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She Throws Like a Girl (with a 70 MPH fastball)
August 12, 2014 9:03 AM   Subscribe

This past Sunday, Philadelphia's Taney Dragons punched their ticket to the Little League World Series behind the complete game shutout pitching performance of Mo'Ne Davis, who at 13-years-old already throws a 70 MPH fastball. Davis will become only the 17th girl to play in the LLWS in 68 years. She has become an inspiration to others as she redefines what it means to "throw like a girl".
posted by The Gooch (40 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Neat writeup. I've seen this bouncing around facebook for a while.

Random comment, from TFA, "In 1994, Minnesota’s Krissy Wendell became the first girl to start at catcher for a Little League World Series team, and she went on to captain the U.S. national hockey team and win two Olympic medals. "

Like Chris Drury, was also in the LLWS (89, wiki says), it's interesting that a standout in one sport goes on to be a big standout in a totally different sport. (Or they're just great athletes who can move around like that..)
posted by k5.user at 9:09 AM on August 12


Or as girls in sport, they don't have as many options to specialize, and they just go where they can best thrive with what they've got.
posted by themanwho at 9:32 AM on August 12


I don't really follow sports, but I wish this kid another shutout!
posted by easily confused at 9:46 AM on August 12


I watched that game. More impressive than her fastball was her curveball, which just freaking drops off a table as it crosses the plate.
posted by COD at 9:50 AM on August 12


I coach baseball in an 11-and-under mixed league. Whenever I see a girl on another team, I think, there's a ballplayer. I haven't met one yet who was there because a parent wanted them to play, or it was a good tune-up for an offseason sport (half my players would skip out on a baseball playoff game because it's the same weekend as hockey tryouts... such is life in Canada). They want to play because they love the game, and they have to put up with a lot of crap even in the best situations to do it.

Even on their own team, they'll meet with comments. Rarely are they ill intentioned, but something as innocuous as "c'mon, guys, let's go" just has that exclusionary feel to it. I have heard the "throw like a girl" line coming from the other coaches, followed by a hasty note that the girl on our team doesn't throw like that, of course, which almost makes it worse. It's like that extra twist to the dagger, and I can't imagine having to hear that all the time and not have it bring you down a bit as a player.

Often what's meant by "throw like a girl" is more "throw like a shotputter", which describes the motion, and that's what I say in those situations. What information can a player use to correct their motion if all you can think to tell them is they throw like a girl? And how is that supposed to help the girl on your team who throws incorrectly? How else is she supposed to throw?

There are physical differences between boys and girls in baseball (mostly with the knees), but throwing a ball isn't one of them.

As for being a standout in other sports, I think that's true of all kids in team sports. The athletes will often play more than one sport, and skills in one venue often transfer or reinforce skills in another to create a more rounded player. The pros often played at a high level in several competitive sports - Jackie Robinson famously lettered in track, football, basketball, and baseball at UCLA.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:53 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Gosh, I have trouble with the phrasing "throw like a girl". Since these days I’m going for Less Patriarchy in my Language (probably eliminating it is an unrealistic expectation at this point) we’re gonna talk about that.

From the last article, we have “I don’t throw like a girl,” my 7-year-old daughter uttered in late June, her tone full of sass. The haymaker of insults, whether on the grass and dirt of a baseball diamond or the hard asphalt of a schoolyard, has always been to tell someone they “throw like a girl.”

This 7-yr-old knows that doing something like a girl is a top-tier insult. She’s currently displaying the knee-jerk response of distancing herself from her gender — I’m not like those other girls. I am one of the guys. If I try hard enough, I can play with the dudes and they will accept me as one of them. The failures of all other women and girls before me, their failures were personal and not systemic. I am different. I will try harder. I Can Win This Game, Damn It, and I DON’T THROW LIKE A GIRL.

This is the response that many, many strong, capable, intelligent little girls (and women) have when they run face-first into the concrete wall of patriarchy. The “I Can Win This Game, Damn It” view offers women the prospect of individual success, the idea that the game is winnable for them if they just try hard enough. ICWTGDI is a distraction and a lie -- and as such, it needs to be shut right the heck down, because it is so utterly harmful and divisive to a little girl's sense of self and to women as a whole.

The author's daughter is 7 and she knows that a person can throw well or like a girl and that these two ways of throwing are opposites. The choice that like a girl offers little girls is that they can do things competently and well -- run hard, throw fast and accurately, hit with authority -- or they can do them (poorly or not at all) in alignment with their gender. That's the choice we give little girls in the world where like a girl is a schoolyard insult. You couldn't come up with a better way to get smart, driven, capable little girls gender-distancing and thinking ICWTGDI if you tried.

We should probably just toss the phrasing "like a girl" entirely. The issue here is not that Mo’Ne throws “like a girl” anyway. The issue here is that she throws better than most 12-13 yr old little league pitchers, full stop. Mo’Ne can be a little league pitcher measured against other little league pitchers and that’s fine. The gender of a little league pitcher is not germane to the discussion of their pitching.

Also, I get rather steamed at Person Does Activity Really Well And Is Also A Girl articles because the implication is that this person is an outlier and, as such, a credit to her race gender. Protip: If you’re not sure if something is sexist, try changing the wording from “girl” to “person of color" and see if it reads differently for you.
posted by which_chick at 9:57 AM on August 12 [12 favorites]


There are physical differences between boys and girls in baseball (mostly with the knees)

That sounds interesting. Would you mind elaborating a little?
posted by yoink at 10:07 AM on August 12


You’ll see some scary manchildren at the Little League World Series...

No kidding. I happened to catch part of a game on tv over the weekend and there was this one boy pitching who could have easily passed for a high school senior. I mean, he was towering over the rest of the kids and looked like he had the same build as a high school athlete. But, then, some tiny 11 year-old spanked one of the kid's pitches over the center field fence, so I felt better.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:13 AM on August 12


Wow, great form. Is there anything keeping her from the MLB draft when the time comes, should that be what she wants?
posted by TheTingTangTong at 10:35 AM on August 12


You’ll see some scary manchildren at the Little League World Series...

Or in other youth baseball leagues. My kid's 12U travel team had a kid who was 6' tall, weighed 175lbs and threw a 75mph heater. Their catcher was 5'10, 165 and would gun down runners stealing 2nd so often that most teams they played stopped trying.

My kid was the 5'2, 103lb second baseman, lead off batter. If he got on, pretty safe bet that one of those 2 kids was bringing him in.
posted by rhythim at 10:39 AM on August 12


TheTingTangTong: "Wow, great form. Is there anything keeping her from the MLB draft when the time comes, should that be what she wants?"

Nothing keeps her from the draft, but there is a problem with playing baseball beyond 9th grade. Most school districts in the States have girls softball as the TItle IX offset to baseball. She would not be eligible for her HS baseball team. Her opportunities to keep playing baseball are severely limited.
posted by 724A at 10:41 AM on August 12


The Grantland article notes that many girls play high school varsity baseball.
posted by chrchr at 10:48 AM on August 12


But what's really keeping her from the MLB draft is that there's a *huge* gap between being a good player at 13 and being a MLB prospect at 20. Like, she needs to add 20-25 mph to her fastball over the next five years and she's probably mostly done growing.
posted by chrchr at 10:52 AM on August 12


The idea that girls can and are maligned for doing X "like a girl" is... it's almost migraine inducing the more I think about it.

The idea that boys can and are maligned for doing X "like a girl" is so accepted that we don't even notice the bitter misogyny underlying this tendency.

When I was in little league (1974-77, that last in Babe Ruth, the worst summer of my life), the most common slur wasn't "fag," but "woman."

"You woman." I can still hear John Fechalos, somebody I still despise whenever I think of him, screaming that at me because apparently there was something wrong with how I ran. And I was one of the best players on the team but I got called a "woman" at every game and at every practice.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:14 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Most school districts in the States have girls softball as the TItle IX offset to baseball. She would not be eligible for her HS baseball team. Her opportunities to keep playing baseball are severely limited.

I've always wondered about this. Why do female leagues play softball instead of baseball? Are there any other sports where the women's version is that different?
posted by neat graffitist at 11:26 AM on August 12




That link is interesting but doesn't really answer the "why" part. OK, schools responded to Title IX by fielding women's softball teams instead of women's baseball teams -- but why? Is it cheaper? Fewer injuries, lower insurance premiums? I don't get it.
posted by neat graffitist at 11:38 AM on August 12


Yeah, there's no good reason. The article concludes that it's just inertia. So, inertia plus sexism et voilla!
posted by chrchr at 11:40 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


You’ll see some scary manchildren at the Little League World Series...

Last year there was some kid from Michigan who was like 6 feet, 200 lbs. His nickname was Swag Daddy.
posted by e1c at 11:45 AM on August 12


Are there any other sports where the women's version is that different?

Softball isn't a "woman's version" of baseball. There are male softball leagues and outside the US nobody thinks of that as men playing a women's game. They're two closely related sports, that's all. The same would be true of Netball and Basketball--but there are very few male Netball leagues.

It's just one of those cases where people like gender differentiation for gender differentiation's sake. In practice, though, it's not always clear that it's so self-evidently a bad thing. In New Zealand and Australia, for example, the national netball teams get a lot of respect and there's a lot of national press and TV coverage of their games. I think it will always be harder for the women's rugby team to get similar respect (or, indeed, a women's basketball team or cricket team) because there will always be a feeling that they're playing the sport at a lower level than the male team. With the netballers not having a male team to be compared to, that's not a concern.
posted by yoink at 11:50 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Oh, another case similar to baseball/softball in the US and basketball/netball in Australasia is Hockey/Ringette in Canada. It does seem to be quite common for cultures to develop "girls versions" of the major sports--for no apparent intrinsic reasons.
posted by yoink at 11:52 AM on August 12


Nothing keeps her from the draft, but there is a problem with playing baseball beyond 9th grade. Most school districts in the States have girls softball as the TItle IX offset to baseball. She would not be eligible for her HS baseball team. Her opportunities to keep playing baseball are severely limited.

I mean, they are, but it's because baseball is defined as a "contact sport" under Title IX rules, not because softball and baseball are the same. They're different games, and since there is no girls' baseball team, they are therefore eligible, under Title IX, to play on the boys' team. They're only ineligible because baseball is (more or less to keep it all-boy) considered a contact sport like football, and even then it's at the school's discretion. A school may segregate contact sports by gender, but they aren't required to. Probably because the football coaches want to be able to recruit kickers from the girls' soccer team. Anyway, girls can play baseball at the discretion of their public school's athletic department.

Most girls and their families either don't know this, or switch (begrudgingly or not) to softball anyway because there are no opportunities to play college baseball (although I know of at least one woman who has). I know there were at least a couple girls in...Kentucky? Playing prep baseball as of 2009. You hear about them periodically; there's always a girl who doesn't want to switch, and she's always good for a slow Tuesday in the sports section. They're also a primo feeder line to the USA Women's National Baseball Team (you didn't know there was a USA women's national baseball team did you.)
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:09 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


For those of you wondering, a 70 mph fastball will cross the plate on a little league field in .43 seconds. On a major league field it takes a 94.2 mph pitch to equal that. Batters of any age should be proud if they make contact, that's a damn hard pitch to hit.

and it's nice to have a good baseball team in Philly again!
posted by cmfletcher at 12:10 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


The reason men play baseball and women play softball is largely historical, smaller fields and underhand pitching was supposed to be easier on the "softer, more delicate" women. The reason why men continue to play baseball and women don't play baseball with them is, for lack of a better phrase, because women throw "like girls". There has been a fair amount of research into why (most pointing out that the hips and shoulders seem to rotate slower in women, for reasons not totally clear), but it is very consistent. It is actually one of the few things that there is a significant difference between the sexes, and it can be seen as soon as a toddler can throw, so it is assumed that it is intrinsic to the sexes at birth. There's about a 2 standard deviation difference in the means, which is quite significant. Even in gender neutral societies, like the Aboriginal Australians, where girls throw at the same rate as boys, girls throw at about 80% of the speed and distance of boys. This difference manifests itself most in overhand throwing, but also translates somewhat into other motions where the hips and shoulder must be rotated quickly, such as a golf swing, tennis serve and baseball swing.

In any case, this young lady is very impressive.
posted by roquetuen at 12:10 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]




yoink, I'm trying to find a study to support it because it's not my area of expertise. This information came from a pediatrician with a sports background, who indicated that the slight differences in anatomical structure (hips, maybe? earlier growth spurt?) puts different pressure on the knees of female catchers than male catchers, so especially at the younger ages they should not play that position for extended periods. I've seen studies that rank number of baseball/softball injuries by location as ankle, leg, knee for boys, and ankle, knee, leg for girls, but it didn't speculate on the reason for the difference.

There was a female coach and member of our provincial team sitting near me during the talk who confirmed that, anecdotally at least, that was the most common injury reported among her teammates. Catching is terrible on the knees regardless of gender.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:50 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


It's an awesome team, multiracial, drawn from many different backgrounds, and they really enjoy playing and like each other. That's what's coolest about the Taney Dragons.
posted by Peach at 1:47 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Speaking of throwing, here's a video of right-handed men throwing rocks with their left hands. And another one. It's all about the training, I suspect.
posted by Peach at 1:50 PM on August 12


It's all about the training, I suspect.

Why would men's inability to throw with their non-dextrous hands (something that clearly has a deep-seated neurophysiological basis) prove that the gender differences are "all about training"? I mean, that would suggest you believe that left handed children can easily be "taught" to be right handed which is decidedly not the case.
posted by yoink at 1:59 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Or as girls in sport, they don't have as many options to specialize, and they just go where they can best thrive with what they've got.

I'm going to go with, she's an exceptional athlete whether that's persistence or physiology or both. It's usually both! It's hard to just randomly excel in areas simply because they were dumped on you, and these don't sound like terrible positions at all. Hello, captain...

Also, I get rather steamed at Person Does Activity Really Well And Is Also A Girl articles because the implication is that this person is an outlier and, as such, a credit to her race gender. Protip: If you’re not sure if something is sexist, try changing the wording from “girl” to “person of color" and see if it reads differently for you.

If you want to make sure someone is making false equivalences, look out for gender-swap or race-to-gender-swap or whatever-swap sentences. Yes, she is an outlier. Maybe more girls will become outliers and won't be outliers any longer.
posted by aydeejones at 3:28 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


She would be an outlier even is she were a boy. This is the LLWS. These kids are the best of the best.
posted by COD at 4:44 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


There are physical differences between boys and girls in baseball (mostly with the knees), but throwing a ball isn't one of them
For what it's worth, I work with a woman who, in her youth, tried out as a pitcher for the Houston Astros. She claimed that there's a slight difference in arm/wrist anatomy that allows her to throw a much better curve ball.
posted by plinth at 5:39 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Popular Science on throwing:
In fact, the "throwing gap," as it's called, is one of the biggest differences between the genders. It's not just the largest gap in physical activities--although it's the largest gap in that field--it's possibly the most salient gap. Period.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:45 PM on August 12


My very determined younger sister was shortstop and pitcher for her little league team [the two skill positions for those that don't follow little league] in the late seventies, but testosterone hits and the boys get giant and of course the culture. What a lot of people don't realize is that professional athletes are drawn from a population of hundreds of millions, if not more in the case of Football/Soccer.

A lot of the revenue from professional sports teams is drawn from jersey sales and of course viewership and the team owners would love it - it would increase their audience and make millions of dollars if there were a female professional player. They are motivated by money almost exclusively. Remember that Jackie Robinson was a professional athlete eight years before Rosa Parks famously refused to move to the back of the bus.

There are physical differences between boys and girls in baseball (mostly with the knees)
That sounds interesting. Would you mind elaborating a little?


NYT with the usual balance of sense and nonsense
"A number of possible risk factors have been identified in women: wider hips; ligament laxity at certain stages of the menstrual cycle; the smaller size of the notch through which the ligament connects to the femur in the upper leg; a tendency to land straight-legged and knock-kneed; core instability; a greater imbalance than men in the comparative strength of the hamstring to the quadriceps, or thigh muscle." From the NYT
There are lots of articles from reputable sources. It's a fairly well documented phenomena. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2465242/

All that said pitching is mostly about decieving the batter as opposed to just blowing it by. Not everyone is going to be Randy Johnson or Nolan Ryan or Tom Seaver or Bob Gibson.

Maybe Mo'Ne Davis can make it as a short reliever or a knuckler but she going to need a third pitch to get into the first rotation.

Knuckleballs for the oh no.

posted by vapidave at 1:56 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Sport Science: Mo'Ne Davis
posted by tonycpsu at 9:03 AM on August 15


...and she just threw another complete game shutout in the opening round of the LLWS
posted by The Gooch at 1:53 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]




Sportswriting robot doesn’t know that Little League star Mo’Ne Davis is a girl

Update: "This has been fixed for now," tweets Game Changer. "We will monitor all future #LLWS recaps."
posted by tonycpsu at 8:33 AM on August 18


I played little league and there was this fucker named Tom that threw a seventy five mile an hour fastball and a sixty mile an hour knuckle ball. He was drafted by the Cincinatti Reds at age thirteen.

Television doesn't communicate speed well.

I practiced at baseball and did well [the first thing I found I could do well if I tried which was a revelation and learning from that my grades improved too].

Metafilter is very much not failing out loud which sport type things are. If you fuck it up everyone notices in sports. There is a benefit to getting used to fucking shit up though.

A seventy mile an hour fastball from the little league distance is absolutely terrifying. You pretty much have to ignore any notion of injury. It's seriously terrifying.
posted by vapidave at 3:50 PM on August 20


Davis is on this week's cover of Sports Illustrated
posted by The Gooch at 4:19 PM on August 20


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