Baseball possesses a strong residency here at Montclair State University.
The university houses its own men’s varsity level and club level baseball teams, and the minor league New Jersey Jackals call Yogi Berra Stadium its home. Now, the campus’ newest addition, a women’s club baseball team, has joined the fray.
The most prominent run of women in baseball history was the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). In the modern-day, there is Baseball For All, an organization built to provide a network of playing and coaching opportunities alongside an empowering support system to show women and girls that “they belong in baseball … and anywhere else they put their minds to” (as stated on Baseball For All’s site).
Since its founding this school year, the Montclair State women’s club baseball team has assisted in achieving gender equality within on-campus athletics, opening the doors for numerous young women to explore opportunities they never had access to before. Furthermore, they have succeeded in facilitating a community of empowerment, support and friendship for veterans and newcomers alike.
Sophomore film and television major Yazemin Yilmaz feels passionate about overcoming gender limitations in athletics.
“I believe it’s irrational to limit a sport’s boundaries in regards to which sex can play it,” Yilmaz said. “I’m honored to be a part of a movement that is breaking down those traditional beliefs.”
The sense of community established within the women’s baseball team is upheld by the team’s founder, sophomore exercise science major Sabrina Robinson, the triple threat, sporting the monikers of coach, general manager and athlete.
Robinson has been playing baseball since she was five years old, exclusively on men’s teams until her high school did not allow her to join, so she continued her career through Baseball for All and four years of varsity softball.
Coming from a family of die-hard Yankees fans and her father being a former college baseball player, baseball was and still is an integral part of Robinson’s life.
“I was debating playing on the men’s club team or the D3 team,” Robinson said. “But I figured starting a team here for women would give other girls the opportunity to play and help grow the sport.”
Last week, Montclair State’s women’s club baseball team traveled to California for Baseball For All’s first-ever BFA College Championships where they placed third.
Here, they competed in a tournament against collegiate-level women’s baseball teams at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton and received training from the LA Dodgers Training Academy staff and got to experience all the tourist activities that California has to offer.
Prior to the tournament, the women’s baseball team was a group of mostly inexperienced players.
“It was super intimidating and scary learning a new sport,” Yilmaz said. “I won’t lie, I felt embarrassed at first. But once you rip off the band-aid, it’s so fun, especially because it is something new.”
The trip out to California was a pivotal moment that allowed these women to really click and establish stronger chemistry.
When asked about her favorite part of the trip, freshman animation major Alex McClintic said they had the most fun playing in the second game of their doubleheader versus the University of Washington
“I wasn’t nervous anymore,” McClintic said. “We were all cheering for each other and trying our best.”
A few players also reached career milestones while out west. Having never played baseball before, Emily Struble made it onto base for the first time, hitting a double and earning an RBI. She recalled the “indescribable feeling” of looking over into the dugout and seeing the whole team on their feet cheering her on.
Venturing into the world of baseball after only playing hockey can be a challenging transition, and even though she joined late, Struble was grateful for the environment that welcomed her.
“Everybody clicked together … [working] hard and [giving] advice and tips whenever needed,” Struble said.
Senior history major Jane Pettit said the team got to visit landmarks such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and since she had never traveled outside the East Coast before, the trip to California was an adventure she will not forget.
Pettit explained how the team emphasized the importance of companionship and camaraderie while on their trip in fun ways.
Being in a city and state many of the players weren’t familiar with, they used a buddy system, kind of like little kids … It worked, as silly as it sounds,” Pettit said. “[It] made us closer as a team.”
McClintic appreciates the little moments of the trip that allowed them to get to know their teammates better.
“I really liked getting to look out of the hotel balcony at the stars with some of the girls and talk about constellations and different things about life,” McClintic said, chronicling a few other notable bonding moments that strengthened the connection between her and her teammates. “It was a really peaceful moment [among] all the other business of the trip.”
The club plans to continue scheduling scrimmages with other women’s baseball teams and plans to host clinics for young female athletes, contributing to the ultimate goal of ushering in a new era for America’s pastime, with many fans of the sport and even Robinson herself hoping that women’s baseball will become officially endorsed by the NCAA in the future.
“When I was younger, I never saw a future for my baseball career,” Robinson said. “I had to make it myself, but I want younger girls to be able to see they have a future in the sport.”