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GRIT supports girls who play baseball 

Inaugural tournament in Texas aims to dispel gender stereotypes
@alysonfooter
March 8, 2019

Girls who play baseball often grow up to be women who play baseball. This wasn't necessarily a realistic goal for girls from past generations, but today, the playing field is much more even. Major League Baseball and USA Baseball have supported dozens of youth baseball programs over the years, with

Girls who play baseball often grow up to be women who play baseball. This wasn't necessarily a realistic goal for girls from past generations, but today, the playing field is much more even.

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball have supported dozens of youth baseball programs over the years, with a special emphasis on encouraging girls to not only play as kids, but continue to do so as they enter their teen years and young adulthood -- a time when many switch over to softball.

An upcoming weekend tournament in Arlington, Texas, is another shining example. MLB Grit, an inaugural high school invitational designed specifically for girls who play baseball, begins Friday at Globe Life Park -- home of the Rangers, as well as the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy.

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball are hosting more than 60 girls and young women, ages 18 and under, for this special tournament designed to give girls a premier development experience. The invitational is held in conjunction with Women's History Month, which is celebrated every year throughout March.

The roster of participants includes girls from all over the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. They share a common bond in that they love playing baseball, and have had to often fight stereotypes that dictate girls should only play softball, especially as they grow older.

MLB intends to continue to chip away at these misconceptions with tournaments like GRIT, the Trailblazer Series and Girls Baseball Breakthrough series -- all designed just for girls.

GRIT participant Justice Alcantar, a native of San Francisco, embraces the chance to be an example-setter for girls everywhere, including her two younger sisters, also avid ballplayers.

Alcantar plays varsity baseball for a private high school, and she was named captain of the 2017 San Francisco Bay Sox, a girls baseball league.

"For me, it's important to continue to play because I have two younger sisters that are sort of going through the same thing," she said. "My middle sister is going into eighth grade and she's looking at high schools and I do want to show her that there's a future for girls to continue to play baseball at a higher level, and she doesn't have to switch over to softball just because she's the only girl on the team."

Another participant, Taylor Daniels, was the first girl in her Chicago-area hometown to make and play on the local boys' travel baseball teams. She was cut by one team because of her gender, only to come back the following year and make that team.

She has promoted girls baseball by speaking to local elementary school classrooms and has doubled the female participation in their local league, and she considers Justine Siegal, founder of the all-girls baseball organization Baseball For All, her hero.

Siegal inspired Daniels to grow female participation by over 200 percent in her local baseball league.

"Playing baseball has just been a part of my identity since I was in first grade," Daniels said. "It's a game that has brought me so many friends from around the country. I've made so many friends and so many connections through baseball. It's just the greatest game on earth.

"The people that say I shouldn't play baseball, or I should switch to softball because I'm a girl, I don't want to prove them right. I don't want to give in to that prejudice and stereotype."

The roster of GRIT participants includes players who competed with Team USA, Canada and Puerto Rico in the Women’s Baseball World Cup in August 2018, including Allison Schroeder and Liz Gilder (Canada); Eva Cristina Torres Vega (Puerto Rico) and Ashton Lansdell and Emily Tsujikawa (United States).

More than a dozen MLB Club markets are represented, including the host city of Dallas/Arlington. Additionally, some of the nation’s top female baseball figures, including players and coaches from the USA Baseball Women’s National Team, and former Major League players will serve as team coaches.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.