Stacey Garcia had grown jaded with softball.
She played on the girls’ softball team at Litchfield Park’s L. Thomas Heck Middle School her seventh-grade year until she became bored of it.
Garcia wanted to play baseball, a sport she had grown up playing with her father. So, she made a pledge she would do just that.
This spring, Garcia is playing on the eighth-grade boys’ baseball team.
“I’ve been playing baseball for four years,” she said.
Garcia patrols second base for L. Thomas Heck, while also receiving some playing time in the outfield and on the mound. Head coach Scott Jones typically pencils Garcia into the two-hole in the batting order for the 0-4-1 Pride.
There were some reservations Garcia had about playing on the eighth-grade boys’ team.
“I knew how hard they pitched and how good their abilities were,” she said. “But it’s good. We all get along.”
Her teammates have done an exceptional job of welcoming her to their team, she said. Opposing coaches and players have given her a warm reception, too. But the occasional double-take from an umpire is customary.
“Some umpires were just surprised they saw a girl on the team, but they were all pretty good about it.”
Jones had known prior to tryouts that Garcia was interested in playing for the team. At the tryout itself, it didn’t take long for Garcia to snag the attention of the Pride skipper.
“My first impression of her was that she could ball,” Jones said. “She lined up at second base during tryouts, she went through what everyone else did, and she stood out with her skill.”
This is Jones’ seventh season of coaching youth sports. It marked the first time he had a female athlete on a boys’ team.
Garcia has knocked down this barrier and stigma that baseball is meant to be played by just boys. Jones said what Garcia has done this spring – “going against the grain” – really puts an emphasis on the type of person she is.
“It says that she’s not afraid to take a stand and she’s not afraid to challenge herself and get what she believes is for her. The fact that Stacey was able to take on that challenge, as well as be able to perform and achieve with eighth grade boys’ baseball, that speaks a lot about her character, and she’s done amazing for us this year.
“Boy, girl, that doesn’t matter at all. If you can ball, you can ball,” Jones said.
Garcia has championed a role akin to a trailblazer among the girls at her school – though little did she know her playing on the team would have the effect it did. Several girls have already reached out to her and expressed their interest to join the baseball team next spring.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” she said. “I honestly didn’t really think about it happening at the time.”