They’ve played in the spotlight after ages of being cast into the background, and have performed well
By Arnie Leshin
It was 2002 and the third girl to play in the Little League World Series was rushing from graduation in Hawaii to Williamsport, Pa.
Sanoe Aina was on the Waiplo Little League team since the first day of practice. In Hawaii there was no softball LL, not yet, so there was a spot on the boy’s team aged 11-13, and she never missed a game. She played four different positions, and was scheduled to start at first base once she arrived at the World Series.
She was with her mom, which made for two anxious and nervous Hawaiians awaiting their flight out of Honolulu. When the flight was delayed, her mom called the Hawaii manager and he told her to stay calm, that they will be picked up at the airport as soon as they land. And if theyneeded a police escort, we can do that, too.
Aina and mom arrived about an hour before game time, and she hurried to get her uniform on, say hello to the rest of the team, wave to the Hawaii supporters, and hullabaloo, she made it. She batted three times, struck out twice, lined a single to right, and played flawless defense at first base, and her team won two of thee starts.
Two years later, the South Regional team from Owensboro, Ky., arrived with pitcher-outfielder Meghan Sims. She took the mound twice, played once in the outfield, and her team lost two of three.
Then there was a drought of girls, and not until 2014 were not one, but two taking the field among the boys in Williamsport. One, Mo’ne Davis of the Atlantic Regional champion out of Philadelphia, was so good, she made headlines, book covers, appeared on television, and after saying her favorites sports was basketball and baseball, she added that once she finished high school, she wanted to play for Gino Auriemma’s UConn women.
But this was her baseball time, and for the entire tournament, she struck out 14 and allowed only three runs in 8 1/3 innings pitched. Now she’s still at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, she’s a member of the honor roll, and as an eighth grader, she’s playing varsity basketball with college hoops to follow, perhaps at UConn.
The other girl that year was Emma March of the Canada Region team. She pitched, played first base and had a fielding percentage of .917. Now in seventh grade in Vancouver, she’s a straight-A student and plays softball, soccer, and with baseball and potentially football on the horizon.
It was then that Tennis Hall of Fame great Billie Jean King, who was responsible for the women tennis players getting the same publicity and as much prize money as the men, spoke out:
“I believe”, she said, “that every girl should have the opportunity to play sports and enjoy it. Sports is not something to be afraid of, and should be something that excites you. You should never be afraid to fall, or care what the boys think.”
it was also the time when that Billie Jean welcomed the Little League Federal Chapter that allowed girls to play LL baseball, and that a LL softball program was created and now hold its World Series in Portland, Ore.
Now the girls are basking in the thrill of having their own program, same with Junior and Senior League Leagues, and its all softball unless there are no baseball teams for these girls to play on in their area. Enter Davis and March. No softball for them, only baseball.
And now you can relate to that gender playing about every sport, amateur of pro. You see them on the golf course, on the tennis courts, swimming and diving, volleyball, soccer, even wrestling and fast pitch softball all over the country, sometimes even baseball, and to grapple with the boys is no picnic or a social club.
It’s belated, but welcome to the world of sports, girls. You have earned it.