Girl urged to leave baseball for softball She blazed a trail by making team

March 22, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Pat O'Malley contributed to this article.

Becky Carlson made all the cuts to become state's first female high school baseball player then she ran into Anne Arundel officials, who tried to throw her off the team.

School administrators decided yesterday that Miss Carlson could suit up in the green and white of Arundel High School for today's season opener, but it may be her last game.

The 14-year-old Gambrills girl met for 40 minutes with the school system's athletic coordinator, who tried to convince Miss Carlson she would be happier playing softball than being a reserve outfielder for the junior varsity squad.

But when the office door opened, there was no doubt that persuasion had lost out. Miss Carlson pushed back her long hair, tugged on her cap and sprinted across the parking lot to join her teammates as they practiced for the game against Calvert Hall.

She will remain on the squad at least until early next week, when higher-ranking school officials return from a business trip, said Rick Wiles, the school system's coordinator of physical education and athletics.

The county says that by providing a baseball team for boys and a softball team for girls, it offers comparable programs and meets federal requirements for equality in sports programs.

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association agrees.

"You've got strikes, balls, walks, bats pretty comparable to me," said Ned Sparks, executive director of MPSSAA.

The association's policy is to "counsel them into softball" as a way to ensure the viability of the sport and channel girls where opportunities exist, said Ron Belinko, president of the MPSSAA.

Colleges are increasing the number of softball scholarships, and opportunities for girls in baseball are almost nonexistent, he said.

A South River High School girl was told this year that she could not be considered for that school's baseball team, county athletic officials confirmed last night.

Miss Carlson's father, Don Carlson, a Naval Academy instructor, said she would not voluntarily back down. Her mother, Evelyn, said the family intends to seek advice from the American Civil Liberties Union.

And popular sentiment is with Miss Carlson.

"I think it's cool. I was the only girl when I used to play hockey," said Amy Peyton, 16, a junior at Arundel High School.

People say that if Miss Carlson was good enough to make the JV team of one of the state's premier baseball programs, she ought to be allowed to stay. So does Bernie Walter, the varsity baseball coach and athletic director.

"I think most people would say 'let her play,' and who cares," Mr. Walter said.

He has led Arundel to a state record seven state championships in Class 4A and to the national championship in 1993. He has been named National Coach of the Year by the National Interscholastic Federation and has the most wins of any active coach in the area.

Miss Carlson has worked as hard in baseball as any boy, said Wayne Frostbutter, whose son, Ryan, 15, is an Arundel High pitcher who has known Miss Carlson for several years.

She started playing at age 7 on a T-ball team of boys and girls. Within three years, she was batting fifth in her Little League lineup.

A diving catch of a line drive in the 1994 Continental Amateur Baseball Association Championships in Oklahoma won her accolades even from the opposing team. And last summer, she pitched two shutout innings for her Gambrills Babe Ruth team in a state tournament game.

Miss Carlson said she knows there may not be a place for her on the varsity as her teammates grow bigger and stronger, but that does not matter to her now.

Secondary school athletic officials caution that if baseball and softball don't maintain distinctive qualities, the girls could suffer.

"Boys would take over softball in time,` said Paul Rusko, Anne Arundel County coordinator of physical education and athletics from 1964 to 1991. "That is my only concern.

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