Great Britain hosted their first-ever all women’s baseball game on Sunday, May 7, 2017. Organized by Laura Hirai and Luke Stott, 20 women participated.
The event was for some of the softball women, curious to learn more about baseball but wanting to play with other girls. The team recruited some university students to play against and the game was on. The teams played with wood bats and, though the field and ball sizes were overwhelming for those new to the game, Hirai said a few of those balls managed to get smashed into the outfield. Hirai gave them a fundamentals lesson and the teams held to baseball rules while utilizing their softball fundamentals.
“I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the entire game,” Hirai told EBSM. The GB U19 national baseball team pitcher, and U19 national softball team player, has had a busy spring. She not only was named to both national teams and organized this event, she was at Prague Baseball & Softball Week in late April to coach the softball crew.
According to Hirai the day was beautiful. The sun even made an appearance at times which, anywhere in spring is a delight but on the hills of London, an unexpected surprise no doubt. There was a crowd on-hand, including men who were in the area for a softball tournament, to, as 17-year old Hirai put it, “watch girls kick butt on the baseball field.”
Hirai organized and participated in the event. Though she normally plays on the diamond with boys, she said, “that day I played with girls and I felt like girls have taken a massive leap toward gender equality in baseball, in sport and in society in general.”
Ever since she began playing baseball, Hirai has followed the philosophy, 'Why wait for change when it can be me who makes it?' Perhaps that is why she serves as International Youth Ambassador for the International Women’s Baseball Center. She had a dream of playing with women on a baseball field. Hirai says she surrounded herself with people that shared her passion and dream to create a women’s baseball game in the UK.
That, in turn, made it much easier to recruit girls to help make her dream a reality. One of those people was British Softball UK's Luke Stott. Stott is no rookie planner. As president of the Loughborough Baseball & Softball Club he orgainzed tournaments and an All Star game. He also created the National University Baseball League (NUBL) which has 16 teams across three divisions that play 70 games a season. Stott told EBSM, "As commissioner of British University Baseball I've always supported women's involvement in our sport. I'm incredibly pleased to have played a small part in the progression of the women's game in this country." According to Stott the university league's rosters are 15% female. He's looking to increase participation to 50% but says, "to do that we need more opportunities for women to play. That's why this past weekend was momentous."
While this was a one-off event, for now, the long term goal is to start a women's baseball league. "For now it's just about exposing the sport to women and letting them know they don't have to be dragged into softball," Hirai said. She believes that universities are the right place to start.
This game ended another historic week for women’s baseball. In Argentina the first women’s baseball league opened their season as well. If June follows April and May’s leads, there is a good chance that women’s baseball may soon be the norm rather than the exception. Perhaps, by the time 2024 comes along it will simply be baseball and softball in the Olympics with mixed teams competing in both sports and finally showing what players of each game know to be true. They are completely different sports and everyone has the right to play whichever one they chose.