•hardball / softball
Text written by Albert Kilchesty
Sugar & Spice Brand
Once upon a time, to “throw like a girl” was a phrase used to impugn a boy’s budding masculinity. Thanks to the two young ladies pictured here, those words now have a different and more positive meaning. In 2014, Emma March and Mo’Ne Davis created a global buzz after they appeared as pitchers in the Little League World Series, the first time that two girls starred in that showcase. Emma March represented Canada’s entry, the S. Vancouver Little League team, as a pitcher and first baseman; Mo’Ne Davis played for the Taney Dragons of Philadelphia. Both had live, moving fastballs that broke 70 mph on radar guns, a velocity equivalent to a bit over 90 mph at a regulation distance. Although both played a role in making history, Mo’Ne Davis emerged as the star, becoming the first African-American girl to participate in the series, and the first girl to hurl a complete game victory—and a shutout to boot. She was also the first youngster to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated while a Little League player. The stunning success of this sugar & spice tandem points to a future where players will be judged solely on their talent, not on their gender.
Knuckleball Princess Brand
Ask any knuckleball pitcher and she’ll tell you, “I don’t know where it’ll end up. Could go east, could go west, could sail over the catcher and land in the dugout. Who knows?” For Florida’s Chelsea Baker and Japan’s Eri Yoshida their knucklers have floated into art. Chelsea Baker made headlines in 2014 when she pitched batting practice against the Tampa Bay Rays while a senior in high school. Her pitches baffled batters, causing several Rays to praise her skill and potential. As a twelve-year-old, Baker tossed two perfect games in Little League play, her jersey sent to the Hall of Fame for display. Eri Yoshida, dubbed “The Knuckle Princess” by the press, modeled her sidearm knuckler after Tim Wakefield, who saved his career in Major League Baseball by adopting the pitch. In 2008, at the age of sixteen, Yoshida became the first woman drafted by a Japanese professional team. She played for several pro teams in Japan, and would later pitch professionally in Canada and the United States, earning the distinction of becoming the only woman in history to play men’s professional baseball in three different countries.
Pitchin' Mom Brand
At the pinnacle of her career Lisa Fernandez (b. 1971) was among the most recognizable athletes in America, man or woman. While a student at UCLA, she almost single-handedly put NCAA Women’s Softball on the map, leading the Bruins to a brace of titles and setting multiple pitching records. In 1993, her senior year at UCLA, the four-time All-American led the country in both batting average (.510) and ERA (a microscopic 0.23). Her sizzling underhanded deliveries helped her to a career W/L record of 93‒7, which included a skein of 97 scoreless innings pitched and 42 consecutive victories. In international competition she was equally untouchable: her golden arm propelled the U.S. Women’s Olympic softball squad to gold medals in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 summer games. After her playing career ended, she turned to coaching, teaching at softball clinics and motherhood, not in any particular order. In 2012 Fernandez was inducted to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, an honor very deserving for this bitchin’ mom.
Mommy Ball Brand
NCAA Women’s Softball is a dynamite sport, and Jennie Finch among the most explosive packages ever to play it. From an early age, the long and lithe Finch (b. 1980) had a cannon for an arm, delivering pitches with a devastating windmill motion that simply blew her opponents away. She attended the University of Arizona where she led the Wildcats to a College World Series victory in 2001. Her career numbers rank her among the top ten in most pitching categories. Like Lisa Fernandez a decade earlier, Finch became the face of women’s softball after she led the U.S. Women’s team to a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics and a silver in 2008, the last time softball was played at the Olympics. Her California golden girl looks secured high-profile endorsements and features in such magazines as Vanity Fair and Glamour. People magazine named her one of their “50 Most Beautiful People” in 2004. After playing professionally with the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch League, Jennie retired in 2010, and now throws her energy into raising a family.