Anyone who has seen the movie A League of Their Own knows that any woman can play the game of baseball as good as any man. In the 1940’s they had their own professional league, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, but that has long since gone the way of the Romans. It’s in the past and, for a long time, so was the notion of a mixed gender Major League Baseball. This is no longer the case. It now seems inevitable that Major League Baseball will one day, before too long, welcome a woman into the fold.
The idea has gained enough traction the last few years that we may soon see it realized. How long will it take? Well, unfortunately, big league baseball is still very much a boy’s club and there’s still work to do in order to break up some of that thinking. But we’ve seen time and time again the lengths baseball minds will go to build a competitive ball club. It was one of the reasons for integrating the game back in 1947 and incorporating heavy mathematic formulas in the late 90’s. Change is the one constant in the world and, while baseball has always looked like baseball, philosophical changes that dictate the game will always find life in America’s pastime. So who is going to take that leap and change over 100 years of thinking? There are a few candidates.
Mo’ne Davis- Pitcher
At 14 years old, Mo’ne Davis has reached levels of notoriety the majority of human beings will never approach. After taking the Little League World Series by storm the Philadelphia native has appeared in Sports Illustrated, on MLB Network, ESPN and every other sports coverage medium you can imagine. Her fastball is light years ahead of players her age and the athleticism of the two sport athlete (she also excels at basketball) brings back memories of the days when baseball’s best prospects were stars in multiple sports (Think Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson). It’s probably fair to say that Davis has gotten more attention out of Major League baseball than anyone her age since a young catcher named Bryce Harper was lighting up Las Vegas.
Physically, her motion has brought to mind closer Jonathan Paplebon of the Nationals although she’ll probably profile better as a starter due to her height and longer stride. Her arm launches the ball, throwing at speeds unusual for her age, about 70 miles per hour, which could work against her by putting strain on such a young arm, but will more than likely continue to rise as she develops.
Davis got a glowing review from former female Negro League pitcher, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, after the two met in 2012.
“I predict she’s going to be the first lady in the major league.”
That’s high praise and a lot of optimism from Johnson, whose gender and race kept her out of the show all those years ago. Her bet is a solid one and many would share her estimation that the young Ms. Davis is the best hope for the century long mission. But her path is far from a sure thing. Davis’s future will rely entirely on her perseverance which is unquestionably strong as well as the progression of her stuff on the mound through high school. In order to break such a long standing prejudice you can’t be as good as the rest… you have to tower above them. If she develops like she already has the odds are very good.
Emma March- Pitcher/First Baseman
In 2014, two girls participated in the Little League World Series. They were the 17th and 18th females in the history of the tournament. Before Mo’ne Davis rose to unprecedented stardom there was Emma March whose Vancouver team reached the Series before Davis and her Philadelphia squad. All the way from Canada, Emma took the baseball headlines before anyone ever heard of Mo’ne Davis and, despite being overshadowed by her opponent on the mound, was nonetheless impressive. Her arsenal includes ab fastball, which she personally considers her best pitch, as well as a slider and a curveball. Her mechanics are smooth and workable. Her potential goes as far as she’s wiling to push it.
Without the fanfare like Davis has garnered, March’s future as a baseball prospect relies entirely on her ability. Like it or not name recognition is exceedingly important and the name “Mo’ne Davis” sticks out like a college kid named Dansby. March does benefit from where she lives, Canada. While Canadians are subject to the First Year Player Draft she can be sure she’s a step ahead of others in her region because of her story that made big news back in 2014.
Canada has become a hot region as of late, the Toronto Blue Jays are competitive while folks over in Montreal have done everything but storm the Commissioner’s Office to demand the return of the Expos. What we know for sure is that the Blue Jays, and maybe again the Expos, would love to add a home grown Canadian to their system and, if Ms. March can continue to dazzle, I wouldn’t be surprise to see the Jays chose her.
Melissa Mayeux- Shortstop
Vive La France!
Were I betting man, my money would easily go to French shortstop Melissa Mayeux, a teenage shortstop from France. Yes, France. How many French players do you know? Not many which is what makes this story doubly cool. At 16 years old Mayeux made history when she became the first girl ever to register for International Free Agency. It was a huge milestone and something I consider to be a huge advantage when it comes to the race towards breaking the gender barrier. She WILL NOT be eligible for the draft and will be able to sign with a big league team at any point. But she likely wouldn’t get a contract until somewhere nearer to her 18th birthday.
On the field, she mans the shortstop position well, reminding me of J.J. Hardy of the Orioles while at the plate, her quick hands and high leg kick brings to mind someone like Starlin Castro but with better plate discipline. She seems to have the tools to be able to hit for both average and power and she’s proven to be able to hit big league caliber pitching while playing in international competition. While I haven’t seen enough of her to determine whether she profiles better as a shortstop or second baseman she certainly has the athleticism to play both middle infield spots as well as third base if that was a move necessary.
It’s her position that works well in her favor. The middle infield is so premium that it may just be enough to cause even the staunchest front office men to take a flyer on her and break the barrier although I wouldn’t call Mayeux a real risk. She’s a prospect in the purest sense and, if given the chance to participate in even more international competitions, scouts will assuredly give her a good look. Personally, I’d rank her somewhere on the top international prospect list and I’d be surprised if that rank wasn’t listed officially once she’s eighteen and a little more developed.
Whether it’s Davis, March or Mayeux, the matter of women in big league baseball has shifted from an improbability to the exact opposite. It now seems probably that we will see a woman in Yankee Stadium or Wrigley or Fenway before too long. It has simply become a matter of “When” and not, as it had been for so long, a matter of “if”.