When I was young, my father taught me how to throw and catch with small, Fischer-Price blue and red plastic balls in the backyard. As time progressed, year after year, we graduated from plastic, to cushioned, to Major League regulation balls. He went from catching bare-handed to needing a glove. I pitched for three seasons in Little League, participated in the All-Star game, and even made it to the second round of the annual Hit Pitch Run competition that is held nationwide.
Despite these (albeit small) successes, in the eyes of baseball, I am, first and foremost, a girl. So my “illustrious” career came to an end when I entered sixth grade, and the league asked me to leave, all because I was female. This is how it goes for thousands of girls across the country every year, and how it has happened for decades.
60 years ago, at the age of ten, Gwen Goldman experienced the same rejection and heartbreak when she wrote to the Yankees asking to be considered for a position as bat girl. She was declined on the basis that as a “game dominated by men a young lady such as [herself] would feel out of place in a dugout.”
It’s absolutely crushing as a young girl to think that the sport you love will never accept you in return. Baseball has traditionally been a “man’s game,” with the exception being the events highlighted in the hit movie “A League Of Their Own.” Recently, however, it feels like things are finally starting to change. Women are consistently making their way into the sport, all the while reaching new heights and successes.
Every gameday, Suzyn Waldman and Meredith Marakovits provide valuable insights regarding the state of the Yankees organization. Assistant General Manager Jean Afterman and General Partners/Vice-Chairpersons Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Jessica Steinbrenner hold executive positions and maintain the authority to make high-level decisions on behalf of the club. More recently, in November 2019, Rachel Balkovec became the first woman hired to be a full-time hitting coach for a Major League Baseball team. These women are a testament to the value of incorporating more female voices into not only baseball but sports as a whole.
These women deserve to be highlighted not only for their commendable work, but perhaps even more importantly, we need to have this discussion in order to demonstrate to young girls that they too have a future in the sport that they love. They deserve to keep their place on the team for as long as they want to play, and if they want baseball to be their career, they should be met with encouragement, instead of doubt.
So that’s exactly what we’re going to do. The purpose of this series is to highlight important women within the Yankees organization, the work that they do, and what efforts the Yankees are making in order to open up diversity and inclusion within their ranks. We’ll talk about how the road is constantly being paved for future generations of girls to make their mark, and where work is still required to achieve our goals.
As General Manager Brian Cashman said during 2021 Hope Week, it’s about time women took their rightful place both in the dugout and on the field — it’s time we did better. I look forward to this being a space where we can continue to have a constructive discussion and encourage future generations to never give up.