As a little girl, all Shelby Estocado wanted to do was play baseball.
When it was time to get promoted to the Majors division in Lone Mountain Little League, and by majority vote the board wouldn’t allow her — “for safety reasons.” She was heartbroken.
She continued to play, albeit in the Minors division, but knowing her passion for the sport was infiltrated by disappointment.
“We were all volunteers trying to do the right thing,” said Tony LeBaron, former president and board member of Lone Mountain Little League. “I believe we did a lot of good for Little League baseball in the Northwest, when this side of town expanded.”
Roughly 10 years later, Estocado is having the last laugh.
The 5-foot-8 Bishop Gorman-graduate is currently in South Korea, playing for the U.S. Women’s National Baseball Team in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women’s Baseball World Cup.
Estocado, a former all-state softball player for Gorman, is a junior at Tulsa, where she was an all-American Athletic Conference first-team selection last season. She led the Golden Hurricane with 11 home runs and 47 runs scored, while hitting .329 with 41 RBIs and eight doubles.
Immediately following her sophomore season at Tulsa, she began training for her journey back to the baseball diamond, using a personal trainer and field drills to prepare for the national team trials. After making the cut to the final 40, she shined for coaches and the selection committee during a four-day camp in Fullerton, California, in late August.
“Coming here, some of these girls have played baseball all their lives, so I was nervous a little bit,” Estocado said after being named to the team. “As the week progressed, the nerves went away.
“Then, sitting there hearing your name being called for the final roster — that was pretty intense. I was just happy because I was the third or fourth name called.”
A certainly much better feeling than being told you’re not good enough to play alongside 11- and 12-year-old boys.
Team USA (2-1) was eliminated from the Super Round after Monday’s loss to Australia coupled with Chinese Taipei’s (2-1) victory over Hong Kong (0-3) and Chinese Taipei (1-1). Team USA drops to the consolation round, where the best it can finish is seventh place.
Estocado hasn’t seen much playing time during pool play, though she did get into each one. The starters are mainly comprised of returning players, and she understands that.
It’s the thought of representing her country on the heels of the Olympics that’s kept her excited about being reunited with the sport she loved growing up.
“I found another Hawaiian (Jessica Iwata) who played at the University of Hawaii, and we’re both first timers, so that’s made things easier,” said Estocado, whose father is of Hawaiian descent. “We were both going into this with the same knowledge of baseball, and having another Hawaiian on the team helped. We sort of just bonded from day one, like Ohana (family).
“I look at the other teammates I’m playing with, and the age ranges between teens to 40’s. We have some pretty good studs on this team. I feel like we all have the same vibes as the teams that represented the United States in Rio just a few weeks ago. And it is all still sinking in, because I think to myself, ‘I get to represent my country.’ The thought of winning a gold medal is a dream come true.”
Her success has left an impression on the Lone Mountain Little League president.
“In hindsight, … there are some of us who owe (Shelby) an apology for not letting her participate at that level,” LeBaron said.
Looking back, Estocado said she holds no ill-feelings toward the board members who voted against her Little League promotion, but remains thankful for her two coaches who did believe in her at the time and never hesitated in drafting a girl to their rosters.
“Back then I was so young, and it was eventually my time to move on to softball when I did; I don’t dwell on that or think about it like that, really,” Estocado said. “It’s in the past. But I’m proud to come back to baseball. I have my scholarship at Tulsa, I have my parents supporting me and God has chosen a great path for me.
“This is a new chapter in my life and once again I have a chance to play a sport I have always loved.”
W.G. Ramirez can be reached at WillieGRamirez