By Ben Ramirez
With a cast including Tom Hanks and Madonna, the 1992 film “A League of Their Own” tells the story of the creation of the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League during World War II. This true story, one may argue, was the last time women’s baseball, softball now, was part of a larger baseball culture in this country.
The differences between softball and baseball go deeper than just gender, but at their core, the two games are one in the same. That being said, Major League Baseball (MLB) players sign upwards of 100 million dollar contracts in some cases, while the largest National Pro Fastpitch League’s (NPF) contract is one million dollars. But more importantly, MLB is considered to be “America’s Pastime,” while people are not aware of a professional softball league. Frankly, it is time for that to change.
Like baseball, softball players put in a good amount of work off the field and during practice in order to perform to the best of their abilities when it matters most. Not only that, while baseball plays a slower-paced nine inning game, softball is a fast-paced, competitive seven inning game.
One could argue that naturally, baseball players are bigger and stronger just based on being men, but that belief needs to be put into perspective. Baseball players are in most cases bigger and stronger than softball players, but they also play against other men. Softball players, in comparison, are playing against other women of their same build and strength.
Famously said in “The Sandlot,” this phrase has been used by baseball players and other male athletes as an insult to each other to mean they are not playing well; this is no longer the case. But before softball can be truly seen to be equal with baseball, people need to realize that playing ball “like a girl” is no longer an insult.
Former collegiate All-American at the University of Arizona, Olympic gold and silver medal winner, and Chicago Bandits pitcher with a laundry list of career accolades, Jennie Finch, has been at the forefront of advocating for softball to be equal to baseball. As a way to prove it, she has struck out professional baseball players, most notably, MLB All-Star and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols.
While it is evident that softball can go toe-to-toe with baseball in terms of skills and the competitiveness of the games themselves, but audiences do not seem to realize that. MLB attracts millions of fans every year, who spend money on tickets to games as well as memorabilia. That is why these blockbuster MLB superstar players get paid the lucrative amounts they do.
Softball should be equal to baseball in this way, however. Things need to change before that is possible, including the amount of people softball brings into the stadiums. Equal pay would be possible once NPF begins to build their fan base and bring in revenue that could rival MLB.
“If softball was on the same scale as baseball then [they should be paid equally]. But the audience would need to be built up, and I believe it should be,” sophomore Gwen Pederson said.