I have a few suggestions for all the good people involved in the girls softball program in Baltimore County. I hope this helps.
I listened to Ken Greenwood, the man who pulled his Parkville team off the field Sunday before a tournament game with Turners Station. Greenwood had his reasons. He was concerned about the safety of his girls. They would be playing a Turners Station team that included four boys, and Greenwood didn't think that was right.
"This is a girls softball league," he emphasized. For him, and for the other Parkville parents, the issue was safety. Greenwood believes that boys -- especially 13- and 14-year-old boys -- have the physical edge on girls. The way they throw a ball, the way they hit a ball, the way they slide into a base -- they could hurt the girls.
Since safety was the issue for Ken Greenwood, he had no choice but to forfeit Sunday's game. He couldn't have the girls play under protest; that would have contradicted his position on safety.
So, Greenwood made his point. And his girls supported him. I spoke with a couple of them the other day and, despite having a good deal of confidence in their own abilities, they didn't think it was fair to have to compete against a team that included boys.
On the Turners Station side, both manager Tanya Evans and coach Juanita Jackson countered that they were going by the rules. The rules, they said, allowed up to four boys on a girls' team. Last year, as a matter of fact, an all-girls team from Turners Station played a team from Northpoint Village that included some boys. And no one complained. Turners Station went ahead and played Northpoint Village.
"They beat us, then we came back and beat them," Tanya Evans said proudly.
It was only this year -- with the all-black Turners Station team entered in the county tournament -- that someone griped.
And both Evans and Jackson claimed the decision to raise a stink over the gender composition of their team was racially motivated.
When I spoke with Evans and Jackson, they had a half dozen of their players with them, and each one seemed to go along with this theory. The kids seemed to readily accept the idea that Ken Greenwood's refusal to field a team against them had a racial ingredient.
Greenwood lamented that the coaches in Turners Station would pour that into the mould. And it would, indeed, be unfortunate if the kids walked away from this episode with the idea that Greenwood and the Parkville girls just didn't want to compete against an all-black team. I don't think that was Greenwood's motivation at all. Throughout the season, his girls had competed against girls. To Greenwood, it just wasn't right to go into tournament play against a team with four boys. Race, he declared, had nothing to do with it. He was burned by the suggestion that it did.
In one way, I think it's too bad Greenwood didn't give his girls a chance to compete against the Turners Station squad, boys and all. His daughter, Katie, didn't say so -- nor did Parkville's secondbaseperson Debbie Curran -- but I bet, deep down, they both thought they could have whupped Turners Station, boys and all. It's too bad their dads stepped in and refused to allow the engagement.
But as I said, for Greenwood, the issue was safety. If any of his girls got hurt, it would have been on his shoulders.
A few suggestions:
1. Let's get the Turners Station kids together with the kids from Parkville and the two other teams that refused to play. Let's do a weenie roast and a pickup game. These kids should have the chance to get to know one another that the softball tournament didn't allow.
2. Let's get the rules straight. Apparently, the county rules allow girls' teams to carry boys on the rosters "as long as no apparent safety problems exist." I think the issue is age. Maybe there is no safety problem when the kids are eight or nine years old. But maybe 13- and 14-year-olds should not be playing co-ed softball. Let there be a summit to decide these things, with all coaches from around the county meeting with recreation officials to settle the question.
3. Turners Station needs a boys' team for the 13- and 14-year-olds down there. The lack of one this year is the reason the girls' team has the four boys.
4. If kids want to play co-ed, let them. The county could write a new set of rules for a co-ed league. That way, at least the girls and their parents will know, going in, that there is a good chance they'll be batting against, pitching against and probably sliding into some knobby-kneed boy.