Gibsonia youth among participants in inaugural girls baseball tournament
Anastasia Peterson wanted to become a part of history, and she didn't want to wait.
So when the Gibsonia 11-year-old received an offer to play in the first-ever American girls baseball tournament, she leaped at the opportunity.
Anastasia, a fifth-grader at Pine-Richland's Eden Hall Upper Elementary School, will play for the American Eagles in the inaugural Baseball For All Summer Classic from May 30 to June 4 in Orlando, Fla.
“I want to be a part of history, and I want to show girls they can do things boys can do,” Anastasia said.
The tournament, which will feature 24 teams of 12 players ages 10 to 13, was organized through Baseball for All, a nonprofit that is attempting to grow the sport among female players. According to the organization's website, more than 100,000 girls play youth baseball in the United States, but only 1,000 play high school baseball.
Justine Siegal, the only woman to coach a men's professional baseball team, founded Baseball for All.
One of the inspirations for the organization was the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which ran from 1943-54 and was portrayed in the movie “A League of Their Own.” Former AAGPBL players will be present at Baseball for All's tournament.
Mo'ne Davis, who last summer became the first girl in history to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series, is also fostering interest in baseball among females.
Anastasia played baseball for two years — one season each of T-ball and coach-pitch — but switched to softball afterward, even though she said she wanted to stay with baseball.
“I think what happens with most girls her age is they want to play baseball, but just because they're girls and they'd be the only girls on the team, they don't do it,” said Jennifer Peterson, Anastasia's mother.
CORE Athletics, a baseball instruction and training company in West Deer, is organizing the American Eagles. A contact from a tournament one of CORE's boys teams attended put the company in touch with Siegal.
This tournament marks CORE's first foray into girls baseball.
“It's in its infancy right now,” said Shawn Manning, one of CORE's coaches. “We want to try to start this movement and have it turn into the norm. If girls want to play, they can play. We have a spot for them.”
Anastasia's brother plays for one of CORE's teams, and the coaches approached her about playing in the national tournament.
“We went to go pick (my brother) up, and there were signs in the facility saying they needed girls to play on the baseball team,” she said. “They talked to me about it, and they saw how well I could hit.
“I'm excited. I feel that it's a big honor to get asked to play on this team.”
The team will consist of players from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Manning said eight girls are on the roster, including two from Western Pennsylvania. CORE is still looking for players, and the company asks interested players to call 724-265-2673.
“They won't meet each other until they get down there,” Jennifer Peterson said. “There will be no practices until they meet. It's exactly like ‘A League of Their Own,' where all these girls are coming together for a week and they're going to do this tournament. I told her, ‘Even if you strike out every time, who really cares, because it's a great opportunity.' ”
And it's one she wasn't about to pass up, even when her mother suggested she should wait to play until next year's tournament.
“She said, ‘Nobody gets anything for being the second ever, Mom — I want to be a part of the first ever,' ” Jennifer Peterson said. “As a mom, when you hear your child say that, OK, we're going.”