You have probably heard of Mo’ne Davis. She is a female former Little League Baseball pitcher from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She pitched for the Little League World Series back in 2014 and made national headlines. Did you know that we have someone similar in our own community at Redmond High School, in Redmond, Washington? Emily Tsujikawa is her name and baseball is her game. Since she was 5 years old, Emily has been playing baseball and working and training to compete on both her high school and select baseball teams. Unlike most male and female sports, baseball and softball vary in not only in the size of the ball, the height of the net, or the size of the field. It may appear that they are similar but they are very different games with to different names. They have different pitching areas, different sized balls, different sized field, different distances between the bases and overall require a different mental approach when competing. You might wonder why Emily is playing baseball? That is exactly why I decided to sit down and interview her. I have the pleasure of knowing Emily and have always been intrigued by her choice to play baseball and her experiences being the only girl in a male sport.
Emily told me about her reasonings behind playing baseball and what the sport means to her. She explains to me some of her challenges she’s faced during her career so far along with some of the best memories she’s had playing the game. What I found out was truly eye opening, and after talking with her, I realized how hard it would be it to be in her shoes, yet how inspiring she is for being so strong in doing what she loves to do.
Disclaimer: Emily made it very clear that she doesn’t want to be given any special treatment for being a girl playing baseball. She loves the sport and only wants to get better.
“I feel like sometimes coaches avoid yelling at me because they think being a girl, I can’t handle it. A lot of times people tell me I’ve done well, even though I know I haven’t.”
L: Why did you ultimately choose baseball over softball?
E: I was going to play softball, but the little league in my area didn’t seem very competitive and challenging. My older sister had played baseball so I decided to give it a try because it seemed similar and very interesting.
L: What is the hardest thing about playing with boys?
E: Intimidating, some of the guys don’t talk to me because they are shy and don’t know how to interact with me as a teammate. A lot of times, boys think I am going to be bad because I’m a girl and they judge my ability based on that. The worst is when boys think I might be a lesbian or transgender.
L: How do you handle skepticism/criticism for being a female playing baseball?
E: I just brush it off, keep playing and try not to let it get to me. The most criticism I get is when I’m pitching but I’m more focused on what I need to do to be better.
L: Do you ever feel you are treated differently by your friends / peers?
E: Yes, I feel like sometimes coaches avoid yelling at me because they think being a girl, I can’t handle it. A lot of times people tell me I’ve done well, even though I know I haven’t. Moms will always come up to me after games, and seem like they are sympathizing with me, telling me I’ve done well, no matter what. They are telling this thinking that just because I’m a girl, I need special praise. People think I make a team out of pity. Sometimes I get attention on just being a girl and not my ability to play baseball. During practices and games, coaches will say “come on guys & girls”, and rather than it making me feel included, it kind of makes me feel like I stand out.
L: Do you have any advice to young women athletes thinking of playing a male sport?
E: Practice A LOT when you are young. Find someone who is accepting of what you want to do and who will motivate you. Don’t listen to the negative things people say. Embrace your strengths and somewhat disregard the differences, you don’t have to fit into a stereotype. For example, I know I am not physically as strong as the boys but I have used my poise and preciseness to my advantage in order to be a good, accurate pitcher. I am using my strengths to my advantage and not my weaknesses to my disadvantage.
“A lot of times, boys think I am going to be bad because I’m a girl and they judge my ability based on that.”
L: What is the best part of baseball?
E: When you play a game and know you did well and when everyone is playing well and having fun as a team.
L: What has baseball taught you?
E: Baseball has taught me patience, it’s taught me to listen to coaches and others (I was really stubborn as a kid). It’s taught me how to not focus on the negatives but rather look at what I did good and work on my strengths rather than let my weaknesses hold me back. The was one time somebody told me I didn’t belong on the field and their son deserved to play over me.
L: Do you have any fun memories playing baseball?
E: Last year I was able to play on an all-female team from Cooperstown, New York. It was really fun to be with other players who have faced the same challenges I have. We played all male teams and it was so fun to see the faces of the other teams when we would win. The other memory I have and will always have are the high school players that I know well and have been playing with for a long time.
L: Who is your biggest inspiration?
E: My mom is my biggest inspiration. She had to move to a new country, and learn to fit in. Kind of like me and baseball. My mom balances everything in her life and doesn’t let criticism get in her way or bring her down.
L: You have a twin sister, Lindsay, who also played baseball until switching to softball. How was that?
E: I felt really sad when Lindsay decided to switch to softball and I stayed playing baseball. Growing up, we would always compete with each other and when we started playing the two different sports, we both kind of felt alone and missed each other. She is one of my biggest supporters, she always comes to my games when she can and I go to hers when I can.
While Emily is one of the small majority of girls who play baseball, and should be praised for going against the social norm. however she should mostly be praised for her ability to put the social boundaries behind her and use her strengths to enjoy the game of baseball. Emily isn’t playing baseball so she can prove something. She plays baseball the way many of us loves softball and wants to continue her passion which in the end proves who she is as a woman athlete, making baseball her game.
“Emily is Her Name, Baseball is Her Game” was junior Lauren Lund’s final project as an Editorial Intern at the Awesome Sports Project.
Click here to find out more about the internship program for high school girl athletes.