MLB GRIT invites top female players to Boston

Marika Lyszczyk, first female catcher to play NCAA baseball, among coaches at event

September 30th, 2021

The plan for the game's future talent is in motion, which is to take over a Major League field. From different countries to various levels across the United States, female baseball players are getting the opportunity to hone their skills in preparation for uncharted territory: professional baseball.

Major League Baseball's "MLB GRIT: Girls ID Tour" has carved out career paths for young women who want to stay in the sport. The showcase stops in different cities -- the latest event was in Boston on Sept. 14 -- where female athletes 18 years old and younger can be coached and scouted for college baseball programs, as well as other opportunities to carry out their baseball careers.

"MLB GRIT is an identification tour," said Elizabeth Benn, a senior coordinator in baseball operations for MLB. "The point is really to identify new talent and kind of reevaluate existing talent that we know from previous girls' baseball development events. Our hope is to see the girls play at every position, see how they've changed and developed over the years and really then evaluate them so that we invite the top girls to our future development events like Breakthrough Series taking place this fall."

It's how Marika Lyszczyk, a catcher on the men's baseball team at Rivier University in Nashua, New Hamp., went from playing travel ball to being one of the handful of women on a collegiate roster.

"MLB GRIT will forever be one of the most special things that ever happened to me, because that's how I got recruited for college," Lyszczyk said. "I remember my mom seeing something online and they were like, 'Oh, there's this MLB event' and she was like, 'We should sign up and try to do it.'"

Lyszczyk was one of the seven Canadian female ball players to be accepted into the showcase. And as luck would have it, she was recruited to be a catcher at the college level when the event concluded. Now, after accomplishing history as the first female catcher to play men's baseball at the NCAA level, she's back at MLB GRIT as one of the many coaches sharing their insight.

"This is kind of like a recruiting tool," said Jacqui Reynolds, who is a coach for the University of Massachusetts Boston men's baseball team. "If I see somebody that I like and they're a little bit younger, I can now watch them and see what they're going to be doing in the future, and I also get to see them grow.

"I'm also coaching in college, but I'm also coaching AAU programs and I'm doing all these events. I want to give back to the girls. Hopefully, they see me and see that I'm coaching in college and [know that] if they want to coach that they can do it."

Early standouts from the showcase, like Olivia Pichardo, have their eyes set on playing the diamond for now. Pichardo impressed with her fastball's ability to sit in the 80s, which showed that her talent level is on par with the boys competing at the same age.

It wasn't lost on Pichardo that it was a rare occurrence for there to be an all-female baseball event. She was one of 50 participants to display their varying talents on both sides of the ball. Pichardo said events like MLB GRIT not only show that girls can play baseball, but they can play on the same field as the boys.

"We're really seeing equal talent, or often better talent, too, than the boys," Benn said. "It's a way that they can kind of get exposure and be seen as legitimate players and not just that girl on the field doing something as an anomaly."