's Baseball Club Challenges Convention and Conformity

Womens Baseball Club practice

The Miami Women's Baseball Club is a brand new project. So new, in fact, that it is currently the only collegiate organization of its kind.

Read the transcript

James Loy:

This is Reframe, The podcast from the College of Education, Health and Society on the campus of Miami university. 

Beyond youth sports, women have very few opportunities to continue playing baseball in any organized way. So in this episode we take a look at a new project inspired by Dr. Callie Maddox, who has officially launched the only collegiate women’s baseball club in the country.

James Loy:

All her life, Catie Beaman has loved baseball. Her whole family loved baseball. She played minor league and little league. For years, she played across various intermediate youth leagues, and on and on. She played baseball every chance she could. And she played right up until the very moment . . . she couldn’t. 

But nothing had changed for Catie. Not really. It was just simply time to go to high school. That was it. But that was enough. That’s when she ran straight into the same cultural and gender barriers that stop cold almost every woman ball player her age. 

Catie Beaman:

I played with another girl. At the time we were the only two girls in the league. And once we got up to, like, kinda when you are about to go into high school, none of the coaches directly said to me that, like, you can’t play anymore. But it was of like implied. When I would talk to anybody they were like, “Oh so you are gonna play softball next year. And I was like, “Do I have to?” And they were like, ‘Yeah, kinda.” And the girl who came after me, they told her. They were like, “You can’t.”

James Loy:

Unlike many girls today, Catie would eventually get the chance to play baseball again. But not in high school. And not until she arrived at Miami University, where she would become a founding member and the vice president of the Miami Women’s Baseball Club.

The Miami Women’s Baseball Club is a brand new project. So new, in fact, that it is currently the only collegiate organization of its kind. Inspired by Dr. Callie Batts Maddox, an assistant professor in the College of Education, Health and Society, the club is designed to give women the chance to play the sport they love, which is an opportunity that is still strangely lacking in so many ways today.

Callie Maddox:

I started playing baseball when I was five. Played little league. I was always the only girl on the team, was the only girl in the league of the higher level. Tried to play high school ball but the coach wanted nothing to do with me and made it very difficult for me to even get through the tryouts. So I was sort of pushed off to softball, which happens a lot. That is a very common story for young women who play baseball. They get to high school and they are told, “Hey, you know what, you need to play softball. If you want a college scholarship you need to play softball.”

James Loy:

And this can be incredibly frustrating, even disheartening, because softball and baseball are very different games. Those who care to look just below the surface will see that the pitching is different. The swings are different. Even the fields are different, and so are balls, the bats, and so one. Furthermore, that one sport should be deemed for “men” and the other for “women” is completely arbitrary. The barrier, rather, is the result convention, cultural perception, and habit. 

Once the socially accepted age-range of playing organized baseball ends and the pressure to conform to an existing gender role begins, the switch is simply what comes next. “It’s time to softball,” most people say. So most girls do, and that’s exactly what Catie Beamon and Dr. Maddox did too. But not by choice, because they really had none. 

While it is true that popular mainstream acceptance is warming up to the idea of females joining this traditionally male dominated sport, the change is still slow and virtually imperceptible. 

In 2014, Mo’ne Davis was the first African American girl to ever play in the Little League World Series and she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. At the college level, a few women have earned spots on various men’s teams. And just last fall, Fox also renewed “Pitch,” a network show about the first woman in Major League Baseball. 

So the barriers are not completely impenetrable, but almost. Of the aforementioned examples, the first two are exceptional rare. And the third, of course, is entirely fictional. On a more practical level, there are some national women’s baseball tournaments. But they are scattered across the country and cater to adults who play independent of college or professional involvement. 

So, beginning officially in the fall of 2017, the Miami Women’s Baseball Club will be the only current active women’s baseball collegiate team in the United States.

At first, they do plan to participate in a few of these existing national women’s tournaments. That’s step one. But then, the goal is to reach out to neighboring universities, to build a regional network of similar women’s clubs, which would eventually serve as the foundation for a true women’s college league -- something that has never existed before. 

Here’s Lexi Ross, the club president and a current Miami sophomore.

Lexi Ross:

I want this club to become more. I want it to start changing things. Baseball is a male dominated sport and I think a lot of things in our society right now are male dominated. And personally I think any step toward bringing women into a male dominated area is great, even if it is just starting here at Miami and just starting with baseball.

James Loy:

At Miami, the seeds are planted and the journey is finally underway. But there is still a lot of work to do. Right now, the club is working on finding people to help with everything from coaching and managing to fund raising, marketing, networking, and more.

And everyone, both women and men, are invited to participate.