16-year-old Montse (Monty) Sandoval has already made a name for herself in baseball. The 5'3" righty made the Aussie 18U women's national team as a 14-year-old in 2013. She also was selected to the Queensland (AUS) 14U state baseball program, the first and only girl. In 2014, Monty played for the Kookaburras Australian women's tournament team at the LG Cup in South Korea. Sandoval currently plays on the Anzar High School varsity baseball team in San Juan Bautista, CA. She tossed 21 innings in relief last season, surrendering just two earned runs. In June, Monty was named to the US Women's National Trials Team after a successful performance at the USA Baseball Women's Open. Later this month, Monty will compete at Cal State Fullerton to earn a spot on the 20-woman roster which will head to Korea for the Women's Baseball World Cup in September. She also played with the San Francisco Bay Sox at the Baseball For All National girls baseball tournament in July. In the future, the high school junior hopes to build on her strong varsity performance, continue playing with the Chicago Pioneers tournament team, and make the cut for Team USA.
May 2016: Mamie "Peanut" Johnson
Mamie Johnson broke ground in 1953 when she became the first female pitcher in the Negro Leagues. The 5'3" South Carolina native made her debut as an 18-year-old for the Indianapolis Clowns. She received the nickname "Peanut" because of her small stature. Johnson played from 1953-1955, posting a 33-8 record and a .273 batting average. After her baseball career, Mamie became a nurse. Her story is documented in the book A Strong Right Arm.
February 2016: Laura Hirai
Laura Hirai, 16, plays for the Great Britain 16U National Baseball Team. Growing up in Japan until age 11, she was inspired to play baseball watching knuckleballer Eri Yoshida compete alongside men in various professional leagues. Laura has competed around the world, representing her country at various tournaments. Not only does she play baseball, but Laura also excels in softball (playing for the 19U Great Britain Women's National Softball Team), soccer, badminton, tennis, javelin throwing, and cross-country. She's featured in our 2015 Series 2 baseball card set. You can listen to words of wisdom from Laura on her podcast interview with BaseballSoftballUK and follow her on Twitter: @LOORRRY
January 2016: Madison Femia
Madison Femia, an 8th grader from Geneva, IL, has played baseball since she was 4, joining a travel team at age 8. Primarily a catcher, she also plays some at shortstop, third base, and pitcher. At a young age, Madison already owns an impressive baseball resume, having been selected to two USSSA all-star teams, winning 16 tournament MVP awards, and playing with the American Eagles in Baseball For All's inaugural National Girls Baseball Tournament. Although she had foot surgery last fall, Madison is back in the cages getting ready for Spring baseball.
December 2015: Malaika Underwood
Malaika Underwood, 34, has played baseball nearly all her life, from Little League to the US Women's National Baseball Team (USWNT). As a 13-year-old, she wrote to multiple high schools in the area to determine which would allow her to try out for the baseball team. During high school, the three-sport athlete played two years on the Junior Varsity baseball team and two years on the Varsity team, earning the starting second base job as a senior. Malaika went on to play collegiate volleyball at the University of North Carolina where she also received her masters degree. Since 2006, Underwood has played for the USWNT and has become one of their veteran leaders. Most recently, Underwood lead the USWNT to a gold medal at the Pan-American games in Toronto, Canada, the first time women's baseball has been a part of an international sporting event.
November 2015: Laura Neads
Laura "Lulu" Neads, from Sydney, Australia, began playing baseball at the age of 7 as a substitute player on her brother's team. She "fell in love with the game" and continued playing baseball, usually as the only girl. When Lulu was 14, she began playing women's baseball with the New South Wales team where she has played for the past 12 years. At age 17, Neads was selected for the Australian Women's National Baseball team. She has since played in four World Cup baseball tournaments with Team Australia, winning silver (2010) and bronze (2014). At the 2010 World Cup in Venezula, Lulu received the World All Star Relief Pitcher award, and she was named the Australian Women's Player of the Year in 2011 when she won MVP and Hitting Champion at the national women's baseball championships. Lulu currently coaches for the Greenway Giants women's team and also coached the New South Wales 15U girls' team to a gold at the national championships. As a player/coach, she led the Kookaburra's women's team to a third place finish at the 2015 LG Women's World Cup tournament in Seoul, South Korea. Lulu says: "I love baseball and hope to continue playing as long as I can and am very passionate about coaching girls baseball and seeing the next generation of great female talent come through and progress to women's baseball."
October 2015: Talia Grossman
October's baseball player of the month is 13-year-old Talia Grossman of Palo Alto, CA. The switch-hitting infielder played on both a 13/14 and a 15U baseball team as a 12-year-old. She routinely leads her team in batting average and slugs home runs from both sides of the plate. In August of 2014, Sports Illustrated magazine featured Talia in "Faces in the Crowd" for her baseball successes. Talia has also played with girls teams in Cooperstown (with the Sparks), Los Angeles (with Baseball For All), Illinois (with the Blue Sox), and South Korea (with Baseball For All in the LG Women's Baseball Tournament). Her blog, called "Play Ball," serves as an outlet for girls who play "boys" sports to discuss and learn about gender inequality in athletics. In addition to excelling in baseball, Talia plays basketball, flag football, and soccer.
August 2015: Jeneane Lesko
Jeneane Lesko, 80, played for the Grand Rapids Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1953-54. A southpaw pitcher, Lesko was nicknamed "Lefty." After the AAGPBL folded in 1955, Lesko attended Ohio Northern University and later became a teacher. Her athletic career wasn't over, though. Lesko went on to golf professionally and also officiated many sports. She has coached for the Aussie Hearts, an Australian girls' and women's baseball team, and continues to be heavily involved in promoting women's baseball across the country.
Lesko throws out the first pitch at the Chicago Cubs game in 2014 (above)
July 2015: Denver Bryant
July Baseball Player of the Month, Denver Bryant, has played baseball since she was three years old. As a 10-year-old, Bryant was invited to represent the state of Georgia in the Dixie Youth Baseball home run derby. In the Dixie Youth Baseball World Series, she helped her team to victory by hitting the go-ahead homer and pitching three hitless innings, striking out six. Now 12, the Georgia native plays with four different "boys" travel teams. On three of her teams, Denver bats in the cleanup spot and is known for smashing over-the-fence home runs. She can play almost any position including pitcher, shortstop, third, first, center field, and catcher. Denver played for the Georgia Peaches in the Baseball For All Girls' National Tournament in June 2015. Her goal is to become the first woman to play Major League Baseball.
June 2015: Oz Sailors
Ghazeleh "Oz" Sailors began playing baseball when she was two and a half years old as a substitute on her brother's t-ball team. She signed up at age four, played travel baseball when she was 10, and then went on to play high school baseball in Santa Barbara, California. Oz made history when she dueled Marti Sementelli, another girl pitching for her high school baseball team in California. As a 17-year-old, Sailors pitched for Team USA. She went on to become the only woman playing NCAA baseball during her four years of college. Oz just signed a contract to play for the Virginia Marlins of the World Pro Baseball League, the first woman to do so. A board member for Baseball For All, Sailors uses her success to promote girls' baseball. She says, "My dream is that 20 years from now girls who want to walk in my shoes and play baseball don’t have to go through any of what I’ve been through. If I can make it so that girls don’t get looked at funny, get bullied, get harassed, and abused to play baseball, I’ve done my job."
May 2015: Cameron Coleal
Our May Baseball Player of the Month is high school pitcher/infielder Cameron Coleal, from North Carolina. Cameron plays shortstop and is a right-handed pitcher. She has played baseball since she was little with local rec teams, the all-girls Chicago Pioneers, the Cary, North Carolina All-Star Team, and has been involved with the US Women's National Baseball Team. During the US Women's National Team Open, Cameron tossed one inning, retiring three of the four hitters she faced. Over Memorial Day weekend, Cameron will be playing baseball with the Great Lakes Lightning tournament team in Washington DC.
April 2015: Kathryn Johnston
Kathryn Massar, better known as "Tubby" Johnston, is our April 2015 Baseball Player of the Month. In 1950, she became the first girl to ever play Little League Baseball when she tucked her hair under her hat, used the nickname "Tubby," and made her local team in Corning, New York. Little League honored Ms. Massar by asking her to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the 2014 Little League World Series. She is also in the Little League Hall of Fame and National Baseball Hall of Fame. Ms. Massar says, "I love baseball and wanted to play. I did not let my gender stop me." She told the Minnesota Girls Baseball Association that her advice for younger players is: "If you can dream about playing baseball you can do it. [It] just takes believing in yourself and perseverance."
March 2015: Gabrielle Augustine
Our March Player of the Month is Gabrielle Augustine. Gabrielle has played baseball for almost her entire life. Earlier this year, she was named to the US Women's National Baseball Team Trials roster. In 2014, Gabrielle became the first woman to play in Pennsylvania's Glenwood League (an adult baseball league) when she pitched two innings without giving up an earned run. She's played Little League baseball, Junior Babe Ruth League baseball, Senior Babe Ruth League baseball, and for the Tri-County Baseball League. Gabrielle has usually been the only female on her team. However, she played with a women's baseball team in Korea and with a Baseball For All women's team in the Cooperstown Tournament. Gabrielle says, "I live, breathe, and sometimes eat baseball." While she plays infield and outfield too, Gabrielle especially enjoys pitching because she says it's "always very satisfying to strike the guys out."
February 2015: Marianne Sparacia
February's Player of the Month is Marianne Sparacia. Marianne plays second base and pitcher at Nature Coast High School in Florida. She began her baseball career with Dixie Youth League Baseball as a five-year-old and made several All-Star teams. Marianne has played with other top baseball players on the Dream Team, an all-girls' baseball team, and currently plays for the Blue Sox which is the United States Girls Baseball Association's tournament team.
January 2015: Sarah Hudek
January's baseball player of the month is Sarah Hudek. Hudek is a senior at George Ranch High School in Texas. She plays on the varsity baseball team as a left-handed pitcher. Next year, Sarah is playing for Bossier Parish Community College. She says: "It's just that thrill...knowing I can show other people I can compete. I just think of myself as another baseball player. I don't see a difference in me being a girl. I know I'm going to get the stares and all that, but it's part of it. I've accepted it and am prepared for anything."