Aylmer knocks it out of the park for girls’ baseball!
As in most Canadian towns, enrolment in baseball remained strong in Aylmer this spring. The Aylmer Quebec Minor Baseball Association (AMBA) had 330 registrations, allowing them to fill all their categories and field 20 teams at various levels. Five of these squads are all-girls’ teams.
“We certainly saw an increase with female registrations this year,” noted Eric Bélair, AMBA co-president. “Now close to 20% of our members are female players.”
Of the 330 registrations, 70 are girls and one-quarter of the baseball teams, not softball, are women only. “We are certainly in the forefront in terms of female baseball in West Quebec,” added Bélair. Last season, Aylmer had three girls’ teams and 50 female players.
This increase is the fruit of a focused recruitment campaign launched several years ago by the AMBA to increase participation of girls in baseball.
“There were female teams in the past, but girls’ interest towards baseball in Aylmer died down and registrations dwindled. That’s why the AMBA embarked on a campaign to revive interest in baseball among girls,” said Bélair.
According to Bélair, girls often felt out of place on a team with boys.
“In a mixed or a male team, women often are not placed in important roles, such as pitcher or first base. In terms of friends, girls also felt left out; they had no sense of belonging. When they are part of a female team, they play different positions and this has a positive impact on their self-esteem. The girls feel included,” added Bélair.
There’s also a positive knock-on effect when the girls’ teams are well-managed and there’s a program developed especially for this, argued Bélair.
“Fielding one or two female teams in the past (we noticed) had the potential to spark the interest of a sister who came to a game. They would notice the all-girls’ team and it encouraged them to register the following year,” added Bélair.
This year’s success permits organizers to look at recreating female leagues, as in the turn of the century. Currently, there’s only a peewee league that’s all-girls and, apart from that, girls play against boys on mixed teams, such as Aylmer’s Bantam (14-16 age group), a girls’ team coached by Bélair.
“We are the only girls’ team in the Outaouais at that level. We are not winning many games (1 win, 4 losses), but we are building a great atmosphere, which is why girls are returning.”