Turns Out a Lot of the Autostraddle Team Played Softball and Baseball — WHO COULD HAVE GUESSED?

With all the excitement of A League of Their Own and our super expansive coverage of it! — buzzing on our team the past couple weeks, some of us took a little stroll down memory lane to revisit our pasts as pitchers, catchers, and sluggers. No one could have possibly predicted just how many of us used to play softball/baseball. Just kidding!!!!! I think anyone could have predicted that a decent chunk of the Autostraddle team has dabbled in softball/baseball through the years. We’re a bunch of queers, after all. And now, you can enjoy the photographic evidence of our domination in the diamond!

Got softball/baseball memories of your own? Share them in the comments! And if you haven’t started A League of Their Own yet, what are you waiting for?! Check out our daily recap coverage! Our Editor in Chief Carmen Phillips made an obsessive guide to every parallel between the movie and series, and Senior Editor Heather Hogan (also featured in the roundtable below!) interviewed Melanie Field as well as Roberta Colindrez and Priscilla Delgado!

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Managing Editor

Photo 1: Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya as a child holds a bat while wearing a tank and red shorts. Photo 2: Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya as a child poses for a photo with a bat. Photo 3: Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya as a child swings a bat. Photo 4: Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya as a child poses for a photo with a bat.

The name of my softball team growing up was…………the lady cougars. The lady. Cougars. It was not until I was much older that I realized how weirdo of a name that was, but here we are. My mother was the first base coach on my team when I was super young, and I HATED IT. She used to offer me $1 if I would run through first, but I patently refused, planting my feet firmly on first the second I landed on it. (She also offered me $1 to foul at basketball games because I wasn’t aggressive enough.) I was also a pitcher, and I loved pitching. Of all the team sports I played growing up, I wish I’d stuck with this one. My girlfriend has one of my old softball trophies on display in our home, because that’s dyke interior design, baby!!!

shea martin, Writer

shea wesley martin as a young child holding a baseball bat

I was late to the baseball/softball trend. I blame this all on an absent-minded teenage batting cage attendant who mistakenly told me I’d only get 5 balls for my $5 fee in 2002. After the fifth ball, I turned to leave the cage and balls started flying at my head. I got hit in the arm by the balls and traumatized — is this why I became a lesbian?! Many doctor visits and thousands of dollars later, my mom said “no softball ever.” Ever only lasted two years, and I joined my school’s softball team in 10th grade. Our team was terrible. Like football-blowout-scores terrible. Either way, I loved it — the chanting, snacks, cute uniforms, hot girls. Oh and of course playing.

Valerie Anne, Writer

Four photos of Valerie Anne as a child, playing softball

I played softball from 5th through 8th grade. My minor league team was The Lightning and we were the worst team in the league but we had the most fun. Our coach was a lighthearted guy (whose daughter, I realized in retrospect, I had a huge crush on) and my dad was the assistant coach. They cared more about teaching us about the sport than winning. In the major leagues we were the Mudhens (??) and we were the best team in the league. I was not, so I did my best to just not fuck that up for everyone. My strongest memories from that team were the time I got smashed in the face by a wild pitch and how my coach used to make fun of me because I would “slide like a dancer.”

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

Heather Hogan as a young child holds a bat and wears her Blue Angels softball uniform next to a softball diamond.

I played softball my whole life, from the age of four to the age of 34 when endometriosis made it impossible for me to run. This photo is from my first softball team, the Blue Angels! We won the five-year-old championship against Big Mac Attack! I played first base because I was very long and bendy and didn’t mind getting hit in the face for the sake of the game. One time, in fifth grade, Emily P. — our amazing shortstop who had an arm like a cannon! — knocked out some of my teeth! I also have had stitches in my tongue, chin, knee, finger, palm, arm, and calf because of softball. I wouldn’t trade those scars for anything in the world!

Stef Rubino, Writer

Stef Rubino as a child holds a baseball bat while posing for a photo. The border says The Sports Section 1997

I WISH I had a better copy of this photo because it’s cut off right where my team nickname — “Icebox” — was printed but I can’t find the physical copy anywhere. My dad, who was the assistant coach of a couple of my sports teams growing up, gave it to me because my brother and I loved watching Little Giants, and that was the nickname of the girl in the movie. He said I was much better suited for the name because I was bigger and tougher. I’m not sure if the latter was true but it’s a cute story. I only played softball for a few years, and I remember it fondly but for some reason, I mostly only remember being in the dugout, talking shit to my little friends, eating sunflower seeds, and cheering on my teammates. I know for certain I enjoyed myself, though! I’ve always been pretty social, so looking back, I can see how playing sports was mostly just another way for me to hang out with kids my age.

Katie Reilly, Writer

Katie Reilly as a young child holds a baseball bat while posing for a photo

Wow such an awkward phase with these baby hairs in the center of my face and I swear my ears don’t look that big anymore. I played softball from 1st through 6th grade. In junior high I saw how much running was required in practice and I was like no thanks. It was a town league grouped by age. There would be a tryout day and the coaches would then pick people and announce the teams. The teams were always named after local businesses that had sponsored them and my most successful team in 4th-6th grade — which I think is what this picture is from because I remember being happy our team color was light blue – was named for a funeral home. When I started softball as a kid I thought it was boring and I would draw in the dirt in the outfield but by the time I made it to the older teams I was actually pretty good. Not the best, but I am left handed and could throw far enough to be a good outfielder and hit good line drives down third base. The funeral home team had a lot of really great players on it and I am the proud owner of multiple 1st and 2nd place softball trophies that I now have no clue what to do with. A lot of my best friends at the time played on other teams in the town league and we LOVED A League of Their Own. Are you surprised that a lot of us are queer now?

Drew Burnett Gregory, Senior Editor

Four photos of Drew Gregory as a young child, playing baseball.

When I was a kid, I followed all the rules. Maybe that’s why I liked to steal. Baseball was the only place where stealing wasn’t just allowed — it was celebrated. Stealing bases had all the excitement of a heist with far less risk, and with speed like mine, no risk at all. I didn’t know who I really was, and I was too ignorant and too scared to find out. I wasn’t a trans girl who had it in her to demand girlhood instead of boyhood, ballet instead of baseball. But if I managed to get on first, the expected could at last disappear. That confused little girl could take everything that was hers — second, third, and, once or twice, she even found her way home.

A group of young kids in Red Sox uniforms, including Autostraddle's Anya Richkind

Here I am hamming it up in my Red Sox uniform, suggesting my overall trajectory away from sports and towards theater! Despite being a theater kid through and through, I always loved baseball. More than playing T-Ball and softball, I loved attending baseball games. The hot chocolate, the blankets, the churros… (I grew up in San Francisco, so evening baseball games were usually chilly.) More than any of that, though, I loved keeping score. My dad taught me how to do so and got me this special score-keeping notepad for it. I wrote down every pitch in that notepad and, for some reason, found that very thrilling. Looking back, keeping score felt like a way to engage with the game in the present, and also a way to record it for future nostalgia — I loved flipping through the notebook almost as much as filling it. Baseball will always have a very special place in my heart.

Riese , Editorial & Strategy

Riese as a young child in a Detroit Tigers uniform for Halloween, counting her candy

I was a baseball fanatic as a kid, like I was the only girl in the Baseball Card Club, was obsessed with baseball history and my Dad and brother and I played extravagant, constant games of Strat-o-Matic baseball. I also played on a softball team but alas I have no pictures of it on my person! Instead I have this: me being a Detroit Tiger for Halloween.

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  1. love this! Heather, feeling very seen by the litany of softball injuries. the first time i ever broke my nose was at t-ball because SOMEONE (josh a.) didn’t follow the rule of not swinging the bat in the dugout and caught me right in the face

    one of my most prized possessions is a button with my first grade baseball picture on it! missing front teeth, bat on my shoulder, hair poofing out from under my ball cap because i hated letting anyone brush it, etc

  2. DREW!!!! how do you make the last word of ONE paragraph so devastating???

    this is gorgeous – i managed 1 season of softball after i saw a league of their own and learned to thro a baseball. i still like baseballs better – i like rolling them off my fingers & that they fit in my palm.

  3. This is so cute! (Also I think I forgot to comment on Drew’s interview with her dad, but I loved it and cried at parts, seems like such a sweet guy)

    A smattering of memories:

    I played 1 season of tee-ball and was awful (like every other kid) and didn’t continue (don’t know if that was my mom’s decision or mine).

    Played another season in 6th grade but for softball on my school’s team for district-wide tournament, unsurprisingly was still awful for a kid who had never received instruction. I had a lot of fun, though, and wanted to continue so asked my mom if I could play Babe Ruth or whatever level it is for 12/13 year olds. She said I couldn’t and that if I really had interest I could try out for the high school team (in 2 years???) and then join an outside league. Needless to say I didn’t try out for anymore teams.

    I always loved baseball, but no one else in my family did beside my grandma (and part of her rooting interest was those good Italian boys on her Dodgers, particularly Mike Piazza and then Paul Lo Duca, amongst others), and started watching it and getting more obsessed with it by end of high school. Some of my closest friends in my 20s were met through the local MLB team and fellow fans.

    Played a season of softball in my mid-20s before I had kids, had a lot of fun. Still was pretty bad but at least tried to get better.

    Joined the local LGBT softball league last year after a couple years of Covid isolation with just my immediate family, wanting to make more queer friends. Still not very good but have been playing the past couple seasons (it’s a 2 season a year league) and am getting for the next one in a month.

    So that’s really what I’ll leave with – if you have a local LGBT sports league (whether softball or a different sport), I’d definitely encourage you to check it! It’s a nice alternative to more drinking/clubbing/hookup culture activities if that’s not your interest.

  4. You’re all so cute !
    I love the gold sparkles coming off of Shea’s bat.

    I played softball exactly once and had such bad hand-eye coordination that no one ever picked me again. I didn’t realize until much later that one of my eyes is just off-kilter enough that I don’t see straight. Indeed.

    When I was a very young kid, watching the older girls on the street play softball did funny things to my stomach. I didn’t dare watch too often; I was sure my state of bliss was way too apparent. Heck it probably showed from space.

  5. also Also ALSO – YES, Riese, Strat-o-Matic baseball! I still have all the components and some cards but my kids (and no one else around me) wants to learn to play so it just sits in a closet in my house. Loved baseball cards as well, have an intense core memory of receiving a pack from my dad when I was 4 or 5 of 1990 Donruss, and even just looking at pictures of it online reminds me how much I loved that card set in particular.

  6. I played soccer and softball in elementary school, but I barely remember it. I’m pretty sure I only lasted a season with each of them.

    I do remember going to catch a ball with my right hand while the mitt was on my left. I only sprained my finger, but my lack of coordination is definitely part of why sports never stuck with me.

  7. The only team sport I ever enjoyed playing was softball, mostly because a lot of my friends were on the team and our coach (my friend’s dad) was very chill. He was definitely more interested in teaching us the game than trying to make us the best (and our league was pretty tiny) so it was more social than athletic. I had a strong arm and mostly played outfield, and I killed it in the batting cage but tended to freeze up at bat so I got walked to first a lot.

  8. Having a passion for sports does not mean that you have to be a professional athlete. I believe that most sports fans chose this hobby precisely because they like to feel a sense of involvement in the victories of their favorite team or national team. This is something that can be open to everyone, regardless of ability. I don’t understand those parents who force their children to go into professional sports.

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