Sabadosa: Local girls hold out for a league of their own
By Regina Sabadosa Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org September 20, 2012 1:10PM
Danielle Allen (left) and Alyssa De Chene, both local high school girls who prefer women’s baseball to softball, stand during a recent trip to North Carolina for the USA Women’s National Baseball tryouts. | Supplied Photo
Updated: October 24, 2012 6:14AM
One of my all-time favorite movies, “A League of Their Own,” is based on the true story of the emergence of organized women’s professional baseball during the 1940s.
While this historic era in American sports played out during World War II, when many male pro baseball players were serving our country, you may be surprised to know that women’s baseball is still alive and kicking — but primarily in other countries.
I recently caught up with two local young ladies who are passionate about women’s baseball, which is not to be confused with women’s softball.
Danielle Allen, daughter of Lisa and Jeff Allen, of Oak Lawn, is a freshman at Oak Lawn Community High School. Alyssa De Chene, of Alsip, is a junior at Shepard High School and is the daughter of Yesenia and Mike De Chene.
Allen and De Chene first met several years ago as rivals while each played on opposing “all boys” travel baseball teams.
The girls’ paths would cross again in 2009 when they located each other and joined the Chicago Pioneers Girls Baseball program, a rare girls baseball opportunity on the North Side of Chicago that was the brainchild of Mary Jo and Greg Stegemen, of Skokie.
That same year, the Chicago Pioneers made history by being the first all-girls team to play in the inaugural Cooperstown Classic at Cooperstown Dreams Park in New York.
While there, Allen and De Chene were given a private tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame. They also were invited to try on some of the vintage uniforms used by the professional women players who were later portrayed in the movie.
Typically in the United States, girls who have an interest in playing baseball automatically are directed to softball. It is rare to find programs in any schools where opportunities exist for girls to participate in baseball, outside of trying out and making the cut for baseball teams intended for the boys.
While baseball and softball have a lot in common, they are two very different sports. Softball is not “baseball for girls” with a smaller field, as most tend to believe.
The major differences between the two sports are the size of the ball, the type of bat used, pitching style, size of the field, distance from pitcher’s area to home plate, and the absence of a pitcher’s mound in softball.
Why baseball? Allen, who catches, pitches and plays first base, said, “I love baseball.” Her baseball experience has allowed her to meet new people and to travel.
De Chene, who pitches and plays infield, tried softball and “hated it,” she said. She got frustrated with all the dropped balls and was always afraid of hurting the other girls, she said.
These girls are tough. They seem to embrace the expression, “There is no crying in baseball.” While De Chene has suffered a broken nose, Allen’s worst injury was a huge, swollen and black eye. They said they continue to play while injured and never want their parents running out on the field when things happen.
This past August, the Chicago Pioneers sent a team of girls — including Allen and De Chene — to participate in the Baseball Canada-sanctioned inaugural Bantam Girls International Invitational. The team was invited by Baseball Nova Scotia to represent the United States in this historic event. Women’s baseball is very popular in Canada.
A few weeks ago, Allen and De Chene joined 30 other young American women in Cary, N.C., to try out for USA Women’s National Baseball with hopes of playing in the Friendship Series next year. While they were two of the youngest there, they are hopeful about being considered, if not in this cut, possibly in the spring for the re-evaluation.
Back home, both girls will be trying out for the boys baseball teams at their high schools. De Chene has been on the team both freshman and sophomore years and hopes to make the varsity team this year, she said.
Both sets of parents agree that it is a huge financial commitment to keep their daughters’ dreams alive. Since programs are scarce and not supported by outside organizations, funding is not available, and baseball scholarships for girls are pretty much non-existent.
Allen said she hopes this article will serve to encourage more girls to consider pursuing baseball and to spur local baseball organizations to recognize the interest girls have in baseball, not just softball. She said she feels strongly that the U.S. needs to offer more programs to develop some grass-roots girl baseball players.
Can it be for Allen’s and De Chene’s field of dreams, “If you build it, SHE will come?”
For info or to begin a dialogue about women’s baseball, contact Lisa Allen at email@example.com or Mike De Chene at firstname.lastname@example.org.
News From Our Neighbors
The huge Reavis High School Craft Fair featuring more than 200 booths will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the school, 6034 W. 77th St., Burbank. Come support the vendors and school clubs.
I will be there. I hope to see all of you — stop by my booth to say, “Hello.”