Just when you thought that Girl Power died when the Spice Girls broke up, there comes word from BASEBALL DIGEST that suggests otherwise: the International Baseball Federation has including both men’s and women’s baseball in their bid to regain Olympic sports status in time for the 2016 Games. Somewhere in Baseball Fad Heaven, the Colorado Silver Bullets are smiling (or at least choking down a few Coors Lights with Eddie Gaedel and Bill Veeck).
But is this a giant leap forward in women’s sports, or just a sad attempt by the IBAF to get its sport back into the Olympics (with its collection of minor-league prospects and rank amateurs that makes the World Baseball Classic seem like the pinnacle of baseball achievement by comparison)? With women’s softball also being cut from the Olympics, adding a women’s baseball discipline is a perfect way to try and sneak back into the Olympics under the banner of “gender equity.”
Of course, there’s been quite a bit of discussion about women in baseball in recent weeks. We had Mackenzie Brown, the 12-year-old who became a national celebrity after throwing the first perfect game by a female in Little League history. Also, 16-year-old Eri Yoshida became the first female to start a game in Japanese professional baseball history - and proceeded to strike out the first batter she faced.
But as we pointed out a few weeks ago, there’s hardly a floodgate of girls going into baseball. While women’s baseball proponents point out that almost 250,000 girls play baseball through their teen years, that’s mainly girls playing in Little Leagues where they don’t have an organized junior softball option. Once they get the chance to play softball in high school, that’s where the vast majority of young female baseball players go.
So the IBAF’s gambit shouldn’t work (at this rate, we might as well just add kickball to the Olympics and be done with it), but stranger things have happened. What if women’s baseball does become an Olympic sport while softball remains out? Would colleges be forced to embrace women’s baseball at the expense of softball since it would be the only path to the Olympics? And most importantly - what does this mean for Jennie Finch?