When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, he ushered in an age of baseball inclusivity remembered predominantly for the changes it sparked in regards to race. But true inclusivity, the main idea Robinson personified, also requires acceptance of those who identify along other societal fault lines, including class
When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, he ushered in an age of baseball inclusivity remembered predominantly for the changes it sparked in regards to race. But true inclusivity, the main idea Robinson personified, also requires acceptance of those who identify along other societal fault lines, including class and gender.
In this spirit, Major League Baseball has spearheaded efforts to promote the sport among young women, a group that has for generations tended to gravitate toward softball. These efforts are scheduled to come to a head starting April 13 with the inaugural "Trailblazer Series," a first-of-its-kind girls baseball tournament.
The Trailblazer Series will run from April 13-15 at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., where young women from 20 states, Washington D.C. and Canada will participate in tournament-style play. Approximately 100 girls, split into two age brackets, are set to play in the event.
The tournament's start date of April 13 coincides with Jackie Robinson Day, when Robinson's legacy is celebrated across Major League Baseball.
"In memory of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball is committed to making our sport accessible and inclusive for all those who want to play, coach or participate," MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said. "MLB and USA Baseball have listened to the growing demand for girls' and women's baseball by launching this unprecedented event. We will be proud to do so on the most meaningful date on our calendar, Jackie Robinson Day, at our Youth Academy in Compton. It is our honor to support trailblazing young women who will be outstanding representatives of their communities."
Trailblazer Series teams will be given names to honor the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which operated from 1943-1954. The AAGPBL is known to many as the league portrayed in the 1992 movie "A League of Their Own."
Several notable AAGPBL alumni will participate in the Trailblazer Series, including Shirley "Hustle" Burkovich and Maybelle "Mae" Blair.
Robinson's daughter Sharon and Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch will also attend, along with MLB executives Kim Ng, Billy Bean, Renée Tirado and Ashley Bratcher.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.