Why I Like Baseball

an online journal of baseball enthusiasm

Archive for the ‘Women In Baseball’

Women in Baseball Panel at #SABR45

June 26, 2015 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR, Women In Baseball

SABR’s national convention very often features a panel discussion on “women in baseball.” (I have spoken on the panel in the past.) The speakers vary from former female players in the All American Girls (AAGPBL) and Negro Leagues to current women trying to make it in baseball or in umpiring to writers, front office personnel, and wives. As moderator Leslie Heaphy put it, “We take the broadest possible view of women’s participation in baseball.”

With such disparate experiences, sometimes there is not a lot of direct back and forth between the panelists, but each one always has fascinating and insightful things to say about the game we love. So here I present a smattering of quotes from today’s panel. I didn’t come close to writing down everything that was said by everyone, so it’s only a pithy percentage of the complete experience. (You should all get to a SABR convention someday if you love baseball. No really.)

Today’s panel included:

  • Caroline Phillips from the Cubs — working on the premiere club seating/renovation development
  • Martha Jo Black from the White Sox — working in Fan Experiences (and btw Joe Black’s daughter)
  • Christy Spisak, player for the South Bend Blue Sox (all women’s team)
  • John Kovach: former chair of the SABR women in baseball committee, curated the Diamond Dreams exhibit, longtime coach and advocate for women’s baseball
Christy Spisak, John Kovach, Martha Jo Black, Leslie Heaphy, Caroline Phillips at the SABR 45 Women in Baseball panel

Christy Spisak, John Kovach, Martha Jo Black, Leslie Heaphy, Caroline Phillips at the SABR 45 Women in Baseball panel

Leslie opened by asking each panelist how they got their start in baseball. (more…)

24 Hour Game Diary Pt 8

May 12, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Monday, October 20, 2003
12:48 pm
Arizona time (Pacific)

Well, my flight leaves in about an hour, and here I am sitting in the Tucson airport with sore legs, but happy.

The Red-Eyed Nites mounted a comeback in the morning hours, cutting the lead of the African Gray Birds, which had been around 40 runs at one point, to 20 runs. In the final inning, which was the 65th, I think, we put up four more, but the final score was 127-111 Grays.

Ultimately the difference between the two teams was pitching. Their pitching turned out to be slightly better (and slightly younger) over the course of the game. Both teams had to rely on some non-pitchers to take the mound to fill up innings, and theirs turned out to be sharper overall.

But really, no one was too concerned about the final score. Yes, our competitive spirit was stoked at times, but generally speaking no one was upset by the “loss.” For most of us, just playing in the game made us winners in the first place. (more…)

24 Hour Game Diary Pt 7

May 11, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Sunday, October 19, 2003
4:20 am
Arizona time (Pacific)

Since I last wrote I’ve had the best catch of my life. I don’t mean a caught ball in the outfield, I mean best game of catch. Chiba, one of the Japanese players, and I went down to the batting tunnel after we woke up from a brief one hour nap.

I’ll get back to that story later. I’m going to take over announcing for a bit now… I’m in the press box where there are plugs and desks for laptops typing this. Rob is fading and needs relief so I am going to take over announcing duties from him.

Okay, I’m back. I just spent the past hour being the play by play announcer for the Apple webcast. They are webcasting live video to the Apple site. They have three cameras set up here, and it looks really good. I spoke with corwin earlier and he said he was able to watch my first at bat.

Speaking of at bats, here’s what happened in my third and final shift. (more…)

24 Hour Game Diary Pt 6

May 10, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Saturday, October 18, 2003
11:08 pm
Arizona time (Pacific)

I have just had my first major league shower.

And damn it felt good. It is patently clear that this is the locker room of the team with the tallest player in the majors, because the showerheads are set so high it’s hard to reach them when you’re 5’4″ like me.

We just had a phone call from Dontrelle Willis, who pitched two-something scoreless innings tonight in Yankee Stadium. (The Marlins won 3-2–the turning point being when Pudge picked Nick Johnson off third. Ouch.) Dontrelle, just last year, was in the minors in Kane County, Illinois, and the host family he stayed with have a daughter named Stacey who plays baseball. She is one of the pitchers on my squad in this game, and she’s great–so outgoing and friendly to everyone. Kind of like Dontrelle, I guess! He has stayed close with the family and there was a piece in USA Today about them last week when Dontrelle was pitching in Chicago in the NLCS. Anyway, through Stace we got Dontrelle on the phone and put him over the PA system and onto the game broadcast. Dontrelle’s message to all of us playing: “Enjoy it!”

I finally got a hit, and scored a run. (more…)

24 Hour Game Diary Pt 5

May 09, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Saturday, October 18, 2003
8:30 am
Arizona time (Pacific)

Ow. Ow. Ow. Well, if I thought I might be less tired and less sore today… I was wrong. If I felt yesterday like I had been hit by a car, today I feel like I was run over by a monster truck. Repeatedly. My feet are very sore, worse than they get for a trade show. My head hurts, and my stomach is a bit queasy. My roomie from Colorado thinks that might be a touch of altitude sickness. I don’t have many individual muscles sore so much as I feel just like my entire body is gassed. It’s very odd, because I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way before. I feel sort of like I spent the day moving thousands of fifty pound rocks–except that I didn’t.

Oh well, time to try some more hot water and ibuprofen. Or maybe I should switch to Tylenol.

I’m going to hobble downstairs and grab some breakfast. Then it will be time to pack up and head to the field. (more…)

24 Hour Game Diary Pt 4

May 08, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Friday, October 17, 2003
3:18 pm
Arizona time (Pacific)

Oh my god I’m sore. My legs, my back, my butt, my feet. I woke up this morning feeling like I’d been in a car wreck. (Actually, I didn’t feel anywhere near this bad after my motorcycle accident!) Given how much ibuprofen i am taking to keep the arm swelling down, it’s scary to think how achy I would be if I weren’t.

And we didn’t even work out that hard yesterday! I think the combination of the altitude (3000 feet?), dehydration, and the lack of sleep have combined to give me lactic acid buildup in every muscle fiber I have.

The result of the soreness was that today I was pretty much a mess in clinic. I couldn’t get down on ground balls, couldn’t swing, and could barely throw. Throwing actually was not too bad in the catch portion of things. Jen Rado, who also plays for the Slaterettes, was my partner, just like yesterday, and we were both pretty accurate. But when we were taking grounders at second, I could not get the ball to the catcher on the fly.

And what is up with my swing? Yesterday I hit so well. Today I couldn’t even get the ball off the tee straight, and in the cage I was hitting these Baltimore chops, and even swinging and missing. I hope the soreness is less tomorrow or it’s going to be brutal at the plate. Hopefully I get a nice hot soak tonight and work out some of this.


So I never finished writing about yesterday’s clinic. John Denny, Cy Young Award Winner, came and addresses the group, and his son is one of our instructors, too. He talked about pitching, and also took questions. In answer to being asked who the most interesting player he played with was, Denny told the following story about Mike Schmidt. I’m paraphrasing here:

“Back when I played in Philadelphia there was this one guy, you know how there is always this one leather-lunged guy in the stands? We were always trying to pick him out, he must have been forty rows up behind third base but no matter where he sat you could always hear him. He would rag on anybody but he especially liked to get on Schmitty. Well one day, I’m on the mound, and I’m getting ready to pitch (Denny takes his stance) and suddenly the umpire calls Time! Time! The catcher hasn’t moved, the batter hasn’t moved, and I’m wondering what’s up? I look over to the first base side and nothing’s going on. I look over to the third base side, and there’s Schmitty, walking toward me. (Imitates a slow shuffle.) He eventually reaches the mound, picks up the rosin bag, dabs some on his arms and on his hands, puts it down. Looks at me. I ask him, what’s up? He kind of shakes his head, looks at his shoes, and then he says, ‘That guys been riding me all day. I just wanted to get away from it for a while.’”


Several former players from the AAGPBL (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the women’s league from the World War II era that the movie A League of Their Own was based on) are here to help coach. They even participated in some drills with us and shagged flies during BP.

Overheard during a barehand drill from one of these fine ladies: “Wow, this is hard with bifocals!”


For those of you who are not familiar with girl talk, it mixes uniquely with locker room talk in women’s baseball. Especially when you mix female baseball players with good-looking minor league players as coaches. While we were waiting for the shuttle bus back to the hotel yesterday several women were sitting on the curb comparing notes. All the coaches were well-liked and each taught us a ton. But as we were chatting we realized that we had each remembered the names of all the “hot” guys, but not all of the other guys. Are we really that shallow? Yup, can’t help it. The cuter a guy is, the easier it is to remember his name–just a fact of life. We then got considerably off the topic of hitting tips…

Overheard today during throwing drills. One woman was paired up with one of the aforementioned hot guys. At one point she threw the ball over his head and he went to chase it. The woman in line next to her: “You just did that to get a look at his ass, didn’t you.” (This was followed by more wild throws.)


Today we had a tour of the facilities at Tucson Electric Park, including the press box, underground batting cages, and the Diamondbacks clubhouse–which is now our clubhouse. Unfortunately the couches and the ping pong table have been packed into storage for the off-season, but it’s still pretty cushy. The card table with the dominoes set is still there.


Tonight we meet the founder of US Doctors for Africa, Ted Alemahyu, and we may also find out our teams and squad shifts for the game. Last night Rob unveiled the nice uniform shirts they made for us, and tonight they will be passing them out. Are we excited about this? Yes.


After the meeting: well, the batting order is not yet done. As Rob put it, “It’s taking me a while. I’m putting together the most complicated batting order ever compiled. And I challenge anyone to refute that statement.” We did have a speech from Ted Alemahyu and the medical director of US Doctors for Africa, a Dr. Fleming. Or as he put it, “Leave off the doctor just call me Fleming it’s shorter.” We’re sleepy now and going to turn in. I soaked my legs in hot water and hopefully I’ll feel less sore soon… more tomorrow.

24 Hour Game Diary Pt 3

May 07, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Friday, October 17, 2003
4:22 am
Arizona time (Pacific)

Can’t sleep. I’m so tired, my muscles are burning, but some part of me is so keyed up I can’t get back to sleep even though I’m exhausted.

Yesterday (today?) was probably one of the best baseball days of my life. It would have been anyway, even if the Yankees had not pulled off an unbelievable, improbable 11th inning win on a walk off homer from Aaron Boone. That was just the cherry on the sundae as far as I’m concerned.

Pro camp was amazing and great. Kevan Burns and his wife? partner? Clarissa Marquez run this baseball instruction business called Live The Dream. For us they pulled in a dozen ballplayers and coaches, from guys who have been in the minor leagues for a couple of years to some current college coaches who have already been through their pro time. Some even had a cup of coffee in the majors. They’re all incredibly nice and, damn, but there is so much to know about this game, even five minutes spent with any of them would already expand anyone’s knowledge of the sport. We got to spend all day with them.

I think I’m feeling the altitude as well as the heat and dryness, because yesterday I felt out of breath pretty much no matter what we did. I’m out of shape, but not THAT out of shape.

We did all kinds of things that are like what major leaguers go through in spring training. (more…)

24 Hour Game Diary Pt 2

May 06, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

October 16, 2003
9:10 am
Arizona time (Pacific)

Just got back from breakfast with my roomie, Theresa MacGregor. We’re here at the Amerisuites by the Tucson airport, along with a couple dozen other women baseball players. If you’re just tuning in, we’re here as part of a fundraiser/awareness-raiser called “24 Hours for Africa.” It’s like the AIDS Ride or the Breast Cancer marathon–each participant has to raise a certain amount of money in order to participate. In this case our “marathon” is a 24 hour baseball game played by women players from all around the USA, plus we have some players from Japan and Australia.

The whole thing was the brainchild of Rob Novotny, the vice president of American Women’s Baseball. Rob has been touring the country for the past six months, recruiting players, drumming up sponsorship, arranging details, so that the event will happen. He’s been living off his credit cards all this time, but he believes in the cause, which is to save lives in Africa. US Doctors for Africa is on a mission to provide adequate drugs therapy and training for medical personnal so that mothers with HIV can go through childbirth without passing the virus on to their infant.

Steven Seagal is our honorary spokesperson. The whole thing is being broadcast live from the Apple Computer web site (http://ali.apple.com/24hours/). The game records are going to be archived in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It’s a pretty big deal.

But the action doesn’t start for a couple of days. First we have two days of pro baseball camp, hosted by Live The Dream. I arrived last night just in time to see the Cubs go down in flames on hotel TV. Ah, heavy sigh. Wait til next year. (more…)

24 Hour Game Diary 1

May 05, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Originally posted on October 15, 2003.

October 15, 2003
5:20 pm
(not sure what time zone)

I am flying on a plane as I write this, on my way to Tucson for the “24 Hours for Africa” women’s baseball marathon. I shouldn’t even be typing this because my elbow hurts, typing aggravates it, and I should be saving my arm for the game. But dammit I’m bored and the pilot just announced that the Yankees have lost Game 6 of the ALCS to Boston by a score of 9-6.


Women’s Baseball Player Diary Part 6

May 04, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Originally appeared on October 14, 2003.

Okay folks, get ready for a really personal one this time.

This entry isn’t about how the Yankees have executed three strike-em-out-throw-em-out double plays, or how they had four men reach base by base on balls and scored none, whereas they gave up only one walk and that was the winning run. This isn’t about ninth inning heroics being too little too late. This isn’t about Soriano swinging at everything off the plate, or about Jason Giambi and Aaron Boone both taking Wakefield deep–but foul.

Or maybe it is. I’ve just come home from the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse, a nice upscale sports bar in Brookline, Mass., where I witnessed the Yankees lose 3-2 to the Red Sox.

I have the urge to break things right now. I have the urge to take some large instrument of destruction like an axe (or a baseball bat?) and smash something into tiny pieces and then lie in a heap sobbing. There are three reasons for this feeling.

1) The aforementioned frustrating Yankees loss.

2) I didn’t take batting practice today, as I have just about every day for the past week.

3) I went to therapy with my boyfriend this morning and I’ve got a lot of frustration to let out there, too.

The Yankees losing normally wouldn’t cause such a mood swing in me. But it is October, and everything seems to mean more at this time of year, not just because of baseball but because of the echoes of September 11th. I’ve written before that for me baseball is my natural Prozac. Even a loss often injects some kind of lift into me. But not this one, not tonight.

The reason I have been taking batting practice all week is that I am getting ready to play in the Women’s Baseball Marathon, a.k.a. 24 Hours For Africa, a twenty four hour long baseball game being arranged by American Women’s Baseball as a charity event for US Doctors for Africa. It’s this weekend at the Chicago White Sox spring training complex in Tucson, Arizona. I’m going there along with 60+ women from around the USA, including some of the top players in the country. (more…)

Women’s Baseball Player Diary Part 5

May 03, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Originally posted on August 16, 2003.

July 26 2003

I had to miss Wednesday’s game because of the writing class I’m teaching, but I heard we won. That made the team’s record 6-2 (with two rainouts and one game cancelled for lack of umpires) before today’s game. The only two losses were both to the same team: Carter & Carter. We played them today.

We beat them by so much that they abdicated after four innings. (more…)

Women’s Baseball Player Diary, Part 4

May 02, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Originally posted on July 24, 2003.

July 1 2003

Narragansett Electric (that’s my team) beat ISL tonight. The final score was 9-4, I think, though it could have been 9-6. I know we were leading 6-4 in the fourth, having scored all six runs in the first inning when the ISL pitcher/coach, Darry, just didn’t have it. The first three runs came in on walks and hit batters, two more on ground outs. I batted third tonight and walked my first time up, moved to second and third both on walks, and scored on a ground out. My second time at the plate–which was still in the first inning–I faced another pitcher, a woman named Paula who threw such a soft ball that she induced five or six soft comebackers to her in the game. I grounded to first and was tagged out in the baseline, but I think a run scored on that, as well… we lost track after a while. (That’s why they keep a scorebook on the bench!)

In the field I played second for the first few innings. I made one put out at second but had no chance for a double play. (more…)

2003 Women’s Baseball Diary Part 3

May 01, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Baseball Player Diary 2003, Part 3
Originally posted on June 30, 2003.

June 5

Tonight I volunteered at the ABCD Field of Dreams tournament at Fenway Park. ABCD is Action for Boston Community Development, and the Field of Dreams is a tournament where large corporations who donate a heap o’ money get to play in a six inning game on the field at Fenway Park. The game was a cross between baseball and softball, with regular length basepaths, but a softball in use pitched by a pitching machine. The rules were simple: eleven batters per inning, no matter how many outs, two pitches per batter, no exceptions.

The festivities started in the morning, but my shift was 5pm to 10pm. I arrived right at 5pm and collected my “staff” t-shirt and redeemable food coupon, then went down to the Red Sox dugout to change into my spikes and stow my bag. (more…)

2003 Women’s Baseball Diary, Part 2

April 30, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Originally posted on June 7 2003: Baseball Diary 2003, Part 2.

Photo of ctan in uniform here.

May 15

My arm hurt all weekend. Then again, so did my back, my knee, my neck… it has gotten cold and damp again, if you can believe that, and every part of me that has any nagging injury is aching. And the Yankees are on a losing streak, which makes me feel down, which makes me ache more. This is all very annoying, but doesn’t keep me from doing my morning routine no matter how creaky I get. I’ve added some things to the rehab exercises I did over the winter, and here’s what I’m doing pretty much every day: 100-200 crunch sit-ups, 50 leg lifts with the 5 pound ankle weight–each leg, 10-20 “superman” lifts for my back–lying on my stomach, 10-20 “crawl” lifts (lifting left leg and right arm off the ground, then vice versa), 3 sets of ten wrist curls with the blue Theraband for my elbow/wrist, 3 sets of 10 the other direction, both arms of course, and then sets of 10 lifts with a 3-lb. dumbell for my arms, butterflies, etc… I don’t have names for them all. It all takes about 20 minutes with backstretches thrown in. I’ve been doing this routine, gradually adding to it, for several weeks now.

All the light lifting must be helping. I know because tonight we had batting practice in Pawtucket. (more…)

May 7 2003 : Out Standing In The Field

April 29, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Cecilia’s Baseball Diary 2003
May 7 2003 : Out Standing In The Field

Here I am again, trying to play baseball. For those who are new to my endeavors, here’s a quick recap.

March 23, 2000 — While surfing the Internet, I discover the existence of “organized” women’s baseball in the US. While there’s no “major league” per se, there are several organizing bodies, including the AAU and the loose confederation of leagues that form the “feeder” system for Team USA for the annual Women’s World Series and such. I wrote in my journal that day: “Does every fan long to be in the game, somewhere deep in his or her heart? Or is it just me?” A dream is born.

April 10, 2001 — I decide that sitting around dreaming is not enough. (more…)

2003 Women’s Baseball Diary Repost

April 29, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Women In Baseball, Women's Baseball Marathon

Starting later today I will begin at WHY I LIKE BASEBALL to re-post my diary entries from the 2003 season, when I was cut from playing part-time in the New England Women’s Baseball League and took up full-time with the Pawtucket Slaterettes, then capped off the season with the 24 Hours for Africa women’s baseball marathon in Arizona.

Follow “whyilikebb” on Twitter for daily reminders when the posts appear.

When I first posted these, “blogs” didn’t really exist and Why I Like Baseball had no way for folks to post comments other than to email me. So please feel free to comment this time around!

Disclaimer: I’m reposting these without editing them or fixing former typoes. Also many of the images may be missing at first until I fix all the links.

On “Diamond Girls:” Female Baseball Fandom

December 09, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Women In Baseball

(Originally posted February 16, 2000, reposted to new blog on December 9, 2008)

So, I never really thought about the difference between female baseball fans and male baseball fans, until the whole Derek Jeter thing.

Let me explain. Growing up as a kid, I was a tomboy, and was always doing this that the “guys” did: I ran cross country track, and played the sousaphone (tuba), and I was the one girl in my fifth grade class who traded baseball cards. (Because I only cared about the Yankees, I didn’t mind letting the guys bid on my other hot players who were non-Yankees… the going rate for a “trade” back then was a penny a card, or a card of equal “value” for a card… which meant someone like Reggie Jackson wouldn’t go for less than 75 cents, and could get bid up to about $3. In milk money, that was a significant amount! I was also my class’ treasurer… and I made a killing shedding the Dodgers, Reds, and Mets I didn’t want…)

Anyway, the thing is, I didn’t really think of baseball fandom as a masculine thing, particularly. And I still don’t, especially not with all the women I always see when I go to games. And they’re not there as tag alongs to their boyfriends or husbands.

Then again, in New York, maybe they are just there to see Derek Jeter.

I was slightly shocked when I went to a game at Yankee stadium in 1999 to find that, as the players were introduced, the decibel and pitch level of the screams for Jeter were considerably higher than for other players. Being the baseball exile I was for so many years, and not being in New York, I had missed the whole Jeter-as-Heartthrob phenomenon. I thought to myself, hmm, yeah, he’s kind of cute, single, and plays shortstop, chicks dig that. But I didn’t really see the attraction myself. Maybe, I thought, it’s because I’m, ahem, seven years older than he is–I mean, s**t, he’s the same age as my little brother.

During the post-season this year, though, I’m not sure what it was, but all of a sudden I “got” Jeter fever. This was especially weird since I haven’t had that Beatle-mania kind of feeling for any athlete, movie star, or pop singer since I was, oh, a teenager. But, as Mel Stottlemeyer is fond of saying, Jeter is “special.” The more I watched him play, the more fascinated I became. Who is this guy? I wondered.

Then came the offseason, and as I was surfing the Internet, I came across many great Jeter articles and interviews I’d missed while in baseball exile. Turns out, he’s also the nicest, best-mannered guy in the sport. Jeez. I read features from Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, GQ (!), Time Out New York, People (!!)… Perhaps even more intriguing was that rarely did I read these interviews on their original magazine’s sites. More often than not they were lovingly scanned, or perhaps painstakingly re-ryped, word for word, by dedicated fans of Mr. Jeter. I found hundreds of Jeter fan sites. And not surprisingly, most of these sites are run by young women, in their teens and twenties.

I was deeply involved with teen heartthrob fandom myself when I was young (I ran a fan club for Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, and yes, I met Ricky Martin many times back when he was thirteen–you’ll have to wait for my autobiography to hear more…). So I know the turf. I was capitvated by features on the sites–the modern day equivalent of home-made fan club newsletters–like “101 Reasons I Love Derek Jeter” and the still-ongoing speculations about Jeter’s relationship with Mariah Carey (despite the fact they broke up years ago).

Even more captivating was all the actual baseball talk that got tossed in with the discussions of Jeter’s eating habits, social life, and eye color. Okay, granted, there were many, many messages posted on the boards with subject lines like “OMIGOD DJ IS SOOOOOO HOT!!!!!!!!” but maybe that’s why it was so surprising to me to find women arguing about Chuck Knoblauch’s throwing problems, for example.

Then again, think about the character of Annie in “Bull Durham.” She wasn’t just a dugout groupie–she knew her baseball.

No, I really shouldn’t have been surprised at all, I guess. I salute baseball women, the “diamond girls,” whether what thrills their blood is Jeter’s smile, or his lightning throw to first. Or both. And I’m proud to be one of them.

October 29, 2008: Fading Days

October 29, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball

The World Series is not yet over, but snow fell in parts of Pennsylvania yesterday, and I woke up this morning with my skin feeling dry. So dry that several calluses on my left hand were peeling.

I stared at them for a while after I got out of the shower, trying to figure out what they were from. What could I have been doing that built up a callus there, on my left hand, on the pads between the second and third knuckle of my grip?

I think these are my batting calluses, finally wearing off, nearly 14 months after I played my final game of hardball.

I used to go to the batting cage at least once a week. It was bit the way other people must make surreptitious stops at bars and whorehouses. Sometimes I’d make a special trip and plan to go to the cage, but more often than not, in my busy life, trying to fit baseball in around two jobs, community volunteering, writing, editing, and socializing, I’d have to sneak in a trip on my way to or from somewhere else.

I’d go to the Home Depot near the cage instead of the hardware store closer to my house, to justify the trip. I’d meet friends at the movie theater near there, but leave an hour early so I could get some hitting in, first.

I’d bring batting gloves with me on vacation. I’ve hit in batting cages in Aruba, Florida, the Jersey Shore. (Never did find one in Mexico, though.)

My car still has a pile of Iron Mike tokens in the ashtray.

But my last two years playing, I hardly went to the cage at all. I was too busy. My work life has gotten more and more pressing (which is good, it means I’m earning more through writing and editing). Just making time to get to the games I was supposed to play in was getting harder and harder.

And it showed on the field. After the season where I batted nearly .500 for fifteen games (and dropped to just under .400 after a slump in the last few – it’s only a 20 game season), my hitting dropped off the following year. The time not spent in the cage was part of it.

My fading eyesight is the other. No, it’s nothing so dramatic as Kirby Puckett—I’m just over 40 now and dusk light is the hardest to see in. The baseball that was bright and white and whose seams I could see spinning easily in the first inning would be dirty and sunset-colored in the fifth, melding into the dying day like a ghost. We play(ed) on a field without lights.

I’s funny, because one would think I’d miss playing baseball the most during the summer, which is when I played, but here it is, more than a full season since I retired and it’s only really hitting me, today. I worked hard for those calluses. I’ll miss them.

Of course, there’s nothing to say I can’t still go to the batting cage…

August 18 2004: Sweet Swings

August 18, 2004 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball

It has been a hectic summer for this baseball-loving geek, with far too much going on and not enough time to write about it all. There was the SABR convention in Cincinnati. There was Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium. There was running into Byung-Hyun Kim in a restaurant by chance, the same weekend we were at Fenway to see Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek get into a brawl.

And there has been my season with the Slaterettes, my second full season playing hardball. I have some shocking news.

I am an All-Star.

I received this news last night, down at the Boathouse Field in Slater Park, where my team (Narragansett Electric) lost our 16th game in a row. That sounds bad–and it is. With rain-outs, our record is likely to end this season at 0-17.

This is a major reversal from last year’s team, when I think we lost only three or four games all season, and we played a longer season. I think last year’s record was 18-3, though I’m not 100% sure since we had some games half-played because of rain and other strangenesses of the schedule. Last year we had a dominant catcher, one dominating pitcher (Nikki), and three other good pitchers. Nikki is now with a different team, and none of the rest came back to the league.

In fact, of the 18 names we had on last year’s roster, only myself, Lori, and Kathy Roy (also a rookie last year), and Deb Hutton came back. Hut showed up for only two games last year and then disappeared–she did the same this year, so no one was surprised. But still, most of the denizens of the “old lady team,” as we were called, decided to call it quits.

Chief among them was Diane, our coach, mostly over what I heard were political reasons. The gossip around the league is that various people, mostly men, were upset that our team won so much last year, and they were upset that assertive (okay, loudmouthed and opinionated) Diane was critical of the way the league was being run. Talk is that they wanted to get rid of her, so they broke up her team to drive her away. I don’t know how much of that is true, given that a lot of the old players aren’t playing at all this year. But if they wanted to drive her out, it worked: she quit, and they stocked the roster with all new players. The team didn’t get a new coach until a few days before the season started. We went into that first game not only with no practice, we didn’t even know each other’s names.

We were awful that first game, and although the team has steadily improved, we have continued to be awful for two and a half months. When we hit, we don’t pitch. When we pitch, the defense is weak. When the defense is working, we don’t hit. And so it has gone all year. Some more players quit shortly after the season started, and we recruited a bunch of juniors (young teenagers) to come up and fill in for us, and they have been great. But they are still young (and short). It is exactly like the Seattle Mariners bringing up all their guys from Triple-A to play this year. How the mighty have fallen.

Are we having fun? Yes, though much of the fun is of our own making. I will give no names to protect the guilty and innocent alike, but whenever the home plate umpire goes to brush off the plate and we’re in the field, you’ll hear someone ask “what’s the count?” Regardless of the count, you’ll hear the answer is “two balls.” This kind of fun is necessary since all too often we are on the verge of being killed by the “mercy rule,” which says if one team is more than 15 runs ahead, it’s a lost cause. Thanks to the mercy rule, many of our games have been cut short after only four innings, which means that I have oftentimes been making a two hour drive through rush hour traffic just to get one at bat. Let me tell you, when you drive two hours fighting rush hour, just to get called out on a pitch that was in no way a strike by an umpire who… well, it simply sucks.

I can see you’re skeptical. No, really, we’ve lost every game. We’ve had a few good pitching performances, but they were always on nights when we got shut out. We have had the lead in exactly four games, and we have never led after the fourth inning. We have batted around in an inning, I think, three times. That was really fun when it happened, but we’ve never been able to make a lead stick.

I have been trying to adopt a zen attitude about the whole thing. It’s still better to be standing in the overgrown clover in right field while the sun sets behind the trees than in front of a computer, isn’t it? The team can’t seem to put together a win, so instead of looking at the end result, I look at all the pieces. Each play, each inning, each pitch–I count them all separately, just trying to live in the moment. It means I play hard all the time. I do not look at the score.

Right now we have one game left and then the All-Star game, our season’s finale. You knew I was going to get back to this All-Star thing, didn’t you?

My personal season has not been too bad. My elbow is sore as hell. I went through a few months of rehab but it has never really gotten better. As such, I can throw the ball about 80 feet and that is about it. I’ve played all the outfield positions and the closest I have actually come to catching a ball was once when I was in right I came all the way in trying to get a ball that ended up falling on the infield dirt, which our second baseman should have caught, but she just didn’t. (Did I mention the defense needs work?) As such, it’s hard to tell if my own defense has improved or not. I find it much easier to follow the game now from the outfield–I used to feel like I was so far away from the action that it was a struggle to remember the count or how many outs there were. Not anymore. It’s odd–now that I’ve decided to take things one pitch at a time, one play at a time, some other part of my brain took over keeping track of things like the number of outs and the count, and now I know it almost all the time.

But I guess I am like Ted Williams in that what I love most about the game is hitting. I don’t think I’ll ever love playing in the outfield, if you know what I mean.

My season at the plate has been interesting. Last year I walked a lot, sometimes two or three times in a game (and because we turned the lineup over a lot, I was getting 3-4 at bats per 6-inning game). But this season, instead of “working the count,” I got into a mode of thinking that if I was only going to get one good pitch to hit, I didn’t want to let it go by. Each pitch is a new at bat.

This change in my way of thinking was partly prompted by some bad umpiring, where many, many of the pitches I would never have swung at–some that I couldn’t even REACH–were being called strikes. So I began to swing at anything close. By making every pitch into a new at bat, I could mentally keep myself from feeling like I was in a hole if I was down in the count. Given that even the best pitchers in our league don’t have pinpoint control, this philosphy works well. You really never know what you’re going to get. There is no hitter’s count or pitcher’s count because at any given time, the next pitch could fly over everything to the backstop, bounce in the dirt, hit you in the ribs, or be right down the middle.

Have I ever described what it is like to get hit by pitch? There are a bunch of different ways of getting hit and they are all different. The easiest one to avoid is the one that is coming at your lower legs. First of all, you can see it’s not going to be a strike–not a hittable one, anyway–and it is relatively easy to skip rope, backpedal, or move so that the ball misses you. I say relatively, because I have been hit on the leg more than once. I have been hit on the front leg, the back leg, the calf, the shin…. thankfully never in the knee though. When it’s coming at your calves, you at least FEEL like you can try to get out of the way.

Then there are the pitches bearing in on the meat of your body. By this I mean from the fat part of your thigh, your ass, your back, arm, and shoulder. You’ve seen how major leaguers tuck themselves into this defensive posture, protecting their hands, their face, and taking the bat with them. If the ball hits the bat, of course, it’s a strike, because it is a foul ball.

Lots of women in our league have never learned this. They see the ball coming for them. There are some pitches that don’t look immediately like they are going to hit you. Remember that you’ve dug your cleats into the thick dirt that surrounds the plate, and on top of that the previous batters before you have dug a trench that puts you two inches or more below “sea level.” So your mobility is a little bit limited. By the time you realize that the ball is not going to break over the plate, and that it is making a bee line for your body, it is too late to move your entire torso. Some women actually stick their hand out to deflect the ball–usually only once. Some duck, but they don’t pull the bat down with them and it may get hit with the pitch, foul.

Quite a few, myself included, though, have practiced that defensive tuck that the major leaguers do. You see the pitch coming, you realize you’re not going to have time to move out of the way, but no way are you letting it hit you on your front for all the obvious reasons. You tuck and try to get your buttocks or some other well-padded place in harm’s way.

I got drilled once this year, on the ass. The ball left a perfectly round, completely black bruise. The bruise went so deep, it was actually painful to run for about two weeks. But that was better than getting it on the hip bone.

The third kind of pitch is the one that is coming right at your head. This one you don’t even have time to think about. Some part of you sees the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s hand, and something about the fact that the ball is coming straight toward your eye makes it almost disappear into a blind spot. You hit the deck before you even know you’ve done it. I had one like that in Arizona, that Kellie Manzie, the fast pitcher from Australia, threw. I don’t think it was intentional at all, but pitches do get away from pitchers sometimes. I felt the dirt hit me on the back before I was really aware that my reflexes had gotten my head out of the way as quickly as possible. At about the same time I was watching the catcher out of the corner of my eye jump up and lunge for it. Let’s just say it was a good thing I went down when I did. (And I hit the next pitch into right field, a pitch away, right where I like it, for a single.) I still haven’t been hit in the head and I never want to be.

So, to get back to hitting philosophy: each pitch was a new at bat. It made me more aggressive at the plate, which was unusual for me, but it worked. It made me feel happier about driving two hours for only one at bat, too.

Let me tell you, you can be having the worst day in the world, and it is all worth it if you get a hit. It sounds stupid, I know, but I can have a terrible day at work, be stuck in traffic for two straight hours on the way to the field, be losing 14-2, and have been called out on strikes on a bad call two innings ago… and it’s all worth it when the ball sails into right field and my foot hits first base.

Especially when it’s the last inning of the game and I’m either leading off the inning, or there are two out and I’m the last hope. I have a very odd streak going–I’m not even sure I should write about it because I might jinx myself. Starting in the middle of the 2003 season, whenever I came up in the last inning (sometimes, because of darkness, the umpires will declare the 4th or 5th the final inning), either needing to start a rally or with two out–I always got a hit. This year it has been either a hit or a walk. I am sure luck is a factor, but I think it also helps that I focus better when I feel the situation is more dire, and there is also the fact that I feel I get better as the game goes on–the more pitches I see, the better command I feel I have in the batter’s box. This is probably an illusion on my part, but it is just the kind of illusion and positive thinking that seems to lead to success in baseball. I think I hit better in the late innings, so I have more confidence when I go to the plate in the late innings, and the increased confidence helps me to hit better…

In the past two weeks, I have gone back to my more patient mode, waiting to zone a pitch and taking a walk if I don’t get the one I want. The end result is I think my batting average is around .300 and my on base percentage is between .400 and 500. (For about every four to five plate appearances I get one hit and one walk, and make out the other times.)

The other night was one of those last licks kind of situations. When I say our league is a family affair, I don’t just use that as an expression. Our coach Paula’s ex-husband Todd coaches one of the other teams in the league, and her daughter Meg catches for him. Todd decided to put Meg in to pitch the final two innings of the game, though, and as we came up to bat in the bottom of the inning (I think it was only the 5th, but we had a rain delay and it was really getting too dark to see by that point) I was due to bat third. Paula put herself into the lineup for the player who batted after me because she wanted to face her own daughter. But that meant one of the three of us had to get on base to bring her up. I had already made out twice and was feeling pretty low about it–I was called out on one strike that was so high and inside it almost hit me, and in the other at bat got into a hole on bad calls and tried to foul off a pitch, but popped up to the catcher in foul territory. I was doing the thing I try to avoid–which is beating myself up about it and deciding that I really suck at this game and should give it up… something every player should avoid since it’s a game of failure and we know that… but at the time when the minor emotional crisis of going oh-fer sneaks up on you, it takes a while to remember that.

Anyway, the first two struck out, so it was up to me. I don’t know if it was Paula in the on deck circle, or if it was just that meg really hasn’t pitched and was a little wild. I only saw four pitches from her, all balls. I walked, and my mood, which had been as dark as the storm clouds threatening, brightened immediately. Complete mood swing. Then I took second, on a pitch in the dirt–the first time I’ve done that all year. Paula worked a walk after telling Meg that if she got hit by pitch, she would charge the mound. She took a big lead off first and the catcher (lefthander Nikki, of all people, usually a late-inning pitcher) tried to nab her with a quick throw to the first baseman, but the ball went off her glove and I went to third. The next two batters walked–I guess Meg was wild–and I got to trot home. Maybe, I thought, I don’t completely suck at this game.

After the game, Paula announced the All Star selections that were voted by the players. I was fairly amazed to hear I was among those picked. Two innings earlier I was thinking I should hang it up, I can’t hit anymore, I’m too slow, etc. etc… and now my teammates were telling me they thought I deserved to be named among the league’s best. Wow. Mood swings, indeed.

Of course, one of my other great frustrations with the league has been how disorganized it is this year. (One of Diane’s criticisms…) The All-Star game, we were then told, is scheduled for Friday, August 20th. If I had known that a bit sooner, I wouldn’t have scheduled my vacation for then. Bummer…

So you go up, you go down. I had to decline the honor of playing in the game. corwin was willing to reschedule our travel plans–and I love him for that–so that I could play in the game, but… there are so many reasons why we shouldn’t change now. Hotel reservations, ticket bought, etc… And heck, with my elbow the way it is, I probably shouldn’t have even played this season… Like I said, up, down, up, down.

So now I’ve got one game left in my season, and then I can start another round of rehab. That way maybe next year, if I get that All-Star designation again, I will be able to live up to it.

Mar 23 2000: Does Every Fan Secretly Wish…?

March 23, 2000 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Women In Baseball

So I learned about an amazing thing today. Women’s Major League Baseball.

Right here in New England there’s the WNEBL, Women’s New England Baseball League, and according to American Women’s Baseball League there are women’s leagues/teams in fourteen states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia.


Now, you know I’m not seriously considering dropping everything in my already too-busy life (teaching tae kwon do three nights a week, running my own publishing company, community volunteering, etc…) to start training to play women’s baseball. You know I’m not in any kind of shape to play a really physically demanding sport–I’m only just getting back into fighting shape for tae kwon do after my back injury. And you know (if you’ve been reading these journal entries), that the first time in twenty years I even wore a glove, threw a ball, or caught, was just a few weeks ago. You KNOW I’m not thinking of playing baseball.

But you know that I am.

Does every fan long to be in the game, somewhere deep in his or her heart? Or is it just me? On the one hand, you accrue all this baseball knowledge through spectation and reading the articles and all that… why not be something other than an armchair quarterback? (Sorry, wrong sport, but you know what I mean.)

But on the other hand, maybe it’s better to live vicariously through the superstars we idolize. That way we can keep our illusions about our own abilities?

I am NOT thinking about trying to play baseball in a women’s league. I am thirty two years old. Heck, Pat Kelly, who played for the Yanks 1991-1997 is thirty two, and he announced today he’s retiring. I never played in little league or even softball. I don’t even know if I CAN play.

And yet it’s so tempting to go and find out. There’s a clinic/pre-tryout indoors in Danvers, MA this Sunday, at a place where they have an indoor clay field, and batting cages. Wouldn’t it be neat just to go and see…?

Since finding the site I have these little daydreams, a kind of montage plays in my head with locker room camaraderie, cheering from the dugout bench, making the catch at first (don’t ask me why I see myself at first base–it’s a mystery to me too), running out a grounder at first…

I can’t. Not without turning my life upside down. I don’t even have time or the physical stamina currently to consider getting into a local inter-business softball league. But it’s fun to dream, isn’t it?

And I want to keep my eye on the women’s league. It wasn’t too long ago people were pooh-poohing the idea of pro-women’s basketball. But now the WNBA has taken off. Could WMLB do the same? I’ll be watching.

Follow Why I Like Baseball on Twitter!

Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad here, right now: $0.02

Theme Tweaker by Unreal