Wednesday, February 4, 2009

IHSAA Allows Girls to Play High School Baseball

Faced with a lawsuit it felt it could not win, the IHSAA has reversed its position and decided to allow girls to participate in high school baseball.

The Indianapolis Star points out that under IHSAA rules, girls may participate in boy's teams in baseball, basketball, football, soccer and wrestling when a comparable girls program does not exist at the school.

The Star makes it sound like this rule is being thrown out. However, a closer reading of the article though reveals what is being thrown out is not the rule itself, but the determination that girls' softball is a "comparable program" to boys' baseball.

IHSAA Commissioner Blake Ress said he believed that baseball and softball were comparable sports because each involves a bat and a ball, similar positions and baselines on the diamond, and six outs in an inning.

As the Star notes, the fields have different dimensions and use different-sized balls. Plus, anyone who has played the two sports knows they are completely different games. In fast-pitch softball, the pitcher stands much closer to the batter than in baseball. The batter generally doesn't have time to take a full swing and instead slaps at the ball. In baseball, even though the ball is coming faster, the batter has time to take a full swing at the ball.

Baseball is a much more wide open game than the fast-pitch variety of softball played by girls in Indiana high school. Baseball generally has much more scoring than fast-pitch softball and defense is much more important in baseball. In softball, if you have a very good pitcher on the mound, the fielders, especially, outfielders have very little to do. Virtually every out is a strike out or a pop-up. Not so in baseball.

As a former high school baseball player myself, I never saw the reason for banning girls from playing the sport. Certainly the justification for banning them - that fast-pitch softball and baseball are "comparable programs" doesn't hold up to examination. After years of making poor decisions that result in litigation, it is nice to see the IHSAA exercise good common sense.

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