Pink-haired and precocious: Meet the Abbotsford teen who's bashing down baseball barriers
Talented 13-year-old Raine Padgham is attracting attention as one of the best young players in Canada
On Twitter, Raine Padgham describes herself as a "baseball playing, pink haired, girl pitcher," which, although accurate, is horribly understated.
Yes, she plays baseball. But she does better than any other 13-year-old girl. More on that in a bit.
And yes, her hair is pink. Not a delicate blush shade but screaming hot magenta, the same colour it's been since age six when she first started dyeing it.
As for girl pitcher? That's true too. Except the Grade 8 Abbotsford Middle School student continues to play and thrive on top boys teams.
In July, Padgham's precocious talents will be tested on a completely different field and against much older players — some 20 years her senior — when she becomes the youngest member of the Canadian women's prospects team at the national championships in Okotoks, Alberta.
"I was kind of shocked," said the shy Padgham about being invited to join the team. "I think it will be really fun and competitive because everyone will be so much older than me."
Team Canada Manager Aaron Myette said, despite her age, Padgham impressed during a recent development camp in Cuba.
"Obviously, we saw enough in her to think that she has some big potential," he said. "She's coachable. She wants to learn and she's very hungry."
She's also no stranger to bashing down barriers.
Two years ago at the Western Canadian Baseball Championships, Padgham starred on the B.C. Selects girls team, pitching a no-hitter in the gold medal game, while also suiting up for the Kamloops Riverdogs pee wee boys' team during the tournament.
Padgham displays her medals in a YouTube promotional video
WCBA 14U Girls Gold Medal Game is now a final. BC 10. Alberta 0. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Wcbachampionships17?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Wcbachampionships17</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/14U_BCGirls?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@14U_BCGirls</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/BaseballAlberta?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BaseballAlberta</a> <a href="https://t.co/3q3EkkNCG7">pic.twitter.com/3q3EkkNCG7</a>—@Baseball_BC
Last year, she was the first girl picked for B.C. provincial Under-13 boys team, and brought home a silver medal from the Canadian championships.
This season, she'll play up with the U-15 Fraser Valley Cardinals boys.
'Meant to be there'
At five-foot-three, she's one of the smallest on the field, but more than capable of holding her own, even when getting trash talked.
"Sometimes they pick on me, especially when I'm on the bases," she said. "They think I might be a bit weaker and not able to compete with them."
"I just have to play and prove I want to be there and I'm meant to be there."
Her father, Allan Padgham, says boys have foolishly underestimated his daughter her entire career, especially when she's pitching.
Crying in baseball
"Her pink hair makes it worse because they know for sure there's a girl on the mound. Last year, at the national championships she struck out a guy ... and he threw his bat down and burst into tears," he said proudly.
"Even now, she's playing on the U-15 boys team —they're giants compared to her — but she's able to beat them at everything."
Myette considered if it was too much too soon to select the young teen for the Canadian prospects team. In the end, however, he felt she couldn't be denied.
"In Raine's case, she loves baseball. She loves being at the park, loves competing," he said.
"There hasn't been anything she's been afraid to tackle ... and nothing I've seen to indicate that's she'll be overwhelmed."