At Trailblazer Series, role models abound


LOS ANGELES — As a kid growing up playing baseball, Stacy Piagno wanted nothing more than to just blend in with the boys as the only girl on the team.

As an adult, Piagno’s perspective has evolved. Girls playing baseball is special. It is unique. It’s also becoming more commonplace and will continue to move in that direction, as long as this generation of female baseball players draws attention to the growing trend within the sport.

LOS ANGELES — As a kid growing up playing baseball, Stacy Piagno wanted nothing more than to just blend in with the boys as the only girl on the team.

As an adult, Piagno’s perspective has evolved. Girls playing baseball is special. It is unique. It’s also becoming more commonplace and will continue to move in that direction, as long as this generation of female baseball players draws attention to the growing trend within the sport.

“There’s a responsibility where we have to be trailblazers for future generations,” said Piagno, a member of USA Baseball Women’s National Team. “If we want to continue to play baseball and have women’s baseball grow, it’s important for us to be role models and it’s so important for us to open doors for those younger girls.”

Doors are wide open this weekend in Los Angeles, where 100 girls ages 11-13 are participating in the Trailblazer Series, a three-day event to be held at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton. The girls — who hail from all over the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada — will be split into six teams for a round-robin tournament Saturday and Sunday.

• MLB creates path for girls at Trailblazer Series

Major League Baseball has worked with dozens of national organizations, all of which have committed to providing girls opportunities to participate in their baseball leagues. USA Baseball’s National Member Organizations — AABC, American Legion, Babe Ruth League, Dixie Boys and Majors, Dixie Youth, Little League International, NABF, NFHS, PONY, and USSSA — are all working toward growing the opportunities afforded to girls in the game.

Video: MLB, USA Baseball on upcoming girls baseball events

In addition to games, the Trailblazer Series features several special activities, including non-game instruction from the coaches, appearances by special guests connected to baseball, and a visit on Saturday to Chavez Ravine, where the Dodgers will be celebrating the game’s most distinguished trailblazer — Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

The Trailblazer Series coaching staff, which consists of 12 past and present members of the USA Baseball Women’s National Team and Baseball For All founder Justine Siegal, spent the morning Friday preparing for the girls’ arrivals later in the afternoon.

“It means the world to be here and to have the opportunity to work with the younger girls and share our experiences with them, and let them know that we’ve been through some of the things that you’ve been through, whether it’s good or bad,” Piagno said. “We can help them learn and maybe help steer them in the right direction.”

Video: Bridget Venturi talks about the Trailblazer Series

Piagno has experience in this area. In 2016, she and teammates Kelsie Whitmore and Anna Kimbrell joined the Independent League Sonoma Stompers. Piagno has played for the team the past two seasons.

Piagno said she was one of the lucky ones who was able to play baseball through high school rather than be funneled over to the softball side. She wants girls to know that they have options as they get older.

“The percentage of girls that play Little League drops significantly by the time they get to high school,” Piagno said. “There is a small handful of girls that didn’t get to play during high school, and then after high school, it drops to one percent or so of girls who actually go on to play college baseball.

“I think just in society it’s engrained to us that girls have to play softball, boys have to play baseball. It’s so rare for girls who do play baseball to continue pushing through it.”

The girls participating in the Trailblazer Series this weekend will be encouraged to follow that path, if they so desire. It’s a message today’s coaches wish they had relayed to them when they were kids.

“The weekend for me is about keeping the passion alive and trying to reflect in those kids the same feelings I had when I was 12 years old,” said coach Bridget Venturi, an outfielder for the USA Baseball Women’s National Team in 2004 and ’06. “I wanted to win the World Series, the Super Bowl and the NBA Championship all at once, every day, after school. If these kids can keep that alive in their minds and hearts, it’s possible — whatever their dream is. That’s a successful trailblazer for me.”

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.



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