Rolfes, her teammates deal well with unusual baseball situation

Sidelines

April 17, 1997|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

For those watching Jackie Rolfes take infield practice with the varsity baseball team at Southern-Harwood last week, a tightly wrapped ponytail dangling from the back of her cap was the only sign she is a girl.

Here was the first girl to ever make a county or Baltimore metro area varsity baseball team because she adequately plays the infield, loves and knows the game, and is widely accepted by her teammates.

You could say she's not a great hitter, but really, how many boys are?

Any boy with the same attributes would have made the Southern varsity. The 18-year-old Rolfes' presence has positively effected the team's chemistry.

Rolfes, a 5-foot-3 second baseman, and her coach, Gary Gubbings, had tried to keep the unique situation rather quiet. They didn't want a media circus.

Being the first girl to play varsity baseball in Anne Arundel County, long considered a hotbed for baseball talent, was not nearly as important to Rolfes as merely getting the opportunity to play the game she loves.

I'm in favor of the county and state's policy of encouraging girls to play the comparable sport of softball, unless the girl is a Jackie Rolfes or Becky Carlson, who is playing her second year of JV baseball at Arundel. There are certainly more college opportunities for girls playing softball than girls playing baseball, but when baseball is more fun, why not?

What sets Rolfes apart is that she can field a ground ball as wellas a lot of boys.

"Her mechanics are as good as anybody's out there," said Rolfes' dad, Lee, who was surprised his daughter wanted to give up softball, which she had played for years, for baseball. "Overall, her defense is very good," he said. "Her arm is a little weak."

On hard-hit balls, though, she gets in front and doesn't flinch, as some guys do. She's also not afraid to take a shot off her body.

Rolfes actually started out this year with the softball team upon the urging of Gubbings, but the Bulldogs' fourth coach in as many years quit a couple weeks into practice, and Rolfes had had enough.

"I know she struggled with the softball situation, and when she came to me to ask for a tryout for the baseball team, I said OK, because I thought it would be in her best interests," said Gubbings. "She earned a spot through hard work and gained the respect of her teammates."

When something out of the ordinary like this happens, one key element has to surface for it to work. It is imperative that the other players accept it.

What says it all about Rolfes' case is what longtime scout and baseball instructor Jerry Wargo told me.

"One of the parents of a boy on the team saw your story on Jackie [The Sun, April 12] and was amazed," said Wargo, who runs the Southern Maryland baseball winter camp (which usually attracts more than 250 boys) that Rolfes attended this year.

"The mother told me she went home and asked her son why he didn't tell her there was a girl on the team. He told her that Jackie was one of the players, and that's how the guys look at her."

Now, that's being accepted.

Here's hoping the first boy who goes out for fast-pitch softball is received as well.

Have an idea for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-Hour Sportsline, 410-647-2499.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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