B.C.'s newest men's league baseball team doesn't have any men on it
The B.C. Badgers play in a senior men's division and every player on the roster is a woman
If you're a ballplayer, there are few things more soul-crushing than a rainout on opening day.
No one knows that better than the the newest team in the Lower Mainland Baseball Association — the B.C. Badgers.
When the team's first two games of the year were postponed because of bad weather, a piece of Canadian baseball history was postponed, too.
"That's the worst thing about ball," manager Ken Mackenzie said. "That feeling of 'oh no, it's not going to happen today.'"
When Mackenzie's squad finally took the field for the first time on April 21, its opponents — the White Rock Legends of the men's 45-and-over division — immediately understood something special was happening.
It was the first time they had ever played against women.
LMBA Commissioner Dan Taylor says the B.C. Badgers are the only women's team he's aware of in the country that play in a men's league.
"We're excited to have them," Taylor said.
The idea for a women's recreation league team was hatched a couple of years ago.
The women's provincial team didn't have anyone to play against as they prepared for the national championships.
Stacy Fournier, who plays on the B.C. team, approached the LMBA and asked if it would welcome a women's squad.
"In past years, we've just practiced a few times and then gone off to nationals and we won the whole thing a couple of years ago," Fournier said.
"Imagine what we can do if we can practice throughout the year together."
None of the teams in the division objected, so the Badgers were born.
The Badgers play their home games at Holly Park in Surrey, B.C., but their players come from all over.
Mary Harding, a pitcher with a filthy curve ball, travelled from Vancouver Island to play in the first game.
"They're making sacrifices," Mackenzie said.
"We've got about four or five from the island, a couple from the Interior and a couple even moved down recently from the Interior so they could play."
Before the season started, Mackenzie feared he wouldn't be able to find enough players to fill out a roster.
He reached out to some of his old baseball buddies and asked them if they'd be willing to step in if he was ever short.
Now it looks like he won't have to call them this season.
"Honestly, I'm a little surprised we have the response that we have," he said.
"We have a roster now of 18 or 19 and most of them are fairly committed, so I think we're going to make a go of this thing."
Baseball vs. softball
One of the biggest challenges facing women's baseball is the popularity of softball.
Girls pursuing sports scholarships, especially to major U.S. colleges, often switch to softball from baseball because there are more opportunities.
Fournier says having a women's team should help encourage young players to stick with hardball.
"I had a great experience where I was able to play baseball all the way through, but I know it's not that way for all girls," she said.
"We're kind of hoping there's a shift where there are more opportunities for girls to play through."
Fournier coaches a Pee-Wee girls team and she is partnering with Baseball B.C. to run an instructional league for girls aged eight to 12.
She says she has nothing against softball, it's just that she prefers baseball.
"I just enjoy it a little bit more because I don't pitch in softball," she said.
"I never got that windmill down."