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MLB's all-girl baseball events extend past NGWSD

@alysonfooter
February 5, 2020

As the only girl on her high school baseball squad during her formative teenage years, Justice Alcantar sometimes felt like she was a part of the team, but in some ways, she also felt like an outsider. The Bay Area native felt welcomed and appreciated by her coach, but as

As the only girl on her high school baseball squad during her formative teenage years, Justice Alcantar sometimes felt like she was a part of the team, but in some ways, she also felt like an outsider.

The Bay Area native felt welcomed and appreciated by her coach, but as the only girl on a team filled with boys, Alcantar didn't have a lot of opportunities for playing time. She was mostly called on when the game was out of hand, either way, and though she wanted to be treated like everyone else, most of the time, she was all too aware of the gender lines that were drawn long before the first pitch was thrown -- in any game.

"I feel like I was taken pity on," Alcantar said. "The only time that I was given a chance to play was when we were beating the other team by a lot and there wasn't a chance that my playing would make a difference."

That's the plight of many girls who want to play baseball, but can only do so if they're willing to be an outlier while playing the sport they love. Traditionally, girls who want to play baseball -- not softball, but baseball -- can only do so if they're willing to play on teams almost exclusively designed for boys.

Alcantar was talented enough to make her high school baseball team. But there was always something missing. She remembers the conversation she had with her head coach when she was deciding on which high school to attend.

"I asked, 'Would you be OK with a girl being on your team?'" Alcantar recalled. "The head coach said, 'Totally. I'll treat you the same as I treat the rest of my players.' It was super-promising in the beginning."

But as the season began, she noticed she wasn't progressing as much as her teammates.

"I saw that I wasn't really moving alongside them," Alcantar said. "The coaches were super-nice. I could tell they were treating me differently. Not so much in a negative way, but I was just not being taken seriously."

That changed when Alcantar participated in two of Major League Baseball's signature all-girls baseball events -- the Breakthrough Series and MLB GRIT: Girls ID Tour, both of which she participated in as a high school student. The events are designed to help highly talented girls further develop their baseball skills through elite instruction, competitive play, video coverage, seminars and mentorship, all while exposing players to U.S. National Team scouts and collegiate recruiters.

The experience was transforming.

"I definitely learned a lot more, especially in the Breakthrough Series," Alcantar said. "It was a lot more specified. We would go to the outfield stations and they would actually dissect what you were doing, which was really nice, especially with this huge group of girls. It was pretty personal."

The sports community is celebrating the 34th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day on Wednesday, a day designed to inspire girls and women to play and be active and to realize their full power. The day is to serve as a reminder that confidence, strength and character gained through sports participation are the very tools girls and women need to become strong leaders in sports and life.

Alcantar, who is now enrolled at Tulane University and is transitioning into a coaching/mentor role, is a solid example of the impact that girls' baseball programs can have on a young life. Now that she's in college, she's moving from the role of player to coach, and in many ways, she's enjoying the coaching side of it more than she did as a prep.

Alcantar will resume her role as a coach for 10-year-olds playing for the San Francisco Bay Sox this summer, when she returns to her hometown upon the end of the school year. She'll have the distinction of being the only female head coach in the entire program. Alcantar also hopes to become more involved with MLB's girls' youth events as a coach in the future and, with an eye on digital media production as a student at Tulane, she hopes to someday make short films about girls' baseball.

But mainly, Alcantar is simply appreciative to be a part of the growing trend that not only encourages girls to play baseball, but also allows for women to serve as mentors and coaches to youngsters who have interest in the sport.

Alcantar didn't have woman coaches as a youngster, and being able to fill that role now for the next generation has been a fulfilling endeavor. She was reminded of this when she served as a clinician at a recent baseball event for girls at the New Orleans Youth Academy, held in conjunction with a celebration of Girls & Women in Sports Day.

"It makes you think about how much I wish I had a female coach when I was their age," Alcantar said. "I definitely noticed a difference when I was coached by women than when I was coached by men. These types of things you don't want to pretend they make a difference, but they actually do."

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