A First at First : ‘I’m Just as Good as These Guys . . . ‘
Julie Croteau knows not to dig into the batter’s box. She’s seen a few fastballs whiz by her chin. Several pitchers have hit her, too.
But despite the temptation, she’s never charged the mound.
“I’m not crazy,” the first woman to play in an NCAA baseball game said. “Not unless I had a bat with me. I’m a pretty nasty little girl but I think that most pitchers could probably take me.”
She’s 18 years old, stands 5 feet, 7 1/2 inches, weighs 126 pounds and doesn’t seem to be all that nasty. She made her collegiate debut last week for St. Mary’s of Maryland against Spring Garden, went 0-for-3 and handled six chances flawlessly.
‘To Me It Seemed Silly’
“I was more scared about doing something wrong than I was thinking about baseball. I couldn’t give 100% concentration to the game, as hard as I tried. I was thinking, ‘Ball to bat. Make contact. Drive the ball right back up the middle.’ But unfortunately, you can’t keep the thoughts out of your head. ‘Contact. Nice and clean. Ball to bat. Fifteen cameras on you. Never mind. Ball to bat. . . . ‘ “
She’s been playing ball for 11 years, dismissing coaches who tell her to go play softball. She sued Osbourne Park High School in Virginia for sex discrimination when they wouldn’t let her play on the team, but lost in federal court.
“To me it seemed silly,” she said. “I want to play baseball. I’ve played baseball just as long as these guys have. And I’m just as good as these guys. Baseball is just a game. And there’s no reason I should be cut from the team just because I’m a girl, whereas they get to play because they’re guys.
‘That’s Not Right’
“If someone tells me, Julie, you can’t play because your ability level’s not high enough, I deal with it. But if someone says, you can’t play because you’re a girl, that’s not right.”
At liberal-minded St. Mary’s, she was accepted as a left-handed-hitting first baseman with an average bat, average power, good fielding, a good arm and less-than-average speed.
While her ability is average, she knows she’s unusual because she’s a woman. She wants her teammates to try to ignore that. For instance, she is not inclined to clean up the language in the dugout and on the field.
“When I first went out, I’d say the first couple of days, they’d say, ‘Godda . . . oh, I’m sorry, Julie. Hey, you swing like a . . . I’m sorry, Julie.’ I’d say, ‘Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t bother me.’ ”