“You Play Like a Girl!”
Story By: Niki Lorentzen
When I was small, I wanted to be just like my big brother. He was four years older than me, and everything he did was super cool, super fun, and something I wanted to be a part of. When he got Legos, I’d set aside my Barbies and want to build a rocketship with him.
When he got Hot Wheels, I’d put down my tea set and race outside to race the cars down our tree house slide.
So when he started playing Little League baseball, it was automatic that I wanted to play too. Except then, I was too little. When I finally got older and big enough to play, my dad taught me how to throw and catch a ball before my tryout because I wasn’t good enough yet.
When I finally got good enough, I tried out. But I didn’t understand why I couldn’t play on the same team as my big brother. It hit me when I heard the banter between my brother and his teammates – it was because I was a girl. I let it stop me. I played for the girls’ league instead.
After I had played softball for a few seasons and I was about 10 years old, I was really beginning to love playing. I loved getting dirty, I loved running around, and I loved getting better every time I practiced. I remember a game when I hit the ball so hard it rolled past the outfielders – I remember thinking, “I want to play this game for the rest of my life.” At that moment I absolutely fell in love with baseball – the game, the people, the nostalgia – and I never wanted the game to end.
I remember going to an Angels game with my family around this same age. I looked down on the field and I realized something – none of those people down there were girls. They were all men. Even the jersey I was wearing had a man’s last name on it. I didn’t have to even ask my parents; I knew the answer to the question I had in my mind: I couldn’t play professional baseball because I was a girl. It infuriated me.
In high school I constantly struggled between my love of the game and the importance of academics. I had to choose between spending the extra hour at practice and nailing my throw-downs, or acing tomorrow’s exams. I spent so many nights sleepless over the decision between softball or school – and it all came down to whether I wanted to go to a lower-level division one college to play ball, or to go to a top tier college to get an education. I eventually came to the heartbreaking decision that I needed to quit my team so I could focus on school, because there was no future for me (or any other softball player) in the sport beyond the college level.
I walked off the field, cleats and glove in hand, broken-hearted that I couldn’t reach my dreams because I was a girl. One girl didn’t let that stop her. Her name is Melissa Meyreux. If my 10-year-old self had known Melissa Meyreux would make it as a girl in professional baseball – at the age of 16, of all things – I never would have let being a girl stop me from playing the game.
I grew to accept my fate of not playing professionally. Had I known I could have actually done it someday, I would have changed my outlook completely – practiced harder, worked out more, and taken it more seriously. I’m disappointed with my 10-year-old self for accepting the logic that, “you can’t play, you’re a girl.”
So, Ms. Meyreux, thank you. You may have come a little late in my lifetime to have changed my career, but you have changed my outlook on women’s athletics and my future children’s outlook on opportunity. Thank you for not letting the boys stop you.
A Girl Who Let it Stop Her