FREDERICK -- An 11-year-old girl stretched as far as she could across the railing, trying to catch the attention of one of the Colorado Silver Bullets at Harry Grove Stadium.
She didn't want an autograph. She only wanted to ask a question: "How do I try out for the team?"
Lee Anne Ketcham smiled and sprinted over to the girl with the same drive that led her to join the Silver Bullets, the first women's professional baseball team recognized by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.
In their second year of existence, the Silver Bullets will play 50 games in 50 different cities against men's amateur, college and pro teams.
"I don't see myself going for a professional career with men," said Ketcham, the Silver Bullets' top pitcher. "My role is to help get the process started. I can maybe open some minds about allowing girls to play baseball, to get the same coaching and the same opportunity that boys get for their whole lives.
"Both men and women should be respected for just their talent, and not be given an opportunity based on gender. If a woman can hold her own on the ball field, let her play."
Ketcham was lucky: She was allowed to play.
And she showed she could hold her own, posting a 12-5 record with six saves for the varsity boys team at Vestavia Hills (Ala.) High. Last winter, she and first baseman Julie Croteau, who attended St. Mary's College, became the first women to sign with Hawaii Winter Baseball -- a men's league that plays at a level between Single-A and Double-A.
Most other girls never received similar opportunities.
Just like boys, girls go to baseball games with their dads. Just like boys, girls dream of playing in the majors. But unlike boys, most girls couldn't play baseball after starting high school.
Michele McAnany grew up watching her father, Jim, play for the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs. Her brother Jim was drafted by the California Angels. Her cousin, Tim Layana, pitched for the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds.
McAnany couldn't pursue her dream of following in her family's baseball success -- until the Silver Bullets started playing.
"We're not playing with the attitude it's man against woman," said McAnany, the Silver Bullets' second baseman. "We want to show that women can play baseball and can compete with the men."
Ketcham says the Silver Bullets can break down stereotypes.
"Baseball is tough, because it is based on so much tradition," Ketcham said. "But at the same time, baseball led the way in a lot of social issues, like breaking down the barriers of segregation. I think gender could be the next to fall."