The Little League World Series are going on right now, and they’re pretty much the cure for any baseball fan feeling burnt out by a long, disappointing season and the sad realities of Major League Baseball. The LLWS is what baseball is supposed to be: pure fun and the love of the game. MLB’s new mantra is “let the kids play,” but the LLWS is the one actually living up to it, with crazy batting stances (that Yasiel Puig has already mimicked), sportsmanship, and all kinds of fun. But the best part is seeing 12-year-old Maddy Freking absolutely dominating the game. In the 72 years of the Little League World Series, she’s only the 19th girl to play, and only the 6th female pitcher.
And she’s damn good.
Maddy Freking isn’t even a pitcher; she’s her team’s starting second baseman. But when she came in to pitch in the bottom of the 2nd inning, with one out and the bases loaded on Sunday, she became the 6th girl in history to take the mound at the LLWS. She caught the batter looking at strike three for the second out, and then sprinted off the mound and fired to the catcher to tag the runner out at home and end the inning without allowing a run. It’s more impressive than most of the Red Sox pitching has been all year.
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle compared her to fellow hard-throwing blonde Noah Syndergaard. Her manager Greg Bloom says Freking’s the best defensive second baseman he’s coached, a player who is “quiet, but she leads by example.” Her teammates say “she makes a great play… every game.” Her family has a batting cage and full baseball field in their backyard. Maddy Freking is as serious about the game as they come.
Girls were not allowed to play in Little League until 1974, and it wasn’t until 1984 that Victoria Roche became the first girl to play in the Little League World Series. There haven’t been many, only 19 girls to date. And it hasn’t been easy for them. Just open your Instagram app and you’ll see thousands of boys and grown men claiming they’d homer off Maddy or that she should be in a kitchen. I won’t even get in to how men speak to grown women like me, but the screenshots I have saved would disgust you.
What’s crazy is that people actually claim that sexism doesn’t exist in sports when the proof is so easy to find. The sexist comments on ESPN’s Instagram post about Maddy are right there for the world to see. I have been able to commiserate with every woman I’ve met in this industry over very similar demeaning encounters and instances of sexism. Most ridiculous, perhaps, is the fact that I’ve lost count of the number of times men have told me that my own experiences never happened to me.
When I was eleven, the athletics coach at my school – who definitely should not have been teaching children – told me that baseball was for boys, and softball was for girls. So I played the outfield on the softball team for a while, and then stopped playing on teams altogether. I gave up my dream (however impractical it was) of becoming the first woman pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and I regret it. I’m so glad girls like Mo’Ne Davis and Maddy Freking are out here to inspire the next generation not to give up. And I guarantee we’ll see more girls in games next year.
To all the doubters and haters out there saying you’d hit a homer off Maddy Freking, I guarantee you’d strike out and land on your knee like Manny Machado in Game 5 of the World Series. It’s time to get on board, because the only people who look bad are the ones cyberbullying a child for being awesome. And she’s not the first, nor will she be the last; Maddy Freking is showing little girls exactly what they can do, and soon, they’ll do it, too.
The future is female. Root, root, root for girls.
Quotes via ESPN
Photo vis AP