LOTL's Nicky Breen gets caught up in the action of Sydney Women’s Baseball League…
It would be easy to dismiss baseball as primarily an American game….after all it boasts a world series, made up of only Canadian and US teams. But, in reality, the nine players per side sport is played in more countries than cricket.
As with most global games, Australia has a strong international presence, the Aussies proving they’re no slouches in the outfield. The men’s team won the Olympic silver medal in 2004 and a number of Australian women play in the professional Japanese and US leagues.
While grassroots participation in the game has increased by 100 percent over the last decade, the girls at the Sydney Women’s Baseball League have been playing for a lot longer than that.
Started sixteen years ago by players that wanted a competition run by women for women, the SWBL is now the longest running women’s baseball league in Sydney and has benefited from the sport’s growing popularity.
Playing an active role in the LGBTQI community, the league has a primarily lesbian membership base and draws in players from all walks of life. Their youngest is a sixteen year old state representative and their oldest is 50. The game also brings in people from other sports, with footballers, hockey girls, golfers and cricketers all thrown into the mix.
President Mandi Barnao says part of appeal is the game’s inclusive nature, there’s a role for everyone – and a chance to shine:
“While it is a team sport, individual performance is on display while players are batting, pitching, fielding”, she says, adding “everyone gets a go.”
But if would be pitch-hitters are overly anxious about their athletic ability….they can always dress to impress:
“One of our more social teams used to have themed games”, Barnao recalls.
“One Sunday their entire team was dressed like Women from the Country Women’s Association and (they) played the game in dresses complete with handbags and pearls.”
And on-the-day performance can win out over experience. The SWBL president’s best memory of the game comes from her team’s first grand final victory, when the rookies took centre stage.
“All the big hitters were getting caught out and 2 of our newest members had the game of their lives and helped to win the game for us.”
Those SWBL big hitters make up some of the best players Australia has on offer. The league has members that have made the Australian train-on squad and play for the New South Wales state team.
But the SWBL president acknowledges the general public may have a slightly skewed understanding of baseball:
“I think most people know about getting to the bases, 1st base, 2nd base etc, but (they) might not realise that a sport is involved.”
With the SWBL’s many social events, players certainly have a chance to hit those bases both on and off the field. Pool comps, prom nights, Bingay and even a Mardi Gras float are all a popular part of the league. While relationships forged within the confines of women’s team sports are nothing unusual, the SWBL has gone one step further.
“A lot of our players have met their partners on the diamond” Bindao acknowledges, revealing “ this season we have had a mini baby boom.”
That’s one way of bringing in new players for a few generations to come.
TAG: For more information go to the SWBL website: swbl.org/