Sarah Swalberg didn't set out to break any kind of gender barrier when she joined the Green River (Utah) High School baseball team as a freshman. She just wanted to keep playing baseball. Now, four years later, the starting infielder stands out for one reason, and it's not because she's the only person on the field wearing braids: She's just really good.
According to a story by the Deseret News' Amy Donaldson, Swalberg has started for all four years of her high school career with the Green River Pirates.
"Sometimes they think I'm the manager," Swalberg, who starts at second base for the Pirates, told the Deseret News. "They just overlook a girl. That kind of motivates me that they think a girl couldn't do it."
Not only can Swalberg do it, she can do it better than most players in the state. Sex has nothing to do with it, though it occasionally sets the stage for an opposing coach to bring in his fielders, making it easier for Swalberg to drive a pitch through the gaps.
In fact, it's drives just like that which combined with Swalberg's 3.9 GPA to help her earn Academic All-State honors. It's safe to say that Swalberg is the first girl to ever receive Utah Academic All-State honors in baseball (though there may be others somewhere else in the country).
Softball was never an option for the four-year varsity starter because, like all Class 1A schools, Green River doesn't field a softball team. Not that Swalberg has ever been intimidated by playing with boys. The senior first started playing baseball because her closest childhood friend started playing. Then, without ever thinking about it, she kept playing because she was having such a good time.
"I have just grown up with all these boys," Swalberg told the Deseret News. "I loved it so I just kept on playing it."
Those boys are happy that she's still on their team and not suiting up for an opponent. Fellow Green River senior Jason Johnson recalls a number of deep shots Swalberg has drilled over the heads of opposing defenses among his favorite memories of high school baseball. His brother Justin remembers one shot against an unnamed opponent in particular.
"Some people wonder why a girl plays baseball," Justin Johnson told the Deseret News. "She shows them why. ... She jacked it over their heads, left field I think."
While Swalberg's parents admitted that they once worried how she would fit in playing with a team of boys, they both said the entire team has been warm and welcoming with their daughter, who happens to be the fourth of five daughters in the Swalberg family.
Her coach, however, never had any doubts at all.
"All of the [Little League] coaches wanted to pick her because they knew she was a good ball player," Green River coach Greg Parsons told the Deseret News. "There was no question when she got to high school that she'd be playing baseball. She's always been one of the better players. She has a good knowledge of the game."