News


2018-09-21

What does the future hold for Women’s Baseball?




Melissa Mayeux poses at USSSA Space Coast Complex with Maybelle Blair (left) and Shirley Burkovich “I saw the movie about them on the plane, while I was flying to the USA”
(WBSC Sept. 20) Women’s Baseball made the headlines in the United States of America for most of 2018. The fact the WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup was played for the first time on US soil (USSSA Space Coast Complex in Viera, Florida) was of course the main reason.
The live streaming of games was seen by over 3.5 million viewers in 212 countries and territories. WBSC social media generated 13.6 million impressions.
2018 also marked the twenty fifth anniversary of A League of Their Own, the movie (directed by Penny Marshall, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna) that celebrated the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.
In Viera we had a chance to meet Shirley Burkovich, who played from 1949 through 1951 in the League.
“These girls play great baseball. It’s a lot of fun to watch” she commented.
Burkovich actually enjoyed a lot Penny Marshall’s movie: “Before that movie, nobody knew who we were” she laughed.
Born in 1933, she was only 16 when she was drafted: “I have always played baseball. I have no memory of playing any other sport. I played with boys, I played with my father. When I read there were try outs for women’s baseball, I went right away. A few weeks later I got an invitation to Spring Training…”
Burkovich visited the Space Coast Complex together with former team mate Maybelle Blair (born 1927). “Do I believe there’s a future for women’s baseball? That’s what we are here for!”
Burkovich and Blair were joined by another huge advocate of women’s baseball: movie director Francis Ford Coppola.  Coppola’s wineries sponsored the Women’s Baseball World Cup: “When I decided to produce wine, my wife told me that I didn’t have to. I told her I didn’t have to make movies, either…”
Making wine was a family tradition for the Coppolas: “My father Carmine” a musician born in 1910 “told me that the tradition dates back to Prohibition. Families were allowed to produce a little quota of wine, if it was for family consumption.”
An avid baseball fan, Coppola couldn’t play as a kid because of polio.
“For Christmas one year, hearing that story, my wife gave me a Christmas present of a baseball field in the back of the winery,” Coppola said. “And the tradition started to happen. Whenever anyone got married, the two families would play a game. I was always astounded with somebody’s aunt or somebody’s cousin or … sister who was the great star of the game.”
Do you play baseball or slow pitch softball? “I thought we were playing real baseball…so I want to help women play baseball.”
And he did help already. Coppola’s Virginia Dare Winery sponsored the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association. The Stompers recruited outfielder Kelsie Whitmore, pitcher Stacy Piagno and catcher Anna Kimbrell, al members of the US Women’s National Team.
Coppola wouldn’t let us know more about his project of a documentary on women’s baseball, but wanted to be sure we were getting his point: “I am convinced baseball would be a much more wonderful game if it were men and women playing together.”