Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Tampa Yankees aim to raise awareness of modern-day 'League of Their Own'

More than 60 years ago, Sue Zipay took to the field as a member of the Rockford Peaches, a trailblazing women's baseball team in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Now, Zipay and the Tampa Yankees want to give female baseball players another chance to show their abilities.

The East Coast Yankees and New England Women Red Sox, two independent women's baseball teams, will play at 3 p.m. on June 24 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, followed by the Tampa Yankees-Dunedin Blue Jays game at 6:30. Part of the proceeds from the game will go to the Women's Sports Museum, a nonprofit organization Zipay founded.

The 1992 film "A League of Their Own" commemorated the AAGPBL, which began play in 1943 during World War II and continued until 1954. The doubleheader — dubbed "A League of Their Own Tribute Night" — will commemorate the movie's 25th anniversary. After the second game, fans will be able to watch the movie on the video board.

Jeremy Ventura, the Tampa Yankees' sales coordinator, reached out to the Women's Sports Museum when he saw the movie's anniversary coming up.

"I grew up loving the movie, so I thought it would be cool to tie 'A League of Their Own' to (current women's baseball)," Ventura said. "It was kind of a shot in the dark when I reached out to them to see if they were on board, and lo and behold, Sue Zipay was an original Rockford Peach."

The Women's Sports Museum seeks to "inspire young girls to participate in athletics by providing education and activities centered around the world of sports," according to its website. The organization is seeking funding for operational expenses and to build the museum itself; Zipay said it's evaluating potential sites in the area for the building.

In addition to raising funds for the museum, Zipay hoped the partnership with the Tampa Yankees would "get the public to see the talent that these young girls have with baseball."

The East Coast Yankees typically play invitational tournaments against other independent teams, said Adriane Adler, the club's manager and a former baseball player. The team has a "healthy friendship and rivalry" with the New England Women Red Sox, she added.

The Tampa Yankees have invited local softball teams and Girl Scout troops to attend the game, Ventura said, as the team has promoted it as a "women in sports-themed night." And that mantra suits Adler, who said the East Coast Yankees want to "grow opportunities for girls and women" to play baseball.

"For many years, there's just been pockets of girls who are able to play high school baseball ... but in some communities, they're just told, 'No, go play softball,'" Adler said. "We just want to see it so that girls have the opportunity to stay with baseball from the time they take it up."

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