HARTSELLE — Bailey Lawrence has gotten used to the stares.
The comments, too.
“She’s a girl,” a 9-year-old player from Moulton said during a recent tournament for all-star teams in Priceville.
“She can throw, too,” a teammate blurted.
Bailey, 10, a student at Hartselle Intermediate, is “no ordinary little girl,” said her mother, Joyce Lawrence.
She’s been throwing, catching and batting baseballs with the boys since she was 3, and for the second consecutive year, Bailey has been selected as a member of the 10U Dixie Youth All-Star team in Hartselle.
She’s also a member of a travel softball team in Falkville that will be playing for a state championship this month.
“It’s definitely going to be a busy month,” her mother said, adding that Bailey’s priority will be the softball state tournament. “If it turns out to be too much, she’s going with her softball team.”
Bailey, who is the only girl playing in Hartselle’s youth baseball league this year, doesn’t try to hide that she’s a girl. Her ponytail extends from her visor, she wears earrings, and occasionally her fingernails sparkle with polish.
Bailey said she pays no attention to the comments, and the stares “are just something I’m used to.”
The national Dixie Youth Baseball Association estimates about 100,000 of the more than 4 million kids who play youth baseball are girls.
The number was even lower in the early 1980s when Windie Bennett broke youth baseball’s gender barrier in Moulton. She got some of the same stares and comments Bailey is getting.
Her advice to Bailey is “go for it and follow your dream.”
Bennett, who is now 42 and an elementary physical education teacher, said playing baseball was a great experience and she has no regrets about her decision.
She played youth baseball until she “aged out at 13” and playing in high school wasn’t an option at the time for girls.
This is something Justine Siegal is trying to change for the current youth baseball girls. In 2009, she became the first woman to pitch a major league batting practice, and in 2015, she became the first woman to coach with a major league baseball team when she served as an instructional league guest coach for the Oakland Athletics.
Siegal founded Baseball For All, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing opportunities for girls to play, coach and lead in baseball beyond youth league.
In a statement on her website, she said: “Too many girls are still told they can’t play baseball because they are girls. I founded Baseball For All to empower girls to believe in themselves and to keep playing the game they love. I fear if you tell a girl she can’t play baseball, what else will she think she can’t do?”
Bailey, who is a twin born about 35 minutes before her brother, Brasher, said no one has ever told her what she couldn’t do.
In fact, her biggest cheerleaders have been her parents. Her father, Charles, has been her coach for the past two seasons and is the head coach of this year’s 10U all-star team. Her brother is also an all-star and he’s clear about how he feels about his sister.
“She’s annoying as a sister, but talented as a baseball and softball player,” Brasher said.
Bailey’s feelings about her brother: He's “funny, sweet and he cheers me up when I’m down. He’s my favorite baseball player.”
It’s no accident that the Hartselle twins have been teammates in baseball and basketball. Joyce Lawrence said a neighbor coached them when they played T-ball. When they were 5 and 6, Bailey and Brasher played coach-pitch baseball with their father as coach.
Bailey played city-league softball in Hartselle when she was 7 and 8 and was a member of Hartselle’s 8U Softball All-Star team. She has played travel softball and city-league baseball the past two seasons, and she’s not just an ordinary player on the team.
When Hartselle played in the round-robin tournament for all-star teams in Priceville, fans from teams in different age groups came to watch her, especially when she was pitching.
“She’s just amazing,” said Benita Terry, who came to see her grandson play on one of Decatur’s all-star teams.
“Incredible,” said Sadie Jones, of Athens.
Joyce Lawrence said her daughter is “very competitive” and that she doesn’t worry about her getting hurt because “she knows what she’s doing and plays as hard as anyone on the field.”
The mother said the only debate the family has had related to baseball was about what uniform numbers Bailey and Brasher would have.
In the end, Brasher got 13 because that is the number his father and grandfather had.
“It’s a family tradition for the boy to have this number,” the mother said, pointing out that Bailey flipped the numbers and decided on 31.
Bailey said she enjoys playing softball and baseball, but will likely stick with softball when her years as a youth baseball player come to an end.