Girls' baseball in N.L. has grown exponentially. Here's why

·5 min read
Girls' baseball is well ahead in the count as numbers are growing across several organizations throughout the province. (St. John's Minor Baseball Association/Facebook - image credit)
Girls' baseball is well ahead in the count as numbers are growing across several organizations throughout the province. (St. John's Minor Baseball Association/Facebook - image credit)
St. John's Minor Baseball Association/Facebook
St. John's Minor Baseball Association/Facebook

The girls of summer are back in full swing across Newfoundland and Labrador for another season, but the growth of baseball among young women is no accident — in fact, it's been meticulously plotted by organizers across the province.

Numbers have been growing, even through a pandemic, and there's lots of activity at ball parks from coast to coast.

Kristyn Coley represents the St. John's-metro area on the board with Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador. She's also executive director with St. John's Minor Baseball, chair of Women in Baseball N.L. and a coach with the women's high performance program.

Coley told CBC News on Monday participation among girls in baseball has been skyrocketing in the St. John's area since 2018, when her organization started a four-team girls' only league.

This season there are 20 girls' teams across three divisions — under 12 years old, under 14 and under 17 — which encompasses St. John's, Mount Pearl and Paradise.

"When you really just see the numbers like that it's pretty incredible to be a part of something where everyone is buying in and wants to be involved," Coley told CBC News on Monday.

But it's not only the northeast Avalon seeing a boost in numbers. Coley said the game is picking up across the province with help from other community-based baseball organizations.

"We have some great hubs in Grand Falls, Corner Brook, Bay St. George and Pasadena as well. Since 2019 we've seen a 72-per-cent increase in female players across the province," she said.

"We were up over 650 players provincially last year. The jury is still out on numbers for this year because we're just getting going. So far, by all accounts, it's been really positive."

Building confidence

On the west coast of the island, Corner Brook Minor Baseball president Jason Mosher said dividing girls and boys is what actually helped grow the game among young women. In most instances where numbers are low, girls play divisional baseball on boys' teams.

Mosher said that can be intimidating for girls trying to learn the game. In 2014, he said, there were only four girls playing the game in Corner Brook. This year girls are back among boys teams but also have their own teams who practice and play against each other.

Gary Locke/CBC
Gary Locke/CBC

"We peaked three years later at 144. Currently we have 126 in our association," said Mosher.

"Once we gave them the opportunity to get out there and play on their own, then they built confidence and worked on their skills in a non-judgmental environment and their skill level is pretty much on par with the boys."

Coley said a strong volunteer base that's passionate and committed to growing girls' baseball has been a key factor in Newfoundland and Labrador. Baseball N.L. has a women's committee responsible for all women's participation in baseball in the province.

"We've also tried really hard to work on mentorship programs. I think from the female perspective representation is really important," Coley said.

"There's not a lot of adult females in the province who played baseball growing up. There's not a lot of coaches, there's not a lot of umpires, there's not a lot of scorekeepers but we're working really hard behind the scenes to try to increase that."

Trailblazer

Heather Healey of Paradise knows exactly what it's like coming up through the ranks as one of few girls playing ball. However, it didn't stunt her progress in the game.

Healey would go on to play with the Canadian national women's team at just 16 years old in 2014, when the club travelled to Tokyo for the World Cup. She played with the national team again in 2016 in South Korea and has been travelling with the club on and off over the last few years while pursuing a career as an RCMP officer based out of Saskatchewan.

"In Paradise I played boys, I had to play with the boys. It didn't really faze me, it didn't bother me too much. But some other girls, they don't really want to," Healey told CBC News on Tuesday.

"Not too many girls wanted to play baseball. It was kind of a boys' sport. When I was growing up I remember maybe one other female playing with me when I was really young."

Submitted by Heather Healey
Submitted by Heather Healey

In late June, Paradise Minor Baseball hosted a tournament in her honour — the Heather Healey Invitational. That organization is also showing signs of growth since bringing in a girls' program in 2018 with just 14 players to the now 70 players across three divisions.

While Healey wasn't able to be there for the inaugural running of the tournament in her name, she kept tabs on the games from her home on the mainland.

"I was looking at the photos and looking at how many girls were there and I ended up tearing up," she said.

"That's always been what we wanted in this province and when I was a little girl playing baseball that would have been my dream to play a bunch of other girls."

As for the remainder of the summer, Coley said there's lots on the docket.

The province is hosting the 21U Women's National tournament in August — its first appearance in the event since 2014 — and the 13U Atlantic National tournament in September.

Both are being played in St. John's.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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