Edgewater Baseball relaunches with girls at bat – NorthJersey.com
EDGEWATER â Regan Lynch is in a league of her own.
She is the only girl on Edgewater’s major division baseball team, but she doesn’t mind.
âI donât think any sport is just a boys’ sport,âÂ the 11-year-oldÂ slugger said. âI think any sport can be boys and girls.”
Itâs a fitting attitude for Edgewaterâs new recreational baseball program, which returnsÂ SaturdayÂ from a five-year hiatus caused byÂ theÂ remediation andÂ renovationÂ ofÂ Veterans Field.
The program is re-launching with a special focus on girls, who have traditionally flocked to softball teams in other local baseball leagues and seldom mixed with the opposite sex beyond tee-ball.
âThey havenât really been given a chance to play baseball on the same level with the boys,âÂ saidÂ Mark Capra,Â Edgewater BaseballÂ president. âWe created a baseball program where they can learn how to play right, have fun and not have a separation between the girls and boys.â
Some 35 girls have enrolled in the programâs tee-ball and minor league divisions this season but only Lynch has signed up in the oldest age group,Â which includes children in third to sixth grades.
The 5-foot-4 player stands taller than her teammates and has no trouble keeping up.
During a recent practice, she threw a baseball back and forth with a coach with ease,Â sheÂ rarely missedÂ a hit in the batting cage andÂ mingled with the boys.
âSheâs definitely not intimidated by being the only girl on our team,âÂ saidÂ A’JahnÂ Huggins,Â co-coach of Lynch’s team.
Lynch said years of playing on all-male basketball teams got her used to it. She jumped at the chance to add baseball to her roster of sports, which also includes softball and soccer, as soon as Edgewater Baseball offered the opportunity.
âI just wanted to try itÂ out, I like to try new things,â she said. âIn the beginning, I think it might be hard and stuff but I think Iâm capable of doing anything.â
Lynchâs love for America’s pastime began at Yankee Stadium, where she frequently attended games with her father and found a role model in Derek Jeter. She took up tee-ball at about 5 years old,Â and when time came to advance toÂ a more challenging game,Â sheÂ transitioned to girlsâ softball.
âAt the time, I never thought about it,Â I think it was just automatic,âÂ NicoleÂ Pagnozzi, Reganâs mother, said. âBoys and girls play together in tee-ball and next they jump automaticallyÂ to a girlsâ team and a boysâÂ team. I never thought sheâd play baseball.â
Jennifer Ring, author of âStolen Bases: Why American Girls Donât Play Baseball,âÂ said the sport severed along gender lines with the professionalization of baseball in the 1890s and has retained a âmanlyâÂ patina ever since.
âIt was associated with national identity and you couldnât really have a respectable national sport that girls played, too, so they were just driven out,âÂ she said.
Softball — or âsissy ball,â ânancyÂ ball,â âkitten ballâ and âpanty waistâÂ as it was derogatorily called — became the feminine version of baseball and is now theÂ most common wayÂ forÂ girls to advance in the sport.
Girls typically begin to feel social pressure to segregate aboutÂ age 8 or 9, and hit baseballâs glass ceiling by 12,Â RingÂ said.
âThatâs the point where girls areÂ given the strong message that âyou canât handle the regulation-size diamond and if your parents have any sense, theyâll get you into the pipeline to get scholarships in softball,ââ she said. âThatâs a real crushing message to give to girls, and sooner or later they internalize it and they do drop out.â
Anna MariaÂ Gualtieri,Â Edgewater BaseballÂ board member, said the program is in a unique position to tackle that mentality as it rebuilds from the ground up and has made a concentrated effort this season to recruit girls.
âI feel strongly that girls shouldnât be told that they should play one sport over another because of their gender,â she said. âI would encourage any parents with girls to give baseball a try, thereâs nothing to be afraid of and thereâs nothing to be lost. It really sends a priceless message to your daughter that she can do whatever she wants to do.â
GualtieriâsÂ 9-year-old daughter, Mara, has taken that advice to heart. She began playing tee-ball five years ago, transitioned into baseball in the first grade and has no intention of stopping.
âShe didnât like how big a softball was, the underhand pitching was unfamiliar to her so we encouraged her to stick with baseball because thatâsÂ what seems comfortable to her,â saidÂ Gualtieri. âI donât think weâll put her in softball anytime in the future.â
Lynch said she is treating her first year of baseball as a trial run and would consider continuing to play if she likes it. So far, she’s pleased with her ability to hold her own on the field.
âIâm pretty proud ofÂ myself.Â I donât feel like theÂ theyÂ areÂ leaving me out in any way,” she said.Â Â “They pass me the ball, theyâll hit with me. I donât feel like they donât want to play with me so I’m happy about that.”
Though Lynch is not the first girl to play baseball inÂ Edgewater,Â the programÂ hopes sheÂ serves as an inspiration for other girls to step up toÂ the plate in both the minor league and the major league.
âI would love to see them come out but we canât force them,â Jill Sullivan, the recreation departmentâs youth activity coordinator, said.
LynchÂ encouraged girlsÂ to approach the sport with an open mind and no fear.
âI just wantÂ them toÂ come try it and not be scared,â she said. âIt doesnât matter if youâre the worst player on the team or the best player on the team, all that matters is that youâre having fun and you have good sportsmanshipÂ andÂ a good attitude.â