Let her play ball

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My mother and father instilled gender equity in both theory and practice for my younger brother and me: When we were in elementary school, Mom earned her master’s degree, then began her own career.

Yet, though I was raised in a Christian household, there were few things in my childhood as sacrosanct as this law:

Baseball was for boys. Girls played softball.

I knew “separate but equal” had an egregious history in American jurisprudence, but I trusted the principle that justly pertained to the sport I loved.

Years later, I became the father of a daughter. My sacrosanct boys-only law was smashed out of sight like a home run!

As was true in my experiences with my mother and then my daughter, I have found that a personal connection most often changes my opinion. In addition to my family history, I wish to highlight the stories of two women currently in baseball.

Genevieve Beacom is a 17-year-old left-hander who is the first woman to play in the Australian Baseball League. She voluntarily forgoes her salary to stay eligible for her dream of playing college baseball here in America with the boys. She would be the first woman to achieve that distinction as well.

Also this year, Rachel Balkovec became the first woman to serve as manager of a professional baseball team when she was hired by the Tampa Tarpons, a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees. The Yankees had added her to their farm system in November 2019, making her the first woman hired as a full-time hitting instructor by a big-league team.

Both Beacom and Balkovec have already made history and will likely break more gender barriers. What is perhaps even more remarkable is the lack of controversy among baseball players — the guys!

According to Kevin Reese, the Yankees’ vice president of player development, the decision to promote Balkovec was easy: “Everybody was on board.” Justin Huber, general manager for Beacom’s team in Australia, put it this way: “Genevieve is pitching because she can get the outs.”

Reflecting on Beacom’s gender, Huber noted, “It’s not like Jackie Robinson who had to face down all that hatred when he broke the color barrier.” Our society is in a vastly different place from the segregation of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

But I know that sexism still exists in my own profession. Not everyone plays by the same rules in the church. My clergy colleagues are blocked by a stained-glass ceiling that prevents women from certain church jobs because of their gender. Though women have made progress, plenty of Christian leaders, as well as people in the pews, still believe preaching is for boys only.

But just as Beacom can step on the mound, women should be able to stand in the pulpit. Beacom can get the outs, and other women can bring the sermon — case in point, my wife, Rev. Ginny Taylor-Troutman! Just as Balkovec has worked her way up the professional ranks, women clergy should have the same opportunities.

I realize that not everyone agrees that baseball is America’s national pastime. But I hope that every daughter will be able to follow her dreams, either to the diamond or pulpit or wherever her talent and heart lead her. I hope everyone can get on board with this ideal. Let her play ball.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”

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