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A Game Of Their Own

A record six women suited up for teams at various collegiate levels this season, with more on the way, and a movement to make women’s baseball a college sport is gaining momentum. These women who play college baseball explain, in their own words, why they stuck with the sport they love — even if it didn’t always love them back.
Interviews by Michael Rosen

Luisa Gauci, 20

Second baseman, Green River College

“I went to an all-girls high school in Australia, and it had a softball team. It was the first time I actually enjoyed a sport. I begged my mom to sign me up for softball, but she accidentally signed me up for baseball because the baseball field was closer to our house. I started playing when I was 13 and I had no idea what I was doing because I started a new sport pretty late compared to the rest of my team. But as I continued to come up through the ranks there were so many chances for me to develop. I trained with the Bandits, an Australian Baseball League team. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I decided I wanted to play in college.
After the recruiting services said they wouldn’t send out my baseball profile I sent them a very long email telling that I refused to do softball and that they were going to send out my profile, no matter how many ‘No’s’ I got. I did get a lot of ‘No’s,’ but also a few ‘Yeses.’ After transferring to Green River College, I began training at Driveline, where we work seven days a week; taking a day off is completely unheard of. I prioritize getting at least one percent better every single day. Every day I waste sitting around and not being educated or not working out, someone else out there is getting better.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Luisa Gauci

Beth Greenwood, 21

Catcher, University of Rochester

“I started playing when I was about five years old. I have an older brother and a younger brother, and when we were all really little we used to play catch in the backyard. My older brother started playing baseball and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Ironically, neither of my brothers kept playing after one or two years. … When I was looking at colleges, I was trying to find a school that would give me a good engineering education, but also a school that was going to give me an opportunity to play baseball. I wasn’t asking for a spot directly, but I wanted a coach who was going to be open to the idea of me trying out. I ended up getting cut my freshman year at Rochester, which at first had me contemplating all of the choices I have ever made. But I kept playing club ball because I was still training for the [USA Baseball] women’s national team.
In 2018 I was ranked top 40 on the national team. My goal was to make the top 20 so I could compete in the Women’s Baseball World Cup, which was originally scheduled for 2020. I came back my sophomore year at Rochester and told the coach that I was planning to try out again. I told him, ‘I am going to try out all four years, and if I get cut all four times then so be it. But I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t give myself that opportunity.’ They told me they wanted to have me as a practice player. So I wouldn’t dress for games, and I wasn’t fully rostered, but I was doing basically everything else. I was doing the scrimmages, I was doing the lifts, I was doing the early morning practices; you name it, I was there. After trying out my junior year I found out that I officially got rostered, so then it became a matter of competing and trying to earn playing time. My college debut didn’t even feel real at first because so much work had gone into that moment. The little kid in me was so excited because when I was younger this was the moment I had dreamed about but I didn’t know that it was actually achievable. There will be more opportunities down the road as long as I continue to bust my butt and continue to get better.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Beth Greenwood

Kelliann Jenkins, 21

Pitcher, Chatham University

“My parents run Kidball Baseball, a youth sports organization in the Washington, D.C., area. The main sport is baseball, so I kind of grew up on a baseball field. On the weekends, I would be on the field with my dad from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., helping him with his classes. I got to take them for free. So I got into the sport through my parents’ business. When I was going through the recruiting process for college, I just tried to go about it like everyone else. My high school teammates and I would go prospect camps, and tournaments. That’s how I got looks from college teams. I also emailed tons of colleges and got a lot of responses. I play basketball too, and was looking for a school where I could play both sports. Because of COVID, we all have our extra year of eligibility and I plan on using that. If it ends after that, then it ends. I’m just thankful for the fact that I’ve had a normal baseball career, but if I can continue to play after that I would love to.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kelliann Jenkins

Skylar Kaplan, 19

 Pitcher, Anne Arundel Community College

“My dad got me interested in baseball and would take me to Orioles games. I started playing tee-ball at Linthicum Ferndale Youth Athletic Association when I was about five years old. I played there until I was seven and then I switched to travel ball. I played for the coach at Anne Arundel Community College, but he ended up resigning before I got there. I asked the new coach if I could come to practices in the fall and I did really well, so I came back in the spring and ended up making the team. I am hoping to play next year at the JuCo level and then transfer to a four-year school. After that, I would love to play for an all-girls professional league sometime in the future. I also would love to make the USA Baseball Women’s National Team. I first tried out when I was 16, which is the minimum age, and I ended up making the 40-man roster. The next tryout got pushed back because of COVID, but I’m hoping to make the team whenever they resume. If I don’t make it that time, I’ll just keep coming back until I do. I recently won the Fighting Spirit award from the United States Marine Corps. It’s an award given high school athletes who have overcome obstacles that have made it more difficult for them to play their sport. It was heartwarming to see all the people who believed in me, whether it be friends, former teammates, and even people I played against.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Skylar Kaplan

Marika Lyszczyk, 20

Catcher, Rivier University

“I began playing baseball when I was three or four. I started off playing blast ball and my mom put me in baseball because she thought it would be more of a challenge. I ended up staying with it throughout my whole career. I never thought it would get me to where I am today, but I am happy it did. I got recruited to play baseball because I went to MLB Grit. [and invitational tournament for girls who play high school baseball]. I originally went there not expecting anyone to have an interest in me playing baseball. I thought it would be fun to play baseball with girls from Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. On the last day, one of the people who runs MLB Grit came up to me and told me there was someone who was scouting me. I talked to the scout, and he asked, ‘Do you want to play college baseball?’ and I said ‘Absolutely.’ That had always been my dream, but I never thought it would be a real thing. He was a catcher. I never thought I would make it to college as a catcher, but I ended up becoming the first woman to ever play catcher in NCAA baseball. I actually had a chance during the last offseason to go down to Arizona for a week and work out with Trevor Bauer. You would think someone like that wouldn’t have the time or wouldn’t want to work out with a woman in baseball. But he is so supportive of women in sports. He put together a throwing routine for me to follow. To have an MLB player be supportive is so huge.” 
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marika Lyszczyk

Jazzmine Rivera, 21

Pitcher, Harry S. Truman College

“I first started playing baseball when I was three years old. It started out as just practicing with my dad in the driveway, and then when I was about five or six, I played on my first team, the Texas Rangers. Once I turned 11, I started playing travel ball with a bunch of different teams. One of them was my dad’s team, the Marlins. He eventually started a league of teams that played at Humboldt Park in Chicago, and one of them was an all-girls team that would play against the guys. I was on my dad’s team, so I was the only girl on the team that was playing against the all-girls team. I also play basketball at Truman, and I used to do bowling. My long-term goal is to be the first woman pitcher in MLB. But I just want to keep playing. I might only get a little bit of playing time, but that is all that matters. In that little bit of playing time, I will be able to show them what I can do.”

Photo Credit: Facebook

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