Batting Now: Girls in the Malibu Little League

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Malibu Little League’s girl ball players (pictured, from left): Tatiana Agopian, Sailor Graham and Zoe Doyle

Malibu Little League (MLL) baseball player Sailor Graham imagines stepping up to the plate and then launching the ball out of the park. The fun wouldn’t end when the ball lands on the other side of the fence, though. The 11-year-old ball player said her home run trot around the bases wouldn’t be a typical one. 

“I’d probably do something funny when running the bases,” said Sailor, a catcher for the MLL’s Dodgers. “Some sort of funny dance move. I’d be happy and laughing.” 

Tatiana Agopian, an outfielder and second baseman for the MLL’s Braves, had a dream-like play a few weeks ago. The 12-year-old scored the game-winning run in her squad’s 5-4 triumph over a team from Culver City.

“My coach told me what to do and I just dropped my head and ran,” Tatiana said. “When I slid into home plate, I was called safe and was really happy. It felt good because everyone was complimenting me, and I really think I proved myself.” 

Braves coach Mike Matuzak awarded Tatiana with the game ball because of her winning play. 

Yes, the baseball-playing girls wholace up their cleats and swing their bats in the Malibu Little League have big dreams on the field of dreams just like the boys do.

Another player, Zoe Doyle of the MLL’s White Sox, swings for her baseball aspirations in the local baseball league and as a member of the Los Angeles Monarchs, an all-girls baseball club. Two seasons ago, Zoe—a pitcher, catcher, third- and first baseman—and the Monarchs 10U team won a national title in their age group. 

Sailor, Tatiana and Zoe all play in the oldest section of the 12-team MLL, the Majors division. The hardball league holds multiple games each week and, not surprisingly, its rosters are dominated by boys. 

Raffi Agopian, Tatiana’s father and a MLL coach a season ago, said it is exciting to see the girls play MLL baseball.

“I wish there were more,” he added.

Tatiana played softball before she transitioned to baseball last season to play for the Mets, a squad coached by her dad at the time. Her twin brother, Shane, was also in the team’s lineup. Even with family on the team, Tatiana said she was jittery at first.

“I knew I could play the game well,” she said. “I was nervous because maybe the guys wouldn’t believe in me if I made one mistake.”

Agopian said his daughter felt she had to prove herself. However, she found early success in baseball. 

“The first game she played on my team, we won, 9-7, and she had three RBIs,” the elder Agopian said. “She likes to play and is really competitive.”

Sailor, a baseball player of six years, is spirited at the sport as well. She said times can be tough, though, because she feels the boys she is competing with might not give her game any appreciation because she is the lone girl on the field most of the time. In turn, Sailor added that sometimes she gets more respect because she is a girl exceling at baseball. 

“It’s really fun,” she said.

Sailor’s mother, Tabby Graham, a stunt woman for over three decades, admires her daughter’s baseball efforts. 

“It takes a lot of courage to be the only girl playing on a boys’ sports team because the boys automatically think the girl is not going to be as strong,” Graham said. “Girls have to work really hard to show they are as strong. They have to show up on game day.” 

Around 100,000 girls play Little League baseball across the nation each year according to statistics from the league. Girls have participated in the youth sport with boys for decades. Still, sometimes girls are looked upon negatively in the activity. 

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball recently announced a pair of high-profile events to promote girls playing baseball‚ among some negative headlines.

News  surfaced recently that two coaches in a New Hampshire youth baseball league conspired to have the programs lone female player, an 11-year-old,  beaned—hit in the head with the ball during batting practice—in an attempt to force her to quit.

Nothing like that has happened in the MLL. Malibu girls haven participated in the league for years with success. Sailor and Tatiana said they enjoy playing baseball with their teammates. Tatiana noted that her teammates chanted her name when she scored her victory-sealing run.

Sailor practices her baseball craft. She said she has gotten better each season but the catcher has baseball skills she wants to refine, like blocking errant or on point pitches, a skill that keeps opposing runners from advancing bases. 

“I want to get really good at blocking,” she said, “and my throw from home base to second base, I want to get it a little bit lower, so I make it right to my teammate’s glove every time.” 

Tatiana said she is glad she made the move to baseball from softball. The two girls enjoy playing the game for similar reasons—hitting the ball, running the bases and competing with friends. 

The girls also said it’s cool to not be the only girl playing the MLL. 

Tatiana doesn’t plan to go back to softball. 

“Baseball is just more fun,” the Los Angeles Dodgers fan said. 

Tabby, Sailor’s mother, said girls in the MLL show other preteen girls that they can contend with their male peers.

“If you think you can compete, by all means, go for it,” she said.