Little League pitcher Mo’ne Davis has captured the attention of the national media after she pitched a shutout in the Little League World Series on Aug. 15. Her Philadelphia team defeated a team from South Nashville 4-0 and Davis’ team made it to the semifinals before being eliminated with a 6-5 loss to Chicago on Thursday.
The 13-year-old’s success in baseball raised the question of why more girls don’t play the sport and end up opting for softball instead.
Mark Koos has four daughters and is the head baseball coach at Woodlan. He is also the Wildcat Baseball director at St. Joe.
“My girls have been playing fast-pitch softball since they started playing baseball for Wildcat,” Koos said.
All four of his girls – now ages 13, 11, 10 and 8 – have played Wildcat Baseball since the age of 6.
“Wildcat is unique,” Koos said. “There’s a few girls, but the older they get, the fewer play. By the time the girls are 11 or 12, they might be the only girls on their team, but as long as they continue to play well, they’ll be respected. Eleven- and 12-year-old boys will respect anyone who hits well, fields well and throws well.
“There’s something about earning your stripes when it comes to respect in the game of baseball. Yeah, my girls have earned their stripes, they’ve struck boys out while pitching, hit home runs off a boy. That certainly gained respect. No longer was she the girl on the other team, she became Samantha, who became a pretty good player.”
Koos’ daughters have found an advantage to playing both baseball and softball.
“In some respects, they think baseball is easier,” he said. “Since the ball is lighter, it’s easier to hit and throw it further.”
According to a report by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, boys and girls differ little during childhood in co-ed sports; the two genders prove to perform equally. Due to physical changes through adolescence, however, the NASPE believes that since males gain more height, muscle mass and strength than girls during their teenage years, it becomes unsafe for girls and boys to compete against each other.
By the time the players reach high school, though, girls who play baseball have shifted attention to other sports or take advantage of the fact Indiana high schools have had fast-pitch softball since the 1984-85 season.
The primary differences between softball and baseball are the size of the ball, the size of the outfield and the style of pitching.
“Davis’ career as a pitcher will end if she switched to fast-pitch,” Koos said. “It’s just different in terms of (pitching). You can’t do that from an underhand position. If a girl was really interested in pitching and they got interested as an 11- or 12-year-old, they may want to stick with it when they get to high school.”
It seems that if anything, softball pitching would be more difficult.
Koos handed his nephew a softball and instructed him to pitch it underhand, and the nephew couldn’t do it.
“There’s a very specific science to it,” Koos said. “Pitching a baseball is overhand, which is something you do when you start playing catch. Fast-pitch, to time it right, it’s very difficult. You can humble a 12-year-old in a hurry by doing that.”
For Koos’ daughters, since they opt not to pitch in softball, the style of play is the basically the same. Baseball gives them additional opportunities to play.
“Mechanically, their swing has to be really similar, really short with their stride, can’t have a long swing or they’ll never catch up to a good fastball,” Koos said. “This is true in softball and baseball.”
Koos would welcome a girl on the Woodlan team if she proved that she deserved the roster spot.
“I’d love it,” he said. “I believe about any sport that if a girl can earn a roster spot by merit, they’ll gain the respect of their teammates and their opponents. It’s difficult to throw a baseball fast. Mo’ne Davis, I’m sure, is seen by her teammates as a terrific pitcher not just a girl who is a terrific pitcher.”