The number of women playing and working in the male-dominated sport of baseball has grown over the past several years, however, their visibility is still relatively low. We talked to Ashley Bratcher, senior director of baseball operations for USA Baseball, about what we can do to better highlight these women, and empower the next generation of female baseball players, coaches, and executives.
Senior Director of Baseball Operations, USA Baseball
How is USA Baseball helping to drive visibility of female sports?
USA Baseball has a number of avenues through which we drive visibility of female sports. From the highest level with our Women’s National Team program to grassroots initiatives like the MLB/USA Baseball Trailblazer Series for girls 11-13 years of age, USA Baseball and MLB continue to expand the opportunities for girls and women to play the sport of baseball.
We also work with our national member organizations to ensure girls who want to play baseball in their local recreational leagues and programs are included.
What is the biggest barrier in driving visibility for women’s baseball? What about women’s sports in general?
The biggest barrier in driving visibility for women’s baseball is simply the lack of awareness that women and girls do play the sport. Most assume softball is the female counterpart to baseball, and lots of tremendous athletes do play softball, but the exposure of the girls and women playing baseball is lacking. A lack of familiarity with the athletes, because of a lack of visibility, can make it hard for the common fan to connect with the athletes and create an attachment the way they do in higher-visibility men’s and women’s sports.
What do you see as the biggest challenge women face in male-dominated sports?
The biggest challenge for females wishing to work in a male-dominated sport, such as baseball, is that most females likely did not grow up playing baseball. While the girl’s side of the game is definitely growing, and women have played baseball for decades, baseball was generally less accessible to girls growing up.
When it comes to umpiring, coaching, scouting and other positions within the sport, the fact that most girls did not grow up playing baseball makes it more challenging for women to prove themselves as candidates for those types of positions.
What are some ways individuals can help reform gender-roles in sports?
The biggest way to help reform gender roles in sports is to spotlight those breaking barriers. Katie Sowers with the San Francisco 49ers, Veronica Alvarez with the Oakland A’s, Rachel Balkovec with the (New York) Yankees … the more we spotlight those who are breaking barriers and showing that women can do these jobs, the more it becomes less of a phenomenon each time someone does it.