By Troy Mauriello
When 7-year-old Kieran Richardson took the field for her first season of baseball in Bayside Little League, she didn’t have much of an issue finding a familiar face.
Her team featured mostly players from her classes at school, as most teams do in the league’s younger divisions. However, if Kieran was looking for a fellow girl to share her experience with, that was a different story.
This season, Kieran was one of just 25 girls out of over 300 total players in Bayside Little League. She was also the only girl in the 6- and 7-year-old division.
Despite this, Kieran’s mother, Kimberly Foss, felt as though her daughter had a great experience playing in her first season.
“She definitely enjoyed it, and she improved in everything, her hitting, her catching, her throwing,” Foss said.
Foss noted that her daughter didn’t have a great time playing at first, and it was difficult for Kieran to be enthusiastic before the season settled into a game-focused schedule. But Foss gave immense credit to coach Jeff Warman and his staff for persuading Kieran to stick with baseball, a decision that ended up leading to a big turnaround in feelings for the 7-year-old.
“Her mom approached me and said she wanted to quit, and I told her, ‘get through the clinics and after the first game if you still tell me you don’t have fun, then you can quit, but play one game for me,’” Warman said. “And after the first game you saw that big smile on her face and how much she enjoyed it.”
In terms of teammates, both Warman and Foss felt as though Kieran was treated equally to every other player, something they thought was simply common sense. Teammates frequently cheered her on while coaches made sure that her first experience with the game of baseball was a positive one.
“I think they [Kieran’s teammates] look past the gender thing,” Warman said. “They’re all in the same class together, so it’s not like they’re not familiar with her. They always see her at the birthday parties together [and] they always all attend the same events.”
If anything, Kieran may have heard more cheers from her team’s supporters in the parents section for her at-bats.
“They were all always rooting for her to hit the ball, even the mothers of the boys, because she was the only girl on the team,” Foss said.
Yet it’s interesting to think about what may have caused this recent downturn of female participation in the Little League.
Of course, girls choosing to play other sports could be a factor, but parents in Bayside wonder if there might have been some confusion about inclusion in the league. Foss noted that some parents were unaware that girls could even participate in the program at the beginning of the season.
“One of her classmates might be signing up for next year,” Foss said. “Her mother saw Kieran on the team, and she said that she wasn’t aware that girls could play on the team as well.”
However both Warman and League President Bob Reid feel as though the advertising is clear enough, despite the confusion. Warman noted that sending out a mass e-mail to parents during registration next season would definitely help.
Reid, who has served as president since 1991, noted that there was a softball division in the league for quite some time before being disbanded in the last 10 years. Even during those times, girls have been — and always will be — welcome to play baseball.
“Bayside Little League has always been co-ed,” Reid said. “It started in 1953, so it’s got 65 years, and we’ve always been co-ed. And we’ve had some extremely good girl ballplayers that have come through the program.”
Reid and Warman can both agree that players like Kieran will only help raise awareness for girls and, in turn, boost enrollment.
“I think if it wasn’t known, now it’s definitely known after this season,” Warman said.