Play like a girl: Ogden women’s baseball game raises more than $13K for teen suicide prevention
OGDEN — One man at Lindquist Field wore a T-shirt displaying the face of Hamilton Porter, the fictional catcher from “The Sandlot,” with words above and below that showed one of his most-known quotes from the film: “You play ball like a girl!”
Saturday, it was surely meant as a compliment, perhaps even adulation.
He was one of 1,887 fans attending the first of two women’s baseball charity games held in tribute for the 30th anniversary of a different baseball movie, “A League of Their Own,” organized by the Ogden Raptors and sponsored by Coleman Knitting Mills and SavOn Sporting Goods.
“A League of Their Own” tells a fictionalized story about two sisters joining the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was a real sports league from 1943-54 launched during World War II. The film debuted in theaters on July 1, 1992.
A few handfuls of fans were wearing T-shirts with one of the film’s most memorable phrases, “There’s no crying in baseball,” with the words formed into the shape of a baseball. That shirt was given to fans on July 1 for the Raptors’ weekly T-shirt giveaway each Friday.
Lindquist Field was buzzing 30 minutes before the Junction City Dolls and Ogden Whoopie Girls took the field. Hearty cheering sections yelled for each woman as they were introduced before the game.
What began as an idea to simply show the movie on the ballpark video board morphed into actually holding tryouts and playing games.
“The amazing thing is when I walked onto the field at 6:15 and saw 1,000 people in the stands already … and they all stayed. And they were cheering for every pitch,” Raptors team president Dave Baggott said. “I couldn’t be more proud for both teams, and it was a wonderful event for something that started out as a lark. They took it dead seriously so we took it seriously.
“We had all these ideas we were going to do between innings based on the movie, reenacting scenes or something, but we decided no, these girls want to play baseball and it’s not a joke. So we just played baseball, and we’re proud of them.”
Enthusiasm from the early-arriving crowd lasted throughout, including when they were solicited for donations to Hope Squad, a Utah-based organization aimed at teen suicide prevention, and to the end when Roni Webb of Ogden crossed the plate on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning to score the Whoopie Girls’ only run.
“It was fun,” said Kelsee Bishop of Plain City. “Our biggest goal tonight was to just come out and have fun and cheer each other on and have everybody play. Playing baseball is supposed to be fun, and it was a really good time.”
Instead of the customary songs about walking the dinosaur and getting the party started like one might be accustomed to at Lindquist Field, stadium speakers played songs like Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Material Girl” from Madonna — the latter who also plays in “A League of Their Own.”
The success of the night was for Hope Squad, which focuses on youth suicide prevention by aiming to organize peer-to-peer support groups in every school.
Baggott, coaching the Whoopie Girls, paused after the third inning and, from a wireless microphone on the field, announced the Raptors were donating $2,500 to Hope Squad and asked who from the crowd wanted to match.
Not one but two people pledged to match that $2,500 donation. Two more added $1,000 and several others pledged other amounts.
Between those, two auctioned baseballs signed by the women’s players and half of the 50/50 raffle pot, the Raptors raised just more than $13,000 for Hope Squad.
Bishop and Webb said they were both thrilled to be part of a night that did so much good.
“I can’t be more proud of O-Town to raise $13,000 for teenage suicide prevention,” Baggott said. “It’s phenomenal. It made it worth it, and the score is irrelevant based on that.”
The scene during T1 warmups pic.twitter.com/bh3r5YJHBK
— StandardEx Raptors (@RaptorsSE) July 3, 2022
On the field, the Dolls — many of whom play competitive slowpitch softball together — were a talented group who put the game’s outcome out of question by the fourth inning in what proved to be a double-digit victory.
Marisa Bowman of Lehi was named the team’s MVP for the game. She drove in runs with a double in the first inning and a single in the fourth. She also pitched the first two innings, combining with Shaelee Pearson of Taylorsville, Tracee Heaton of Roy and Calleigh DeYoung of Taylorsville to no-hit the Whoopie Girls.
Mateah Davidson, of West Point by way of Manti, provided one of the night’s highlights when she crushed a liner to centerfield for an inside-the-park home run in the second inning. She also ripped near-homers down the left-field line in later at-bats, if only they were straightened out and not hit foul.
DeYoung had the best stuff of anyone on the mound but issued a seventh-inning walk to Webb and threw two wild pitches, the second of which sent Webb — wearing No. 47 to reflect her age as the oldest player on either team — dashing to the plate and sliding in for her team’s run, sparking the third-base side of the stands, especially, into a slight ruckus.
“That was amazing. The biggest part for me was to just get on base … we didn’t want to get skunked,” Webb said. “I knew I was going ahead of time because (Baggott) and I said, ‘we’re this close, we’re scoring — ball’s on the ground anywhere and we’re going.'”
Bishop was named the Whoopie Girls’ team MVP. She recorded one putout and five assists in the infield, and pitched the final two innings. Pitching was not in her original plans but two teammates who planned to pitch hurt their arms in the week’s final practice.
Bishop provided another of the night’s highlights in the top of the fifth with a runner on first, ranging up the middle on a two-hop bouncer, tapping the bag at second as she gloved the ball and throwing on to first for a double play — completed when Holly Lopez of Kearns made a great dig to secure the second out.
“That felt so good. Your mind goes blank and you just make the play. It’s just what you’ve been doing for the last 20 years of your life playing ball,” Bishop said. “My throw was a little off and Holly made a great stretch to make that a double play.”
The Dolls returned the favor in the bottom of the fifth when Pearson, DeYoung and Haylee Velazquez (of Roy) turned a crisp double play on a grounder to second base to erase a baserunner who reached via walk.
The two MVPs each got a custom-made wood bat as an award, as did Whoopie Girls player Cierra Mitchell of Ogden, who was named the game’s most inspirational player.
The second of the two charity games will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 11, at Lindquist Field. Admission is free.
The hope is even more people with generous pockets will support that night’s charity, Live On, which is the state of Utah’s official, multi-agency suicide prevention effort. That night will feature postgame fireworks.
There’s a hope, too, Baggott says, of drawing a gaggle of youth softball players and their families who will be in town for the 12U/10U Triple Crown Fastpitch World Series scheduled for various fields in Weber County from July 11-16, with the idea they can help amplify the charitable aspect and the atmosphere of the second game.
“If you want to have fun, the crowd goes wild for both teams,” Bishop said. “Come watch the game, have a beer, eat some popcorn. It’s a fun night at the ballpark.”