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Trailblazer Series urges girls to pursue passion

@alysonfooter
April 12, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- The approximately 100 girls who have gathered here this week were reminded by the highest-ranking woman in Major League Baseball that being stubborn and determined are two of the best qualities to get them through life’s journeys. “That’s what trailblazers do,” said Kim Ng, MLB’s senior vice

LOS ANGELES -- The approximately 100 girls who have gathered here this week were reminded by the highest-ranking woman in Major League Baseball that being stubborn and determined are two of the best qualities to get them through life’s journeys.

“That’s what trailblazers do,” said Kim Ng, MLB’s senior vice president of baseball and softball development. “And that’s what all of you are.”

Ng gave the introductory speech Thursday evening to the large group of 11-, 12- and 13-year-old girls participating in the Trailblazer Series, which began Friday at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton.

Ng’s message to the kids was one they may have heard before, but one that also cannot be stressed enough: Girls who love playing baseball should absolutely do so, no matter what people say to discourage them.

“I’m going to guess a lot of people have told you that you can’t play baseball, because you’re a girl,” Ng said. “There’s going to be more of that in your lives. People can tell you you can’t do something, but because you’re stubborn, because you’re determined …nobody got into this room without being stubborn and determined. This is about the game you love, this is about your passion.”

Ng recited three rules she wants the girls to adhere to during the Trailblazer Series:
1) Ask lots of questions
2) Try their hardest
3) Have fun

Tournaments like the Trailblazer Series, and other youth-oriented activities that MLB hosts throughout the year, can have lasting effects on the participants. Not only do the girls get to play in competitive tournaments with peers with similar talent levels, but they also experience a camaraderie that they may never have had before. Many of the girls have only played baseball with boys, because that was their only option.

“In their very young lives I’m sure they’ve heard people say, ‘You shouldn’t be playing baseball because you’re a girl. You can’t play baseball because you’re a girl,’” Ng said. “I hope one of the reassuring notions that’s important to them is that in this room, there’s 90-some girls that are just like them. There’s something in common they have with each other. They all have their own stories that they’ll share with each other.”

Now in its third year, the Trailblazer features girls from 21 states, Washington D.C., Canada and Puerto Rico. They’ll play a full slate of games on Friday and Saturday with instruction from a talented coaching staff that includes some of the nation’s top female baseball coaches and players, including representatives from USA Baseball’s Women’s National Team. Justine Siegal, founder of Baseball For All, will also be a part of the coaching staff.

Other dignitaries participating in the weekend’s activities are Tony Reagins (executive vice president of baseball and softball development), Renee Tirado (chief diversity and inclusion officer) and Robin Wallace (associate coordinator, baseball development; former MLB scout; and former member of USA Baseball's Women’s National Team).

Three players who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League are also in Los Angeles for the event: Maybelle “Mae” Blair, Shirley “Hustle” Burkovich and Jeneane Lesko.

Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragan will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the games Saturday.

The event will also include a trip to Dodger Stadium for the Dodgers-Brewers game on Friday, in advance of Jackie Robinson Day, baseball’s country-wide celebration of the Dodgers legend and ultimate trailblazer who broke baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1947.

The schedule is jam-packed, and judging from the excitement that floated throughout the room at the intro dinner, the kids are ready to play ball.

“One of the things that strikes me is, No. 1, the opportunity that Major League Baseball is giving to the kids and, No. 2, the enthusiasm all these athletes come in here with,” Ng said. “They’re as young as 11 and as old as 13. They just have that glint in their eye. You can just see passion in its rawest form. Kids are innocent enough to where they don’t hide anything. To see that kind of enthusiasm out here, this is what’s all about.”

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