Sabrina Robinson is no stranger to the challenges faced by women who want to play baseball.
The 19-year-old student has been acting since she was 5 – a love she shared with her older brother. Instead of having Robinson play softball, their parents chose to keep the siblings together because, as Robinson said, “Why not?”
It wasn’t until high school that Robinson faced her first setback, when she decided to try out for the boys’ baseball team.
“What they told me, verbatim, was, ‘You’re good enough to play midfield for us, but we can’t have you in the team. It broke my heart,” Robinson said. “I thought about fighting with the coaches, but I didn’t want to be part of a team that didn’t want me.”
Instead, she played college softball and found other baseball teams to play for. Four years later, Robinson faced a similar crossroads: playing varsity softball or trying out for a men’s team at Montclair State University.
Then she discovered a third option: create her own baseball team.
What she did.
And this weekend, this Montclair team is heading to its first competition in the historic inaugural University Women’s Club Baseball Championship. It is the very first women’s baseball club in the state of Montclair, one of the few in the United States. The team is part of a growing movement to attract more women to baseball, especially at the college level.
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The tournament is organized by Baseball For All, a non-profit organization that helps expand opportunities for girls to play, coach and lead in sport. It’s a key step toward establishing women’s college baseball as an official NCAA emerging sport.
The Montclair State team is one of four women’s club teams that will compete for the tournament’s inaugural title at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Southern California. Montclair will face teams from California State University in Fullerton, Occidental College in Los Angeles and the University of Washington. To build a full roster, the Montclair State team will suit players from other schools who want to build teams at their own colleges — another effort to help grow the game.
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Robinson, who is from Morristown, got the idea for a women’s baseball club after participating in Baseball For All’s inaugural Women’s College Baseball Invitational in August. The two-day showcase was held at Centenary University in Hackettstown for up-and-coming high schoolers and current students to show off their skills in front of college coaches and players.
At the end of the showcase, Baseball For All announced a new initiative to create women’s club teams at universities across the country to help pave the way for women’s baseball to become an NCAA-sanctioned sport. .
“It seemed like the right decision” to start a team, said Robinson, a catcher, first baseman and shortstop who has played on Baseball for All teams since he was 13 years old. “I could go and play on the men’s team, but starting the team allows other women a chance to play college baseball and show young girls who hopefully by the time they get to college, will be able to play NCAA women’s baseball.
After doing outreach in September, Robinson recruited a group of about 10 players. In October, the team held its first practice. One of the players’ friends has volunteered to be their coach. The team held fundraisers to pay for uniforms and are helped by Baseball For All to cover accommodation costs during their trip to California. Players pay for their tournament flights themselves.
The squad is made up of players with plenty of experience – including Robinson – and others new to the sport. During practices, each player is treated as an equal member of the team. The club also holds team bonding sessions, as any college-level team would. The team practices every Wednesday and Sunday at baseball diamonds near campus.
During a recent practice, four players arrived at the Mountainside Park ball diamond in Montclair around 8 a.m. At least three players were absent due to class conflict. The end goal will be to resume practices on the Montclair State campus at Yogi Berra Stadium, which will address issues such as finding street parking near the ball field.
The team practiced hitting, catching, drizzling, throwing and running bases. Between drills, Robinson offered players advice on what to do in different game scenarios.
Wanaque senior Emily Struble and Union City junior Sheyla Gomez heard about the team because they both play ice hockey with Robinson at Montclair State. Gomez has experience playing baseball and softball. But Struble is new to the game – except to help his father and brother with their Little League team.
“It shocked me that there was an all-girls baseball team, honestly,” said Gomez, 21. more universities, and that’s not the case.
Struble said she hopes the team will continue to grow even after she graduates. She envisions a bigger roster, more fundraising and more travel to compete with other clubs in the area. Eventually, Struble hopes someone will follow in the footsteps of its founder Robinson.
“I’m really proud of what [Sabrina has] done,” Struble said. “She’s only a second-year student. I can’t imagine what she’s going to do with the rest of her career at Montclair.
Lex McClintic, a freshman from Collingswood, joined the team after seeing flyers on campus. McClintic never played baseball or softball, but wanted to do something new, be active and be part of a team. She described her teammates as patient and willing to teach her everything about baseball over the past two months.
“Part of me feels like I don’t deserve to do this historic thing,” McClintic said. “But that’s just the thing, it’s meant to be – like anyone who wants to play should be able to play.”
For Robinson, forming this women’s club team is more than playing baseball at the college level. It’s about showing young girls who want to keep playing baseball that they can. It’s also about removing the kind of obstacles it has faced in the past.
“I keep telling people that’s how women’s ice hockey started – and women’s basketball, I’m sure,” Robinson said. “There has to be a first step so that there are more opportunities.
“I hope it becomes a women’s baseball league again,” she said, “and it’s just a normal game, like everything else.”
Melanie Anzidei is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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