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Check out Bill Littlefield's book review and interview with author Jennifer Ring on this week's episode of Only A Game.
Excerpted from A Game of Their Own: Voices of Contemporary Women in Baseball by Jennifer Ring by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. © 2015 by Jennifer Ring. Available wherever books are sold or from the Univ. of Nebraska Press 800.848.6224 and at nebraskapress.unl.edu.
Chapter 13 - Lilly Jacobson
She never took her future in baseball for granted. She thought about only one year at a time.
“My goal had been to play high school baseball. That was a big thing, to be the only girl that didn’t get shoved into softball and to be the first girl in Nevada to play high school baseball. I didn’t have goals beyond that because I didn’t think about college baseball that much.
If you think about that in the context of boys, it’s ridiculous. Boys assume that they are going to play high school baseball. Especially someone with the amount of talent that I had and the amount of hard work that I put in, based on my skills, it should have been an assumption that I would play high school baseball, but it wasn’t. So I accomplished that, and I didn’t think too much beyond that. Especially because I’m also very into school — I’m a good student. So I wasn’t thinking about college in terms of sports; I was thinking about college in terms of academics. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my brains for baseball.”
When asked whether she might have felt differently had she been a boy who was a baseball player with high academic aspirations, she responds that such a situation is nearly impossible for her to imagine.
“It’s really hard to do those kind of hypotheticals because I only know my experience as I had it. I’ve never been just a guy on the team. So definitely, as much as I would like to be able to play and not have anybody say, ‘That’s weird. Why is that girl playing?’ being the only girl is a huge part of my baseball identity. Which is why in college I really thought it would be nice not to be different. I almost didn’t want to play because I wondered what it would be like to go to school and not be ‘the girl that plays baseball.’”
During late spring of Lilly’s senior year in high school, Jim Glennie contacted her to suggest that she try out for the 2006 Women’s National Team in June, just a few days after she graduated high school. The western regional tryouts were to be held at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, spring training home of Lilly’s beloved Oakland Athletics. She was thrilled by the opportunity to even step onto that field, much less try out for the Women’s National Team, although she hadn’t even heard of the women’s national baseball team. At first she actually thought it would be less nerve-racking to compete against other girls who played baseball, but when she got her first look at a Major League field full of women baseball players, she felt even more pressure.
There were over sixty women at this regional tryout, and most of them were very good ballplayers.
Lilly remembers, “Oh, it was shocking. I mean I just assumed that I was one of the few girls in the country playing baseball with boys in high school, which automatically meant that I must be one of the best in the country. But these girls were good. I expected to just come out there and walk all over everyone. I expected there would be a bunch of softball players who wouldn’t know how to hit a baseball and who wouldn’t be able to pitch. But they were good. I mean, there was some stiff competition.
So it was kind of shocking, and it took me a while to get over that. Having always had that kind of ‘exceptional’ identity, you think, ‘Wait, what? No, I’m the girl baseball player. Who are you?’ You feel like such a badass; you feel so cool when you’re that girl that plays baseball. You learn to kind of love that exceptional quality, and you learn to love the fact that you’ve fought so hard for what you love. And when you find other girls that have done that, you have this inherent bond. Being with other girls who played baseball felt like what I imagined it would be like to be a guy on a baseball team."
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