The MLB season is just a few days old, but the league is already rolling out a really exciting new event. MLB and USA Baseball announced on Thursday that they’ll be hosting the Trailblazer Series, a baseball tournament that will celebrate girls baseball. The three-day tournament will be held at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. on April 13-15 (to coincide with Jackie Robinson Day on April 15), and will feature 100 girls aged 16-and-under from 20 states and Canada.
The tournament will be divided into two four-team divisions, and each team will be coached by top players and coaches from various levels of women’s baseball. In addition to the tournament itself, the participants will get special non-game instruction from coaches, and they’ll be attending the game at Dodger Stadium on Jackie Robinson Day.
This is the first girls baseball event that MLB has ever hosted, and that’s significant, especially since these girls will be playing baseball and not softball. Young girls are often shunted into softball instead of baseball as they get older, and highlighting girls playing baseball is a way to show young girls (and their parents) that baseball should be an option for them.
This tournament is also going to be honoring stars of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which ran from 1943 to 1954. Each of the eight teams will be named after an AABPBL player: Dottie Green, Joanne Winter, Faye Dancer, Doris “Sammye” Sams, Dorothy “Dottie” Kamenshek, Pepper Paire, Shirley Burkovich, and Maybelle Blair. In fact, Shirley “Hustle” Burkovich and Maybelle “Mae” Blair will be throwing out ceremonial first pitches during the tournament.
Other important MLB figures will also be attending the Trailblazers Tournament: Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson; Jennie Finch, Olympic gold medalist in women’s softball; Kim Ng, MLB’s Senior Vice President for Baseball Operations (and the highest ranking woman in MLB); and Billy Bean, MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion. Notably, that list of luminaries doesn’t include commissioner Rob Manfred.
This is a tremendous thing for MLB to do. Women’s professional baseball has long been neglected by MLB, and the only way it can experience a renaissance is for MLB to lead the charge. It’ll take more than just a girls baseball tournament, of course, but if MLB is willing to put in the work, it could reap tremendous rewards. The NBA was central to the founding of the WNBA, and MLB could do the same thing for women’s professional baseball. There’s limitless potential here, and a chance to attract even more fans to its sport. It can’t be looked at as a fragmentation of MLB’s audience, because it wouldn’t be. It would be an expansion and a supplement.
The real world isn’t like the TV show “Pitch.” The chances of a woman breaking through in MLB are essentially zero. But women should have the opportunity to play baseball at a high level, and MLB should absolutely care about that. The Trailblazer Series doesn’t prove that they do, but it shows that they’re at least thinking about women in baseball. Every movement has to start somewhere, and this is a good place for this one to start.
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