Women’s baseball game makes history at Farnham Park

Thu 11 May 2017

Starting at 3.00 pm on Saturday 6 May at a busy Farnham Park, two teams made up exclusively of female players played a baseball game, which may have been the first such game ever played in the UK.

The historic game featured the British University Baseball (BUB) All-Star Team, made up of women from across UK universities, and a UK Select Team that included many BSUK High Performance Academy players.

“I couldn't stop smiling throughout the entire game,” said Laura Hirai, who captained the UK Select team, and who has played both GB Baseball and GB Softball.  “Looking out at the massive baseball field compared to the softball field and seeing a team full of girls playing against another team full of girls, completely overwhelmed me.”

“If you want something to become the norm you have to act like its normal,” said Kate Winfield, who captained the university team.  “So to me it was just a normal baseball game.”

High skill levels​

Like any other game, this one was lit up by some spectacular feats of skill, none more so than the hat-trick of home runs and nine-RBI performance that Marianna Casal produced for the UK Select team, as well as a sliding play by Laura Hirai that was as good as anything you’ll see this season in the NBL.  On the university side, Kate Winfield showed off her left-handed bat with a double and Oona Ylinen racked up three strikeouts in her two innings of work on the mound as the UK Select team ran out comfortable winners.

“I'm used to being one of the less experienced players, but it did also feel oddly less competitive but more intense,” said Ylinen.  “Every play meant a lot more than normal, but everyone was also smiling and joking around regardless of it being a game, so it was easier to brush off a mistake and keep playing.”

The final score (28-4) was a mere detail among the larger result achieved by playing the game and the onlookers who rapidly took their place in the bleachers could be heard expressing surprise and admiration at what was unfolding.

Marianna Casal commented: “I couldn't believe this was the first game we'd ever had, it felt so comfortable yet so powerful to be on the field together.”

Looking forward

British University Baseball has always supported women’s involvement in the sport, and some of the biggest university clubs have had female leadership, including Loughborough, Nottingham, UEA, and Sheffield Universities.  Most teams regularly feature female players in their line-ups.

Of a total membership group of around 700, BUB has close to 100 female players, and it is the ambition of Dr Luke Stott, the women’s game organiser and BUB Commissioner, to bring that number up to around 50% of BUB’s membership.  In order to do that, however, more opportunities for women to play baseball will need to be created. 

“The plan is to open up baseball as a performance sport for women,” Stott added.  “Right now, at club level, women have the option of slowpitch or fastpitch softball and at university they only have slowpitch.  The hope is that by opening up this opportunity to play baseball as part of exclusively female teams, it will motivate and encourage more female players into playing all of our sports.”

“Normally I play with boys on the baseball diamond,” Laura Hirai commented, “but on Saturday I played with girls and I felt like we’ve taken a massive leap towards gender equality in baseball, in sport, and in society in general.”

“Not that long ago, the idea of women playing sport was laughable, and a few years before that it was illegal,” Luke Stott said, “but today it’s something else.  Today it’s novel, and tomorrow it needs to be normal.  Events like the women’s game will help us on that journey.

“The so-called glass ceiling is shattering,” Stott added, “piece by piece.  And we all know what a baseball can do to a pane of glass.”

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