Monday, August 23, 2004

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

By David Graham-Caso

They are our mother, our daughters, our sisters, our aunts, and since 1974, they have been our Little League Baseball teammates. 2004 marks the 30-year anniversary of the change in Little League policy which allowed girls to try out and play on Little League teams. In 1974 Little League Baseball also began softball programs to cater to young women athletes.

Meghan Sims
Alexandra Bellini

In order to honor the anniversary of the decision to admit girls to the program, Little League is honoring three female Little League graduates with its highest honor. On August 29, Krissy Wendell of Brooklyn Park, Minn., Cathy Gerring of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Nancy dosReis of Smithfield, R.I., will each be enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence at the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum.

Little League’s celebration of the women who laid the foundation for girls to play baseball could not have come in a more appropriate year. In the 2004 Little League World Series there are two young ladies suiting up for participating teams, exemplifying the benefit of allowing anybody who desires to play Little League baseball.

Meghan Sims of the Owensboro South Little League from Owensboro, Ky. and Alexandra Bellini of the East Nepean Little League from Ontario, Ottawa, Canada, become the 11th and 12th females to participate in the Williamsport classic.

While Bellini has, for the most part, stayed under the radar, Sims has become wildly popular since her team advanced to the pinnacle of youth sports.

Megan took to baseball at age five, when she began playing Tee Ball.

“I have an older cousin named Mason Head who I always followed around,” she said. “He started playing baseball, so I wanted to play too.”

What makes Sims’ story so intriguing to her rapidly growing fan base is that she is not a novelty on the all-star team, she is one of Owenboro’s star players. Through the Great Lakes Regional, the first base-woman was hitting .537 with two home runs and 18 RBI.

Meghan not only dominates at the plate, the five-foot-5 ballplayer also pitches. While there have now been a dozen girls to advance as far as Meghan, only three have every taken the hill for their respective teams in South Williamsport. Victoria Brucker, from San Pedro, California was the first in 1989, and the following year Kelly Craig pitched for Trail, British Columbia, Canada. On Sunday afternoon, Meghan became the third.

With her team getting beaten 10-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning by Lamar National Little League from Richmond, Texas, and reliever Luke Daugherty struggling, Owensboro manager Vic Evans Jr. brought Meghan into the game.

“She is our number five pitcher,” Evans Jr. said. “I was not trying to make history, I was trying to get out of the inning.”

Unfortunately for Meghan, the batter she was brought in to face was Richmond’s Randall Grichuk. Grichuk had been posting Barry Bonds-esque numbers thus far in the Little League World Series, going 3-for-3 with two round trippers in his first game.

“(Meghan) is a good pitcher,” Grichuk would later say. “She just happened to throw me a low, inside pitch and I really like those.”

Grichuk sent a bomb over the left field scoreboard, making the score 12-2 and implementing the 10 run mercy rule.

The competitive Meghan was not impressed with her historic achievement after the game, but instead frustrated with what happened with the only batter she faced.

“She is a competitive girl,” Evan said in the post-game press conference. “I don’t think I would be able to repeat what she would say if you asked her how she was feeling.”

Grichuk had nothing but praise for his opponent.

“She is a really good ball player,” he said. “She has to be a really good ball player to be here.”

Meghan says that becoming the third female to pitch in the pinnacle of youth sports is not all that special to her.

“It is just baseball, just part of the game,” she revealed.

Evans Jr. had a different opinion.

“In 20 years it will be special,” he told his player. “In 20 years it will be very special.”

For Meghan and every other female who has dared to play with the boys, the old saying rings true: diamonds really are a girl’s best friend.

© 2004 Little League Baseball Incorporated