Women and Baseball Keep Growing

Women and Baseball
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Women and baseball have been around just as long as men and baseball. Their connection with the game began in the mid-1800s, and continues even today with more and more getting involved in coaching, umpiring, and even as a general manager.

Early History

According to an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum site, history tells us that as early as 1866 Vassar College, then an all-women’s school, started its’ first baseball team. Also, in 1898 Lizzie Arlington is believed to be the first woman to play on a men’s professional team.

Novelty

Women and baseball were considered a novelty entertainment. Permanent teams and leagues were rare. They would always try to represent themselves more seriously, but were always told women and baseball will never work. It wasn’t until the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which formed in 1943 and ran until 1954 that women were taken seriously.

All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League formed in 1943, and ran until 1954. The United States and World War II led several major league baseball executives to form a new professional league with women players. It was to maintain baseball, and keep it popular while the majority of able men were away.

A League of Their Own

It wasn’t until film director Penny Marshall made the movie “A League of Their Own” that showed how popular women in baseball were. The movie showed that the league was popular, and even had over 900,000 fans for the 1948 season. After the movie came out more research was done, and showed just how popular it was with both men and women, and even advertising. This contributed to the league’s extensive exposure and marketing focus.

Ban Lifted

Women and baseball kept on growing. However, back in 1952, major league baseball had a ban on signing women to contracts. In 1992, they lifted it and in the 1993 draft, the Chicago White Sox drafted left-handed pitcher Carey Schueler. She was the first woman ever drafted by a Major League Baseball team. Her dad was Ron Schueler, who at the time of the draft was the general manager of the White Sox.

Umpiring

Women and baseball kept growing, but baseball itself, is overdue for a female umpire. However, one may be on the way. Jen Pawol, an umpire in the minors, was at Double-A last year. Pawol is hoping to become the second woman along with Pam Postema to umpire at Triple-A, and then someday be calling a game in the major leagues. Only nine women have umpired in the minor leagues. Along with Pawol, Isabella Robb, is the only other woman umpiring in the minor leagues. In 2002, Postema became the first female umpire to work a major league exhibition game.

General Manger

In 2020, the Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as their new general manager. A longtime executive, Ng became the first woman to serve as a GM in the major leagues, and is also the highest-ranking female baseball executive. She has been involved in major league baseball since 1991, and became special projects analyst before being promoted to Assistant Director of Baseball Operations under then-GM Ron Schueler in 1995. She has also worked for five other teams, and worked for Joe Torre as a senior vice president of baseball operations.

Coaches and Managers

In 2020, the San Francisco Giants hired Alyssa Nakken as an on-field coach. This made her the first female to hold such a position in baseball history. She also became the first woman to coach on the field in a regular season major league game when she entered the game as the first base coach on April 12, 2022.

The New York Yankees named Rachel Balkovec manager of their low-Class A minor league team, the Tampa Tarpons, making her the first woman to work as a full-time manager of a major league-affiliated team.

This past January, Ronnie Gajownik was hired to manage the Hillsboro Hops. They are an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, which made her the first woman to manage a Class High-A baseball team.

Future of Women in Baseball

Women and baseball will keep growing. In recent years, women have made strides in America’s favorite pastime, as coaches, front office leads, and on broadcast teams. In fact, more than a dozen women were signed to operations departments for various major league teams since 2021.

Women have proven time and again that they can play, and be successful in top roles in baseball. Will we see a woman play in an official major league game? Only time will tell. They do, however, have a bright future in both minor league baseball, and major league baseball.

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James Marshall

James Marshall

Jim Marshall has lived in Phoenix, AZ for 50 years. He is an avid baseball fan, but enjoys all of Arizona's local sports teams, including Diamondbacks, Suns, Cardinals and Coyotes. In addition to the four major sports, he closely follows the Phoenix Mercury, Arizona Rattlers and Arizona State Sun Devils. Jim's passion for baseball continues beyond the field as he is an avid collector of baseball memorabilia. His favorite athlete of all time is Baseball Hall of Fame member Harmon Killebrew. In addition to watching, reading and talking about sports, he takes time to travel and appreciate the great state of Arizona with his lovely wife, Patti.

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