Girls ID Tour takes West Coast by storm

18-and-under showcases help set stage for Girls Baseball Elite Development Invitational

March 1st, 2022

Few sensory experiences signify baseball's return better than the pop of a ball smacking home in a leather mitt or the crack of bat meeting ball. There were plenty of both on Saturday in Compton, Calif., along with bright sun and 70-degree temps that teased toward the fast-approaching summer slate and provided an ideal day for the first of five MLB GRIT: Girls ID Tour spring showcases.

The 30 girls who spent the afternoon working out at Compton's MLB Youth Academy couldn't have agreed more.

“The purpose of events like this is, essentially, to evaluate talent we haven’t seen before,” said Elizabeth Benn, the Mets' newly hired director of Major League operations. “But it’s also so fun to see the girls come together and have that immediate support and kind of community around them.

“They’ve been around the boys so long, they’ve got an extra level of grit to them. They’re extremely competitive, but they’re also so supportive of each other, and celebrate around each other.”

Now in its third year, the ID Tour scheduled five showcases this spring: two in California -- including one in San Francisco the day after the Compton event -- and one each in Vero Beach, Fla. (March 6); Phoenix (March 20); and Chicago (March 27). Although it's classified as an 18-and-under affair, many athletes who attend are heading into their final high school season and looking ahead to elite travel teams and summer ball. A select group will also be invited to other developmental events hosted by MLB.

The free one-day evaluation workouts for female baseball players ages 12-17 are, according to a press release from MLB, "specifically designed to identify female baseball players to place the highest potential performers for additional girls baseball development opportunities, including the Girls Baseball Breakthrough Series and Elite Development Invitational."

Much like at a pro-level workout, the girls in attendance at the Compton opener on Saturday were evaluated on running speeds and routes, arm strength, defense, pop time, hitting and bullpen work. The evaluating team ranged from local staff and coaches to representatives from MLB and other area pro athletes.

USA Baseball Women’s National Team shortstop Jade Gortarez attended Saturday’s showcase, much to the delight of attendees who are striving for similar success in their budding careers.

The more word travels of these barrier-busting baseball trailblazers -- who range from Little League athletes to stars on their high school's varsity teams -- the more popular events like the ID Tour become. Saturday’s workouts even brought out a few curious softball players who were treated to the full eval as they tried on a variation of their sport for size. The newbies were embraced by the veterans.

The rise in popularity of girls' baseball over the past few years marks a thrilling time for the sport. Of the eight women who'll play NCAA college baseball in 2022, several participated in MLB-led initiatives similar to the Girls ID Tour as youths. What's more, the very fields that hosted Saturday's evaluations will also be home to the inaugural Women's College Club Baseball Championships March 19-22.

The tournament is organized by Baseball For All, a non-profit whose mission is "to build gender equity in baseball by providing girls with real opportunities to play, coach, and lead in this sport." The level of talent events like these attract point to a rich future in the sport, and Benn has already seen encouraging signs of what's to come.

“Normally when we go to places, we see kids that we’ve seen before,” Benn said. “I think what was really exciting for us [Saturday] was that we saw a lot of new faces. So now it’s the younger generation of female players getting involved.”

While the group that gathered Sunday in San Francisco was similarly interested in impressing onlookers, Benn and Padove agreed that the workouts stand for so much more than just competition and exposure.

“Part of this is about building community and meeting new friends,” Benn added. “Even though this is an evaluation, it’s pretty stress-free. The girls had a lot of fun. At the end, they were taking selfies and becoming best friends.

“Some of them [at the Compton workout] told me that they still talk to girls from previous development events every single day.”