The 1970s Boys Baseball tryouts have begun in Rockville Centre, New York, the first organized league in the area. Out of the boys who made the team, one stands out. That one who stands out is the exact opposite of all those on the team. That one is a girl.
In her childhood, Mrs. Devine played baseball all the time on her block with her brothers. Thus, when this new league was introduced she took the opportunity, even though it was only for boys.
“[My brother] was trying out and I thought if he could then I could do it,” Devine said. She was able to trick them at first by bundling her hair into her hat, so they did not automatically push her away.
Luckily, she was more than able to make the team. However, her spot would not have been guaranteed if it had not been for her coach.
“My coach was a gentleman who lived down the block from us. He was willing to take me in even when nobody else wanted me on the team because they did not know what to do. . .”
After she got onto the team she faced backlash from parents on both teams, as well as team members, who questioned her ability to play solely on her gender.
“At first the guys on the team actually resented me, but they came to respect me because I could field, I could bat, I was an asset. So they understood I was an asset to the team. I also made the all star team so that was a sort of a‘I showed you’ to them.”
Her time playing impacted her to this day with how rules sometimes need to be changed.
“It let me see that obstacles are really just that: things that you can overcome and work around. It wasn’t just me who needed to figure it out, it was people at large who needed to figure it out as well. What was a only boys baseball league became open to girls,” Devine said.
She stayed contact with her team today still, most notably her coach, Nick Vitalo, who gave her that opportunity.
“I see them when I go back to New York sometimes. He died a couple of years ago so I went to his funeral, so I still do stay in touch with some of them…I had a lot of respect for him, more so realizing as I got older, because I know he would have taken some abuse or ribbing from other coaches about me.”
So though beaten down and bullied, Devine defeated the odds and did what was unheard of at the time.