A league of their own, finally a field of their own, but girls’ athletic facilities don’t compare to boys’
I visited to look at the new Glacken Field last week. It is fantastic. Not only one field, but two with a groomed infield, outfield fences, dugouts and – I couldn’t believe it – lights. Those boys and coaches of Little League West must be ecstatic to play on a new baseball field with top-notch facilities.
I remember the inaugural season of the girls’ softball league in 1995. The league played in different fields throughout the city, such as Sennott Park, Gore Street, Ahern, Glacken and even Rafferty Field. Eventually the city allowed the league to use St. Peter’s and Donnelly fields on Friday evenings and the league moved away from Ahern, Sennott and Rafferty.
The girls, parents and coaches were initially excited to have a league of their own, but over the years the league officials, parents and players complained that the fields lacked maintenance. At times there were no chalked foul lines; the outfield grass was not mowed; or there were divots in the infield or outfield, and soccer games in the outfield. The league also asked to have lights installed, especially at Glacken Field – but were told it would never happen, because the neighborhood would object.
In 2008, this lack of attention sparked Sara Breen, a player in the league, to start a petition requesting that the girls have a field of their own. The boys have 10 fields, two in each division of the four little leagues (North, East, West and Central), and Babe Ruth has two, she argued. She did this on her own, without the full support of league officials. She collected numerous signatures and presented the petition to city officials. Some at the city were surprised the boys had 10 fields and the girls none. As a result of her effort, the city named Danehy 3 to be the field for girls’ softball. Again, the league and players were joyous as the girls finally had a field of their own. And the condition of the field is well maintained by the Danehy staff.
It certainly does not compare with the boys’ fields, though. Danehy 3 is wide open and at least 5 degrees colder in the spring. Parents and fans are encouraged to wear winter jackets the first few weeks of the season. And it’s much windier than the lower fields at St. Peter’s. (Some nickname it “the frozen tundra.”) In addition, all parking lots are a quarter-mile away from the field. It’s comforting for parents who drop kids off at different locations to see the coach at the field and leave to rush to their next destination, but at Danehy 3 there’s no visibility from the street. Funny that this isn’t the case at all the boys’ fields. In addition, there’s less access for some physically challenged parents or grandparents with mobility issues, who decide to stay home rather than attend a game. And if there is threat of lightning and the players are asked to leave the field, they all scatter in four directions and the coach is unable to see that every player reached their cars safely.
I know when my daughter played 20 years ago, she echoed the lack of attention the girls’ fields get compared with the boys’. Recently she visited Glacken Field. She called me. “Dad, is this field for the girls?” I replied, “What do you think”? “Still a boys’ world?” she replied. “Of course,” I said.
I am surprised with all the talk about gender equity that girls’ softball was not considered to determine if the plans for the new Glacken Field – used by girls’ softball for more than 20 years – could have been built so both leagues could share. But why would the boys share if they don’t have to? After all, it’s still a man’s world; this is an example where young boys and girls learn that lesson very early.
My wish is that another Sara Breen would play in the league today.
Steve McAuliffe, coach in the Cambridge Girls Softball League