Spaniard's Bay softball player cries foul over tournament's gender divide

William Moss organizers prevent two girls from playing for Butlerville in boys division

Published on July 17, 2017

Jenna Lee Ralph of Spaniard's Bay does not believe it was fair for tournament organizers to prevent her and another girl from playing on the Butlerville softball team competing in the under-16 boys division at the Constable William Moss Memorial Softball Tournament.

©Andrew Robinson/The Compass

SPANIARD'S BAY, NL — Jenna Lee Ralph's house is right behind the ball field in Spaniard's Bay, so it's understandable she's grown accustomed to bat-and-ball sports.

But after 13 years of playing either baseball or softball, the 16-year-old hasn't experienced the kind of disappointment she felt recently after organizers for the Captain William Moss Memorial Softball Tournament prevented her from playing.

"It's not really fair," she told The Compass last week. "Everyone is all about getting out and getting active now, and then all of a sudden you get told you can't … I wasn't given another option either."

For the first time in her career, Ralph is a member of the under-16 fast pitch squad in the Butlerville Minor Softball Association. She's in her third year playing softball and last year represented Newfoundland and Labrador at the Baseball Canada National under-16 Championships.

Ralph and another female player were hoping to suit up with their team in the boys division for the Moss tournament, but she learned at a house league game two weeks prior that she wouldn't be allowed to play. Butlerville does not have a female under-16 team.

"I was kind of upset, because I've never seen anything like that before," she told The Compass. "It's never an issue with an official."

Softball Newfoundland and Labrador does permit female players to play with their own teams in the boys division for provincials, according to Ralph.

Her mother and some of the coaches exchanged emails with tournament representatives trying to find a way to accommodate Ralph and the other female player (who The Compass could not reach for comment), but those efforts proved fruitless. Two days before the tournament got underway in St. John's, everyone gave up.

Ross Crocker, tournament co-chair, said the event has always operated with separate girl and boy divisions since the former was first introduced in 1990 for the event, which started in 1980.

"We've gone out of our way every year to accommodate requests from all associations," he said. "If an association only has four girls, for example, we'll try to get those four girls a game of ball with another team. And the same for the guys division … We do everything possible to try and get the kids a game of ball, but we do not have a co-ed division."

While the disappointment still lingers, Ralph was encouraged to learn there were so many people out there who sympathized with her. She posted about her experience on Facebook recently, and it garnered nearly 300 shares.

"We had people calling the house and everything," Ralph said. "We had friends of my parents, everyone, people from across the island, other provinces — everyone was commenting and sharing, saying it wasn't fair."

Asked why the tournament would not allow girls to play with their own association when they don't have a girls team to play on, Crocker reiterated the fact there are only two divisions.

"The Moss tournament, not like provincials, is the only tournament of the year (where the goal is) basically to try and get everybody a game of ball in both the boys and girls division, and that's what we try to do every year. But we don't have any co-ed team, because I tell you, once that starts, it'll be tough to control. You'll get every association wanting to do it."

Crocker went on to point out nationally and internationally there is no co-ed division for the sport.

"We just sort of follow that," he said.

Ralph would like to see tournament organizers make changes next year to welcome female players who earned a spot on a boys team, instead of excluding them.

"I'm hoping that this will be the last year that that issue arises," she said.