Girls try baseball, thrilled to do ‘normal’ things again

Maliyah Cureton fields the ball as Lily Siklosi, right, reaches “home plate” behind her, during a Girls At Bat training session at High Park School. Tara Jeffrey

Tara Jeffrey

When Kelly-Anne Lemieux started a new girls’ baseball program at High Park Public School, she wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I was hoping for maybe a dozen girls,” said the Grade 4/5 French Immersion teacher, who was shocked when more than 30 students showed up.

A die-hard Blue Jays fan and longtime competitive player, Lemieux reached out to Major League Baseball’s ‘Girls At Bat’ program, designed to increasing female participation in sport.

The program introduces girls to the basics, providing coaching resources, equipment and Blue Jays gear.

“Because of the overwhelming interest, we still didn’t have enough gloves for every girl in the program, “said Lemieux, who put out a call on Facebook.

“People started dropping off gloves, gift cards — at my house and at the school — it’s been phenomenal.”

The group meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunch. To her surprise, many of the Grade 4-6 students had never held a bat, let alone stepped on a ball diamond.

“It’s a diverse group of kids from all different cultures and backgrounds. We have one young lady who’s only been in the country a few months,” she said.

“I literally had to show them how to put a glove on properly. A lot of these kids don’t have the means to play travel sports. For myself, being a ballplayer growing up, it really put things in perspective.”

Lemieux said she’s already seen a change after just a few weeks.

“They’re just so excited for things to be a bit more ‘normal’ again,” she said. “They’re working on basic baseball skills, but also their self-esteem and self-confidence.”

Lemieux said she’s reached out to partner with the Sarnia Heat Girls’ Fastball program, to encourage those who may be interested in registering for ball this summer. One anonymous donor even pledged to pay the registration fee for one lucky girl.

“People have been coming out of the woodwork.”

As the weather warms, the group will move outdoors from the gymnasium and play right through to the end of June.

“They’re really putting themselves out there,” said Lemieux. “And as long as they’re willing to commit their time I’m willing to commit mine.”

Delilah VanPraet, left, gets ready to catch a baseball while a teammate looks on during a ‘Girls At Bat’ training session at High Park School.
Tara Jeffrey