Girls' teams will forfeit softball title to coed team


The Baltimore County 13- and 14-year-old girls' softball champions won't be difficult to recognize at today's final tournament game at Sudbrook Elementary School.

The Turners Station team, registered as a girls' team but with four male players, will stand alone at the start of their game this evening because their opponents, the Catonsville Comets, have refused to play them.

"If those teams want to keep forfeiting to us, we'll take the wins," said Tanya Evans, manager of the Turners Station team. "We're going to keep coming out anyway."

Four girls' softball teams met last weekend to compete for the county title, but when the other teams saw the boys on Ms. Evans' team, no one heeded the umpire's order to "play ball."

Managers of the other three tournament teams said they did not blame Turners Station for entering their coed team in a single-sex competition. They said they believed that the Baltimore County recreation councils were at fault for allowing boys to play in girls' leagues.

"I can't believe the county let it go this far," said Jim Clerkin, manager of the Lutherville-Timonium team that forfeited their game against Turners Station Saturday. "In the long run, the girls will be the ones who will lose."

The rule in question -- drawn up in 1977 by Baltimore County recreation officials when a girl wanted to participate on an all-male baseball team -- lets boys play in designated girls leagues "as long as no apparent safety problems exist."

Ray Chavis, coach of the Catonsville team, said the inherent safety problems would keep his team off the field today.

"I've never played a team with boys on it," said Mr. Chavis, whose team has been to several championship tournaments. "I can't take a chance with any boys on the [other] team. Some of my girls could get hurt."

Charles Fisher of Baltimore County's Recreation and Parks office, who said boys have played on girls teams before but never made it to tournament competition, also said he believed the county had taken the safety factor into consideration.

"The safety considerations mentioned in the rule are really geared toward gender-specific equipment. But when you get involved with youth sports, you could deal with an 11-year-old who is 5 feet 8 and one who is 4 feet 4," said Mr. Fisher. "The variation in size and power are there no matter what you do, or who you are dealing with."

Harford County has had this problem in reverse.

"A girl on an Aberdeen baseball team played throughout the entire season and made it to the county tournament. Some people felt it was not right for her to play," said Paul Yanney, chief of recreation for Harford County. "She took it to the county executive and was told that since she played throughout the season, she could play in the tournament."

Ms. Evans said she believed the protest against her team -- the only all-black team in the league -- was racially motivated.

"Last year, my team was all-girls, and we played an all-white team from Northpoint Village that had a few boys on it. No one complained," she said. "But Turners gets a few boys on it and everyone is all upset. I don't know what it is if it isn't prejudice."

Some managers said they were concerned about the strength differences between boys on the Turners team and the female players, citing the differences that occur between boys and girls after the onset of puberty.

The coed Turners team lost one of its play-off games to an all-girls team from the East Field section of Dundalk and had to win another game before being eligible for the county tournament. Lutherville-Timonium was undefeated in its area tournament.

"Being a boy or girl doesn't matter here. It just depends on how good you are in that sport," Ms. Evans said. "I know my daughter, Tamitcha, can hit the ball as far as any boy on our team, and we've got one girl who can throw like a man."

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