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Appreciating women in baseball

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One final piece before tonight's Celebrating Women in Baseball event

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners
Good grief, it's exceptionally difficult to find baseball images that don't prominently feature men
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, at 5:10 PM at Safeco Field the Mariners are hosting the first Women in Baseball night. Tickets for the game are still available, and maybe you can kind of swan around at the entrance to the event and overhear things. If you can’t make it tonight, the event will be streamed on Facebook Live. Previous pieces discussing this night include an overview of the event, an interview with Meg Rowley, the panel's moderator, and Amanda Lane's tour de force about being a female baseball fan. For the final piece in this miniseries I asked (some might say hassled) the staff to write about the women in baseball in their lives, and they absolutely delivered. This became a bit of a tome, but I promise it's worth it (definitely happier reading than the equally-lengthy recent Deadspin piece).

Part of the fun of these collaboration pieces is the opportunity for you all, our readers, to contribute your own thoughts in the comments below. So please, share with us your stories about women in baseball in your lives.

Isabelle:

Thank you Kate, Meg, Ashley Varela, and Deanna Rubin for paving the way for women to write for Lookout Landing. My path here has been made infinitely easier for having had you all come before me.

Thank you to the small but mighty group of women whom I’ve met who read this site and love this team. Your support, enthusiasm and, above all, friendship have meant the world.

Thank you Shannon Drayer for writing wonderful stories and for your patience and generosity when I reached out, panicking about the prospect of doing something wrong while in the clubhouse.

Thank you Kelly Munro for answering dozens of my emails, and for taking the time to meet with me on a dreary November afternoon two years ago. Your experience and advice have continued to resonate.

Thank you Grandma for loving the game on your own, very specific terms; for cheering on the players with the biggest smiles, and for stubbornly boycotting Dodgers away games in your final years because Vin Scully didn’t call them. You are the reason that I write, and when I get too caught up in the wins and losses I remember your ability to simply enjoy the players on the field.

Thank you Mom for jumping at the chance to take advantage of Title IX when it first passed, and playing baseball while you were growing up. Thank you for encouraging my love of the game, for the years you spent as my sole “baseball talk” partner, and for texting back within five minutes after I sent you the promo for tonight’s event and saying “Just got tickets! So excited!”

And lastly, thank you to the stalwart group of women who love the Mariners, despite all they’ve done to dissuade us. Regardless of whether your M’s gear is pink and bedazzled, or an oversized Nelson Cruz jersey; whether you root for Seager because of his butt, or his OBP; we’re happy to have you here, cheering alongside us.

Eric:

As I shared last week in my Edgar piece, my mom played a big role in supporting my interest in baseball and then becoming a pretty big fan herself during the mid-90’s. Edgar Martinez, Joey Cora, all the “You Gotta Love These Guys” players made the team very relatable and easy to root for, and Edgar was her favorite from that era. Ichiro helped bridge the gap between that era of players and the next of the 2000’s. She LOVED Ichiro and how he approached the game. My favorite Trish Sanford/Ichiro story happened when the whole family went to this game against the Phillies on Father’s Day, 2011, mere months before her untimely death. An older white male Phillies fan behind us was repeating many of the silly and mostly false anti-Ichiro talking points of that period to his friend, mainly the one about how he doesn’t speak English in interviews and that he should learn the language of the country where he makes his money. My mom apparently had heard enough of that talk and turned around to inform the man that “Ichiro actually speaks English very well, but prefers an interpreter for interviews.” The man was a bit stunned, but accepted this new information and he and my mom chatted more throughout the game and all was friendly and good. That was my mom in a nutshell. She was assertive when she knew something was wrong, and would try her best to correct it as politely as possible and probably make a new friend in the process.

I remember her taking me to see “The Sandlot” on a sunny, summer afternoon and laughing along with me at all the big moments and explaining to me that Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez was someone they made up for the movie. I remember watching “A League of Their Own” on rented VHS or cable over and over with her. The end of that movie just wrecks me now as an adult. When I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame last summer with my dad, seeing the actual uniforms of the women’s baseball teams from the WWII era also touched a nerve in me. In a more just world, those women’s leagues would have been able to continue and share the same infrastructure as men’s baseball and eventually that divide would have crumbled as the skill levels advanced and become more level over the decades. Now there’s the alternate history drama I’d like to see. Speaking of, the premise of the television show “Pitch” was such a captivating, no-brainer kind of thing because it made me realize how incredible of a moment it will be for our society and for baseball when a woman makes her MLB debut. I fear it will take far longer than it should due to the lack of infrastructure for youth women’s baseball, but it will happen some day and I damn well better be around to see it.

I also want to share that I met my future wife at a Mariners game. No, not in ‘Pen, come on, now. We met through mutual friends while sitting in the center field bleachers. As a proud Minnesotan, her first love will always be the Twins, but over the years she has come to accept the Mariners into her life, for better or worse. Just like me! But, seriously, our shared enjoyment of baseball as a hobby is one of the things that brought us together. She is my favorite person to go with to baseball games. She appreciates the pace and quirks of the game. We have our favorite players and favorite in-jokes about them. We both hate the Red Sox and Yankees. It’s great! With any luck, our daughter will share in our enjoyment of the game as she grows up and maybe even have some positive memories of the Mariners in the 2020’s. Strong maybe on that, we’ll see.

John:

I have been blessed to meet and know well many brilliant women in my life. Many are within my own family, but several are women you know well from their work right here. My mother likes baseball. I would not say she loves it, nor that she simply tolerates it. It brings her joy to watch and is something she seeks out. She grew up outside Chicago in a small farming town that would one day spawn Dan Wilson. Six feet tall and left-handed, she is Marco Gonzales with a well-obscured Midwestern accent, but she finished high school just before Title IX took effect. She was a fan long before I became a part of her life and would have remained one had I never been born.

I could tell a thousand stories of the ways in which she has supported me in my journeys through baseball: ferrying me to games since I was three years old, encouraging me to push harder for my passion in college, and helping me hone my writing as I have written here. They are all true, but she is not a supporting actor, and portraying her role as such is disingenuous. Beth is a leader, even if she didn’t always know it. Her fandom and mine grew together and grew differently, but she has always been a fan, first of her hometown Cubs, then later the Mariners of her adopted home. Baseball was never part of her dreams but she loved it anyway. She is a fan just as much as I have ever been.

The women whose passion for baseball I know burns brightest, however, are those I have met here. Kate, Isabelle, and Mandy are remarkable individuals. Amanda Lane whipped the history of this team into a transfixing series that, even as I could easily read the results of the tragedies of the 1990s, the work she put in gave me hope. While I have not known her as long as the other two, her expertise shines through in her work and her passion.

Isabelle Minasian is similarly driven towards constant improvement. We were hired together, have learned together, struggled together, and succeeded together. I am lucky enough to call her one of my best friends in this world, and because of that I have gotten to see the way she constructs her work. Nothing is flippant, nothing is throwaway. I learn something every day from Isabelle, and those of you who read her do too.

Kate Preusser and I sat together at the first LL meetup I ever attended last year and laughed constantly as she hexed Adam Lind into a home run. Kate was the first person to assist me in the labyrinthine methods of actual posting an article on this confounded website, and was the first person to make me cry while discussing a baseball game I did not attend. She is constantly working to learn, to improve, augment her own skills.

The last twenty years of my life all of baseball’s knowledge was pushed towards me, catered to me, old-school and new-school alike. Mandy had to find it herself. Isabelle had to hunt it down. Kate had to fight to learn and grow. They still fight, because they love what they do, they love this game, and they love this team. They are friends and leaders worth admiring, and I am thankful for them all.

Kate:

Her name was Alexis and she lived down the street from me, and so we played on the same neighborhood softball and baseball teams. That was where the similarities ended: I was stocky, frizz-haired, put at catcher and tolerated in the batter’s box because as a lefty, I got hit 9/10 plate appearances. She was tall, athletic and graceful, the best player on our team, on any of the teams. She could play any position but for some reason my memory has her at shortstop, Correa-like, a towering, terrifying figure who refused to let balls leave the infield. The rest of us imitated Griffey’s swing, Edgar’s swing, but she didn’t need to; she held a bat like it was a natural extension of her arms, leaning in the box like it was a cruise ship deck railing, like there wasn’t any place in the world she could possibly be more at home.

Because we were neighbors, and because her parents both worked long hours and she needed rides to practice, and because she liked to use my bat more than her brother’s beat-up hand-me-down, I found myself a tiny satellite trailing along behind her star. Her successes became part my successes, too, as I narrated the games to our parents on the car rides home. She was the best player around, and I was best-player-adjacent, so I got to go where she went, and I think that’s where I learned to be a baseball writer.

And then one summer she was gone, off to basketball camp. Looking back on it now, I realize: Alexis was a few years older than me, and had reached the point where she needed to focus on one sport. Basketball offered more opportunities for tall girls who would need scholarships in order to go to college. But at the time, all I felt was betrayal, and loss--loss of a friend, but also loss of the opportunity to watch someone so gifted play a sport I loved right in front of my eyes. I hope we’re doing a better job encouraging and supporting the Alexises of the world now. But I will always be grateful to her for showing me that glimpse of what a special talent looks like, up close, and for that little surge of pride I felt in being her friend.

Zach M:

In the earliest years of my baseball obsession, I was pretty sure I was the only kid on my Little League team who played catch with his 90-year-old grandmother. Whenever she would visit from her home in Missouri, we’d always find time to head down to Golden Gardens Park for some batting practice––you know, standard grandson and grandmother bonding activities.

Nana, as she insisted she be called, boasted that she learned to throw from her big brother, a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization who spent many a spring training with Dizzy Dean and the immortal “Gas House Gang” teams of the 1930’s. She’d evolve into a diehard Kansas City sports fan, finding a way seemingly whenever I’d see her to slip me the surreptitious Chiefs jersey, or Royals hat, in a not-so blatant attempt to sway my allegiances.

My first published piece of writing, (back when I was 12 years old), was inspired by one of these gifts.

She was a renaissance woman of truly eclectic talents: a prize-winning painter, a champion golfer, a beauty queen, a TV personality at her local station, a singer, an actress, and an absolute force in her sphere which never seemed large enough to contain her. Defined by depression-era grit and concert hall glamor, Nana was inimitable in her charisma and irreplaceable in her community. She also had a pretty mean fastball.

I think about Nana every time I find myself at Golden Gardens; whenever I toss around a baseball; whenever the Royals come to town (but preferably still lose to the Mariners); whenever I reflect on the wise and courageous women in my life who have taught me my most important lessons.

Thank you, Nana, for your love and inspiration, for your bravery and willpower, and for helping my 9-year-old baseball-crazed self get a little exercise. And thank you to all the women in baseball whose voices are absolutely essential to the beauty of this game. You deserve to be celebrated every day.

Amanda:

My grandma would never have called herself a baseball fan. She didn’t care about statistics or the farm system. She didn’t care that much if they made the playoffs or pulled off a spectacular trade. But every night, she would watch the Mariners play. And every night she would whole heartedly cheer them on.

My grandma was the most genuinely nice person I’ve ever met (I often wonder how I’m related to her). If she raised her voice half an octave it would stop you in your tracks. The worst thing she ever said about anyone was a pointed, “Well, bless their heart.”

It was always a funny experience watching games with both her and my dad.

“It’s okay, you’ll do better next time. I know you can do it,” she would cheer encouragingly when a Mariner player committed a horrendous error or the team failed to score with the bases loaded and no outs.

“No, it’s not okay! They’re professional athletes! They should be better than this!” my dad would exclaim in reply to his mother-in-law.

“They’re doing the best they can,” she would calmly reply, going right back to cheering them on with the same enthusiasm whether they were winning or losing, playing like champions, or playing like basement dwellers.

She loved Mariners players personally. I found it funny how this woman who grew up in Morton County, Kansas during the Dust Bowl and held down the home front during World War 2 in a Texas military town could relate to professional athletes (she also loved watching the Sonics) and the lifestyle that goes along with it.

But she grew up during the Dust Bowl. She was a military wife tasked with keeping the country going while her husband was away at war for three years.

She understood what it meant to do the best you can, to try as hard as you can. To often fail, but to also succeed.

She inherently understood an essential part of baseball, that often eludes us.

Zach Gottschalk:

Growing up, I had two family members who gave anything resembling a shit about baseball: my dad and my grandma (love you, Nans). My dad took me to games, played catch with me, and taught me how the sport worked. My nana taught me how to love the team.

To be honest, it was a little grating at first. Before I knew any Mariners not named Ken Griffey Jr, I didn't really get why she would suddenly exclaim “YAAHOOOOOOOO!” from the other room. I didn't like loud noises, and boy, those yells were loud. Over time I grew curious, and would step into the dining room to squint at the 8-inch white cube that we called a TV. I learned who Joey Cora, Edgar Martinez, and Randy Johnson were.

Soon, I’d call my nana the morning after a big game. The first thing she’d say to me was always “How about them Mariners?” Family gatherings and dinners were punctuated by frequent trips into the next room to see just one pitch to Edgar. Conversation was often put on hold in favor of chants of “Ma-rin-ers!” Each syllable was accompanied by the pump of an arm or the swivel of the torso. The dancing was thoroughly cringey.

That’s the thing, though. Shouting “YAAHOOOOOOOO,” dancing along to a “Ma-rin-ers” chant, saying “Eeeed-gaaaaaar” in a lower and lower voice each time: all of these things could be seen as a little bit cringey. All of these things might provoke the fan sitting in front of you to glance back in annoyance. But my nana taught me not to care. She taught me how to be an unapologetic fan. Without her, I don’t see myself loving baseball the same way.

Jen Mac Ramos:

I didn't really know much about baseball until I was 16. I knew, being from the Central Valley of California, my team was the Giants. But that was it.

When I was 16, though, and I first got into baseball, I found myself in online baseball communities--all of which were made up of women. I talked to them every day, chose to watch the same games so we could talk about what was going on. I was never judged for what I knew or what I liked best about baseball.

It was also through this group of women, I started writing about baseball. I always wanted to be a writer, but I wrote fiction. Writing about baseball was just something that started out as a hobby, but then turned into something more.

I wrote for an all-women run sports network called Aerys Sports, founded by Julie DiCaro. From there, I became more confident in my knowledge, knowing I was respected by my peers. Though that's not the same with every experience I've had, I know that their support helped shape me and build my confidence.

Now, I'm looking toward a career in baseball, either as a writer or an analyst. I still have that support system from just about 10 years ago, all of them cheering me on to my dreams.

To Liza, Marty, Steph, Mel, Ari, Shanni, Shannon, Gracie, and Brochacho--thank you for being there for me, being great baseball friends, great friends in general, great baseball fans, and amazing women.