SAN DIEGO — Boys play baseball, and girls play softball, right?
Well, not at a California middle school where some determined teen girls are showing up on the baseball diamond.
Their proud coach, Jim Becher, thinks the Bay Terraces team, called the Bell Blazers, may be one of the only middle school girls baseball teams in the country. “This program is a lot more than just a baseball program,” Becher said with a smile.
It all started a year or so ago when a few girls at Bell Middle School approached their principal. “They wanted to play baseball. That’s specifically what they asked is for baseball. It’s a matter of listening to student's voice and getting to know the students. What they dream about, and aspire to be,” Bell Middle School Principal, Precious Jackson-Hubbard, said.
But some dreams need dollars, and America’s favorite pastime costs a pretty penny these days.
The dream was benched for a while. That is until the non-profit Anvil of Hope stepped up to the plate. “We’ve been able to get uniforms, practice time, bats, balls, helmets, everything, and provide experiences for them,” Anvil of Hope founder, Peter Zien, said.
Zien and his wife, Vicky Zien, raised enough money to help the middle school form: The Bell Blazers. “We started off with 12 girls, and we’re somewhere at about 30-40 girls this year,” Peter Zien said.
“It’s the first one in the nation to have an all-girls baseball program,” Coach Becher said proudly.
Most girls have no experience, but some, like 6th grader Marlena Zepeda, have played softball. “I like that I get to be outside it gives me something extra to do. Girls can do just as much as boys can. Anyone can do anything as long as they try and persevere,” Marlena said.
By being positive and active, Principal Jackson-Hubbard says this helps the girls avoid some of the harmful decisions facing teens in the community. “Having to overcome the challenges of drugs, alcohol and gangs,” Jackson-Hubbard said.
Homelessness is also a concern. 17% of Bell Middle School students have no permanent place they call home according to Jackson-Hubbard.
"Some of these girls have real challenging stories, and it’s not all roses when they leave school,” Peter Zien said.
“This gives them a bit of a respite from that and gets them to participate in a positive environment for a few hours a week,” Coach Becher said.
“We know that they're safe, doing something productive, being physically active,” Principal Precious Jackson-Hubbard said.
8th grader Kaniah Howard says she’s moved around a lot because her dad is in the military. The Bell Blazers offered more than just teammates. “I like that I get to hang out with friends and stuff, but we chill and have fun. I think the fact that people think baseball is masculine, it will give us an opportunity to show them wrong,” Kaniah said.
Coach Becher is happy to lend a hand, some instruction, and some guidance to these girls. “Their ability to be tough, and not cry like the boys do. There’s no crying in baseball! And these girls show that every day. This is our ability through baseball to reach out and to help people for sure,” Coach Becher said with a smile.
Since they are the only middle school girls’ baseball team around, the girls just scrimmage each other. However, they are putting the call out to other area middle schools that have girls interested to form a middle school team, so they have more competition.
Anvil of Hope is the non-profit arm of San Diego-based AleSmith brewing. Anvil of Hope has another big fundraiser coming up to help raise funds for programs like the Bell Blazers. Camelot Wishes is the 3rd annual Anvil of Hope Giving Tree Gala. The gala will be held on December 2.
CBS8 Mornings Anchor Eric Kahnert will be hosting the event. For more information and tickets, click here. For more information on Anvil of Hope, click here.
WATCH RELATED: Cerebral palsy doesn't hold back pitcher for San Diego City College baseball team