Carlson shows she can play hardball Her debut a hit, freshman will fight to stay on boys team

March 23, 1996|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN STAFF

Becky Carlson got drilled in the back by a pitch yesterday and she took it like one of the guys.

Carlson, 14, played in her first and possibly last game yesterday as a member of the Arundel High JV baseball team.

But in one inning of Arundel's 13-7, seven-inning victory over Calvert Hall, the freshman reserve outfielder from Gambrills proved that she belonged on a baseball diamond.

Anne Arundel county school officials may decide otherwise. They were unsuccessful in convincing Carlson to play softball, but next week Superintendent Carol S. Parham may force her off the baseball team.

Carlson has been playing baseball since she was 7 and refuses to give up the game. Her family is threatening legal action.

"If it comes down to where they're not going to let me play baseball, then I'm not going to play softball and I'm not going to play tennis," Carlson said while handling hordes of media attention with more grace and maturity than many major-leaguers. "I'm going to find another way."

It was not a great day for baseball it was cold and windy and a few snowflakes even fell. But the weather didn't deter five television crews, reporters from three newspapers and nearly 50 spectators from showing up for Carlson's debut.

With Carlson's team leading 11-2 in the fourth inning, Arundel JV coach Jeff Karr inserted her into the lineup as a pinch hitter.

Carlson faked a bunt and worked the count full after fouling one down the right-field line. The payoff pitch hit her squarely in the back.

One thing Carlson learned when she played on her Gambrills Athletic Club team, never rub sore muscle when you get hit by a pitch, just run to first base. And that's exactly what she did.

As Carlson trotted to first, an Arundel fan yelled at the Calvert Hall pitcher: "Hey, [number] 17, she didn't rub it, either."

The pitcher, sophomore James Gnauer, had never pitched to a girl before, but he insists the errant throw was not malicious.

"I didn't do it on purpose," Gnauer said before a reporter could even ask the question. "I think it's great she plays baseball. It was just like pitching to any other player."

But Gnauer was clearly unnerved after he had hit Carlson. Before he could throw another pitch, Carlson darted for second. Gnauer balked, scoring a runner from third.

The crowd was definitely behind Carlson, who also played an uneventful half-inning in right field. Spectators from both teams supported her decision to play baseball.

"I think it's fine that a girl goes out for a boys baseball team," said Catonsville's Dan Bungari, whose son Jason, is a sophomore pitcher for Calvert Hall. "They should be judged on ability and not their sex."

The support wasn't unconditional. Some parents are worried about boys trying out for girls' teams, others about negative publicity from legal action.

"The only thing I hope is the parents don't get the ACLU [American Civil LIberties Union] involved," said Linthicum's Jean DeBoy, whose son, Greg, is a sophomore second baseman for Calvert Hall.

"I think it's going a little too far, myself. I think they could work it out locally without getting those liberalists involved in it."

Don and Evelyn Carlson have contacted the ACLU. So have the parents of Jennifer Whorton, who this spring made the varsity baseball team of Flintstone High in Cumberland. After Whorton attended three or four practices, the Allegany County School Board ruled that she was an "illegal player" but gave her the option of transferring to a high school without a softball team.

"If she can play," Whorton said last night, "why can't I?"

Under Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules, the decision is up to the counties to allow girls to play baseball. If the schools don't have softball teams, the girls must be allowed to play baseball.

Carlson is not first girl to play baseball in the state.

Katie Kayser played JV baseball for Towson High in 1988, Mary Cage played varsity baseball for Oldtown High in Allegany County in 1983 and Star Mackall played varsity baseball for Calvert High in 1985, according to their coaches and league officials.

Yesterday Carlson added her name to that list.

"Everybody else is saying this is your first game and it may be your last," Carlson said.

Pub Date: 3/23/96

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