Women hoping fledgling baseball league catches on

June 06, 1993|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

HIALEAH, FLORIDA — HIALEAH, Fla. -- The members of the Women's Baseball League of Florida play for the same reasons men play the game. And for more.

Each Sunday on a field named for a Cuban martyr, the democracy of sport offers baseball to those who might have missed the opportunity in days of gender-based prohibitions.

To a woman, they say they always wanted to play baseball. But most will add that they didn't get to play as kids because girls played softball.

Joanne Housman was one of those born too soon. At 31, she has learned it's not too late to fulfill a desire.

After attempts to start a baseball league for women flopped last year, Housman assumed the role of organizer and put together a league that has three teams and is looking for more.

"Once I started playing baseball, I didn't want to go back to

softball," Housman says. "It's a whole different thing when someone is pitching from a mound, rather than just lobbing a softball up there that is twice the size.

"In softball, you just stand there and decide where you're going to hit it. But in baseball, it's not waiting to hit it, but rather if you can hit it."

Signs abound that there's more heart than skill involved in the games of this neophyte league. Talent ranges from remarkably adept to the unavoidable -- if sexist -- description that some players throw "like a girl."

Nobody can accuse Lisa Welton of having an untrained arm. Lisa's a pitcher for the Miracles who, at 27, is young enough to have benefited from the de-genderization of Little League baseball. As a kid, she played baseball in Connecticut.

"I've always played baseball," says Welton, a Boynton Beach hairstylist.

"So I guess I've never really thought about the differences [compared to softball]. But for some of the women out here, this is all new."

It's all new to Kate Lamm, an English and literature professor at Nova University.

Lamm plays shortstop for the Miracles -- a position with plenty of opportunities for handling a ball that still feels unfamiliar.

"I never got a chance to play baseball," Lamm says, "I always just played softball. The ball just comes at you a whole lot faster, and it's a smaller target."

Under a shade tree on the sideline at Jose Marti Park in Hialeah, spectators of the women's game include former major-league players Jackie Hernandez and Marcelino Lopez, who play in an over-40 men's league at the park.

Hernandez, who spent nine years in the majors (mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates), helped the women arrange to use the park and offered tips on how to play.

"It's the first time I've seen women play at all," Hernandez says. "I said, 'Why not?' It's good for the game. It's good to see women playing.

"The first time they came here, I looked at them and said, 'Oh, man, they need some help.'

"The second time, they looked a little better, and the third time I said, 'Wait a minute.' They get better and better."

Housman says she hopes to double the number of teams in August.

"Right now, there's a big range in abilities," Housman says. "Eventually it would be nice to have an 'A' league and a 'B' league."

"One of the things that makes this so much fun is that there's such a big learning curve.

tTC "When I used to watch baseball, I didn't know the details. I'm a lot more interested in watching it now. I appreciate much more what [major leaguers] can do."

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