OTTAWA – Baseball is a sport, over its long history, has been dominated by men.
That is not to say women have not made significant contributions over the sport’s storied past. The most famous example is the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League which was in operation from 1943 to 1954.
Girls have always been involved in baseball at the amateur level, whether it be as a player or as a volunteer. But they were few and far between.
It was no different in Canada until a little over five years ago when Baseball Canada began initiatives to grow the girls’ game.
The IBAF was also taking steps to that end with the development of the Women’s Baseball World Cup which was first played in 2004.
Over the last few years, the girls game has seen some significant growth. The country’s best success story in this regard is in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia with the Hammonds Plains Minor Baseball Association.
For the 2009 season, Hammonds Plains has 473 registered players, 112 of which are girls. That means that almost 24 percent of registered players in Hammonds Plains are female. The national average for the 2008 season was nine percent.
The person behind this phenomenon is Hammonds Plains MBA President Holly Lapierre. Over the last four years she has been in charge of the association, she went from 22 girls registered in 2005 to the 112 today.
“Girls are great at networking,” says Lapierre. “There are a ton of girls who are playing baseball this year that have never played before. I couldn’t get over the amount of 10, 11 and 12-year-old girls that showed up who’ve never played before.”
With the more girls getting involved with baseball, there has also been an influx of women, mostly mothers of players, who have gotten involved with teams.
Lapierre, who is also the Chairman of the Baseball Canada Girls Committee, came up with the idea of offering a coaches clinic specifically for women.
“Our goal through Baseball Canada and Baseball Nova Scotia is to get more women into coaching,” says Lapierre. “So we wanted to offer something that would be more amenable to women.”
So, last weekend on Sunday, May 24, Hammonds Plains became the first amateur baseball association in the country to offer an all-Women’s coaching clinic and the reception was surprising.
“Considering the size of our association, I thought we might get eight or nine women to show up to this,” remembers Lapierre. “When 23 women registered to attend, it was unexpected.”
Ken Lenihan was the instructor for the all-Women’s clinic and he was impressed with the women he had in his class.
“I think they got a lot out of the clinic and I learned some things along the way as well,” says Lenihan. “Certainly the dynamics was a little different then I am use to. Some of the questions I got made rethink certain things that I have taught in the past. It was very interesting and enjoyable.”
Jill Elias was once of the women who attended the clinic and she came out with a new sense of assurance.
“I learned a lot of skills and feel confident in teaching a team of little girls to love the sport,” says Elias, “and my daughter can’t wait to start playing ball.”
“It gave me a new appreciation for all the past coaches that my son has had,” adds Evelyn Shea, who also attended the clinic.
With the success of the clinic, Lapierre feels that there will be more to come and sooner rather than later.
“I think that once we get into the season and you see the two all-girl tee-ball teams, two all-girl rookie teams and five all-girl mosquito/pee-wee house league teams, I think you’ll see more of the mothers’ get themselves out on to the field. And if you offer them a learning opportunity, most of them will take advantage of that.”