Soft­ball player cries foul over gen­der di­vide

Tour­na­ment or­ga­niz­ers pre­vent two girls from play­ing for But­lerville in boys di­vi­sion

The Compass - - Front Page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

Jenna Lee Ralph’s house is right be­hind the ball field in Spa­niard’s Bay, so it’s un­der­stand­able she’s grown ac­cus­tomed to bat-and-ball sports.

But af­ter 13 years of play­ing ei­ther base­ball or soft­ball, the 16-year-old hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced the kind of dis­ap­point­ment she felt re­cently af­ter or­ga­niz­ers for the Cap­tain Wil­liam Moss Memo­rial Soft­ball Tour­na­ment pre­vented her from play­ing.

We do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to try and get the kids a game of ball, but we do not have a co-ed di­vi­sion.

— Ross Crocker

“It’s not re­ally fair,” she told The Com­pass last week. “Ev­ery­one is all about get­ting out and get­ting ac­tive now, and then all of a sud­den you get told you can’t … I wasn’t given an­other op­tion ei­ther.”

For the first time in her ca­reer, Ralph is a mem­ber of the un­der-16 fast pitch squad in the But­lerville Mi­nor Soft­ball As­so­ci­a­tion. She’s in her third year play­ing soft­ball and last year rep­re­sented New­found­land and Labrador at the Base­ball Canada Na­tional un­der-16 Cham­pi­onships.

Ralph and an­other fe­male player were hop­ing to suit up with their team in the boys di­vi­sion for the Moss tour­na­ment, but she learned at a house league game two weeks prior that she wouldn’t be al­lowed to play. But­lerville does not have a fe­male un­der-16 team.

“I was kind of up­set, be­cause I’ve never seen any­thing like that be­fore,” she told The Com­pass. “It’s never an is­sue with an of­fi­cial.”

Soft­ball New­found­land and Labrador does per­mit fe­male play­ers to play with their own teams in the boys di­vi­sion for provin­cials, ac­cord­ing to Ralph.

Her mother and some of the coaches ex­changed emails with tour­na­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives try­ing to find a way to ac­com­mo­date Ralph and the other fe­male player (who The Com­pass could not reach for com­ment), but those ef­forts proved fruit­less. Two days be­fore the tour­na­ment got un­der­way in St. John’s, ev­ery­one gave up.

Ross Crocker, tour­na­ment cochair, said the event has al­ways op­er­ated with sep­a­rate girl and boy di­vi­sions since the for­mer was first in­tro­duced in 1990 for the event, which started in 1980.

“We’ve gone out of our way ev­ery year to ac­com­mo­date re­quests from all as­so­ci­a­tions,” he said. “If an as­so­ci­a­tion only has four girls, for ex­am­ple, we’ll try to get those four girls a game of ball with an­other team. And the same for the guys di­vi­sion … We do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to try and get the kids a game of ball, but we do not have a co-ed di­vi­sion.”

While the dis­ap­point­ment still lingers, Ralph was en­cour­aged to learn there were so many peo­ple out there who sym­pa­thized with her. She posted about her ex­pe­ri­ence on Face­book re­cently, and it gar­nered nearly 300 shares.

“We had peo­ple call­ing the house and ev­ery­thing,” Ralph said. “We had friends of my par­ents, ev­ery­one, peo­ple from across the is­land, other prov­inces — ev­ery­one was com­ment­ing and shar­ing, say­ing it wasn’t fair.”

Asked why the tour­na­ment would not al­low girls to play with their own as­so­ci­a­tion when they don’t have a girls team to play on, Crocker re­it­er­ated the fact there are only two di­vi­sions.

“The Moss tour­na­ment, not like provin­cials, is the only tour­na­ment of the year (where the goal is) ba­si­cally to try and get ev­ery­body a game of ball in both the boys and girls di­vi­sion, and that’s what we try to do ev­ery year. But we don’t have any co-ed team, be­cause I tell you, once that starts, it’ll be tough to con­trol. You’ll get ev­ery as­so­ci­a­tion want­ing to do it.”

Crocker went on to point out na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally there is no co-ed di­vi­sion for the sport.

“We just sort of fol­low that,” he said.

Ralph would like to see tour­na­ment or­ga­niz­ers make changes next year to wel­come fe­male play­ers who earned a spot on a boys team, in­stead of ex­clud­ing them.

“I’m hop­ing that this will be the last year that that is­sue arises,” she said.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Jenna Lee Ralph of Spa­niard’s Bay does not be­lieve it was fair for tour­na­ment or­ga­niz­ers to pre­vent her and an­other girl from play­ing on the But­lerville soft­ball team com­pet­ing in the un­der-16 boys di­vi­sion at the Con­sta­ble Wil­liam Moss Memo­rial Soft­ball Tour­na­ment.

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