Documentary Treatment

 
 

Throw Like A Girl

Documentary Treatment

ACT 1 -

The film opens on a baseball field on a glorious summer day. The camera is positioned high in the stadium looking over the field capturing the blue bird sky, the meticulously mown green grass, the red clay dirt. Figures in white dart across the diamond. You can almost smell the hot dogs, peanuts and popcorn. The camera dives down to follow the catcher chase after a pop-up foul ball, pulling off the catcher’s mask reveals a tangled mane of light brown curly hair. The catcher lays out to snag the ball in her glove. She grins as brushes off some newly acquired dirt, grabs her mask and trots back behind the plate. THE DREAM TEAM is an elite level, all-girls, age 12 and under baseball team that is playing a full tournament season against all boys teams. In addition to playing baseball, they are top students, are competitive in soccer and hockey and several also play the violin. Their collective dream is to be the first female player in Major League Baseball, and to play for Team USA’s National Women’s Baseball Team.

JUSTINE SIEGEL on the 3rd base line while the team she coaches, a men’s college team, practices in the background on a sunny day asks, “If you tell a girl she can’t play baseball, what else will she think she can’t do – just because she’s a girl?” This modest query is the cornerstone of this documentary. Why are girls and boys treated differently in terms of sport? Justine continues, “And what will the boys think girls can’t do?”

In 2005, CAMI KIDDER is so excited and preparing to go to Red Sox Fantasy Camp! The Red Sox have finally won the World Series after an 86-year drought. The limiters are off, the sense of possibility is palpable. She is going to live out her dream of being a professional baseball player! The only problem is that the other 95 campers who are all men who can’t seem to grasp that her dream is the same as theirs. The constant teasing, questioning, doubting and “instructing” might not be intended to be mean or hurtful, but it is. Why is her dream invalid or unimaginable and less possible simply because she’s a woman?

ACT II -

Walking into an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League reunion as the proverbial “fly on the most interesting wall,” one can absorb the confidence, be inspired, feel the history and believe that dreams do come true. A typical hotel conference center with 40 or so grey-haired “little old ladies” gathered around the bar is anything but what it appears. These are the women who are credited with keeping our National Pastime alive during World War II performed a service just as important as all the Rosie the Riveters, but they don’t see it like that. They’ll tell you themselves they didn’t think they were doing anything special, just “playin’ ball,” but their impact on society is immense.

DOLLY BRUMFIELD-WHITE tells a story about how after the baseball season she went home to her family’s farm in Arkansas and told her father she wanted to go to college like her brother. Her father said, “We don’t pay to educate girls.” Undeterred, Dolly saved all her earnings from baseball and paid for her own college education - all the way up to a PhD - and taught college for 35 years and coached both women and men. And she still doesn’t think she did anything special. Our history, or HERstory, is being forgotten and overwritten. While this is not a historical film, some context is important. Research suggests the all stick & ball diamond sports trace their roots back to Stoolball, a game created by dairymaids in the highlands of Scotland.

Bloomer Girls, Maud Nelson, Toni Stone, Effa Manley, in brief, we’ll show how women have always been part of this game. Girls are routinely told they shouldn’t try because “they’ll never make it in the Major Leagues.” But no one ever tells a boy they shouldn’t try. Of course, there are ramifications that go far beyond the game, thus this film isn’t really about baseball. Age 13? is a critical time for the development of a child. Age 13 is also the time when girls are told they need to quit baseball and start playing softball. Is it any wonder that their math and science scores start to tank and they stop speaking up in class at -- Age 13.

Act III –

Every two years the best female baseball players in the World gather for 12 days of competition and fellowship - the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) WOMEN’S BASEBALL WORLD CUP. Filmed with an insider’s advantage: from the sidelines, the dugouts, the locker rooms, behind home plate, on the field before and after the games, we are part of the action and revel in visceral experience of witnessing dozens of womens' dreams being fulfilled. 2016, A warm summer night in Northern California, in front of a sold-out enthusiastic hometown crowd, KELSIE WHITMORE, a former Dream Team player and STACEY PIAGNO, a member of the Women’s National Team, are making herstory. They are professional baseball players. At 17 and 24, they handle the pressure of a pre-game media frenzy with humble quiet grace then they take the field to simply do their jobs as the starting Pitcher and the starting Left Fielder for the SONOMA STOMPERS.

The core of THROW LIKE A GIRL is the journey of three girls from age 12 to 20 who love playing baseball. Society says that “baseball is for boys, and softball is for girls,” so they are rebels in that way. Softball is as different from Baseball as Tennis is from Badminton, but no one tells Serena Williams she has to play the “easier” sport just because she’s a woman. They strive to stay in the game they love, but as they age it gets harder. At age 13, the baseball diamond gets bigger and the assumption is girls can’t handle it gets stronger. The lure of softball is powerful – college scholarships, The Olympics, the potential for a semi-professional career in Europe – and society’s insistence that girls conform to gender roles.

As a character, the filmmaker, CAMI KIDDER uses her experience at the Red Sox Fantasy Camp to set up the problem – the culture of misogyny that still exists in baseball. However, this isn’t a “anti-men” film. It shines a light on behaviour that might be standard for the ‘old boys club’ that is, in fact, exclusionary and downright mean when directed at women. In order to eliminate gender roles from society, we need allies. People who, when shown this behavior might recognize that this “harmless teasing” is really harassment. In one scene, Cami is fined in the kangaroo court because her pants are too tight (uniform pants that were provided by the Camp Directors BTW.) While men laugh, a few coaches clamor to pay her fine because they want her to keep wearing the pants….funny? No, not really. I’m sure none of these men have given this event a second thought, but I still feel the humiliation 14 years later.

Dream Teamers, KELSEY WHITMORE, JADE GORTAREZ and NYLAH RAMIREZ play, age and grow. With the eventual goal of breaking the gender barrier much like Jackie Robinson did the colour barrier; they navigate through various opportunities like trying out for the Women’s National Team, playing High School baseball instead of softball despite all the recruitment techniques, weighing scholarship offers vs playing overseas (Japan has a Women’s Pro Baseball League), and considering independent baseball contracts.

Their stories are inter-cut with Cami serving as a guide ala Michael Moore, as she travels the World striving for an answer to the question, Why aren’t girls supposed to play baseball? Meeting players from 8 different countries including Japan, Pakistan and India, we see their talent and hear their passion for this game. Utilizing a crew of 3 or less, the film is shot with an up close and personal vibe. Over the years, Cami has gained the trust of players, coaches, parents and officials gathering revealing interviews and she has captured intimate behind-the-game footage as well as lots of exciting on-diamond action.

The film leads up to strong calls to action encouraging women and men to question and challenge gender roles in general, and in specific, to support the dreams of girls in sport and in life. Taking action can be a simple as sponsoring and/or coaching a girls’ Little League team to make sure they have the opportunity to play, and as advanced as working to make our government update and strengthen Title IX. In reality, public schools that doesn’t allow girls to play on or even try out for the baseball team citing softball as the girls’ option, are in violation of Title IX, but who wants to be the 13-year old girl whose parents are suing the school?

Our Outreach program will pair younger girls with mentors to help them access and understand opportunities. Should they switch to softball to win a college scholarship? Give someone to talk to that understands how hard it is to “be the ponytail” on an all boys’ team. How can they train to find work as a coach or umpire? It takes a team to change a culture, and it is more than possible.