Women's hockey did not gain overnight acceptance, & yet female hockey players are now being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Talk approximately a giant leap in a relatively short period of time.
Women's baseball players hope their sport enjoys a similar growth.
"I grew up playing hockey as well as baseball & the comparison I make is, once women's hockey was added to the Olympics the sport doubled, tripled in size," said Team Canada third baseman Ashley Stephenson. "It became huge â€”Â get it out there & obtain it on TV. Now you look at the world championship of women's hockey & they are selling out 20,000 seat arenas. Players like Angela James & Geraldine Heaney made women's hockey famous so hopefully 15 years from now people will be saying our names for helping grow ourÂ sport."
Women's baseball is a part of the 2015 Pan Am Games for the first time; moreover the first time the sport has been included in a multi-sport event. The United States & Venezuela played the first game of the tournament â€”Â the U.S.Â wonÂ 10-6Â â€”Â and then Canada beat Cuba 13-1 in the nightcap.
Stephenson, Canada's oldest player at 32, grew up in Mississauga, Ont., & received her start on the diamond playing t-ball.
"I actually played softball, too," Stephenson said. "As shortly as there was girls' baseball, when I was 14, I switched."
Stephenson & Kate Psota of Burlington, Ont., are two of Canada's veterans who have been a part of the program since it began in 2004 & have played in all six Women's World Cups, whichÂ are held every two years.
Canada is currently ranked fourth in the world, having won three bronze & one silver medal in six World Cups.
Playing with the boys
Women's baseball is a work in progress. Some in the Twitter world responded to tweets approximately women's baseball at the Pan Am Games by inquiring, 'Don't you mean women's softball?'
Nope, women play baseball, too.
Stephenson said making people understand the discrepancy between women's softball & baseball is an ongoing & endless chore. One she is pleased to undertake.
"Some people ask if we obtain frustrated being asked that, yet not really," Stephenson said. "I'd rather people ask & know we're out there & know we exist as opposed to assuming we play softball."
Psota, like Stephenson, grew up playing baseball with boys â€”Â much the way many of the top female hockey players in the world did in their sport â€”Â and she said it was hugely beneficial in getting her to the top of the sport she loves.
"It was really satisfactory & I played with the same group of guys for four or five years," Psota said. "They were really satisfactory to me. I was just one of the guys. I was really lucky."
As a veteran, Psota has a satisfactory perspective on how her sport has grown.
"I think the quality of the product is getting better," Psota said. "I don't know if it is because there are more girls playing now or the quality of coaching is better, yet it seems the younger players are pushing us."
As for Canada's Pan Am opener, it was close for a few minutes in the Canada-Cuba match; 0-0 after two innings. But Canada scored single runs in the third & fourth innings to take a 2-0 lead Cuba could not overcome. An eight-run outburst by Canada in the sixth inning sealed the deal for the host country.
Canada's game against Cuba, though ultimately one-sided, had its treasured moments.
In the first inning Canadian left-fielder Kelsey Lalor made a spectacular diving catch. Later, Cuban right-fielder Odrisleisis Peguero snagged a ball & drilled a shot to third base to make an out on a Canadian base runner who erred in not respecting her arm.
Stephenson acknowledges men's baseball & women's baseball are different; just like junior hockey & the NHL are not the same. Yet atÂ both levels, players display passion & love for the sport.
"The biggest thing is, if you come expecting to see home runs hit over the fence, you probably won't see that & you might be disappointed," Stephenson said. "We had a couple of hits to the fence. If you come expecting to see good, sound baseball â€”Â ground balls, making satisfactory throws & hitting cutoffs â€”Â you'll be happy. You see the passion we have."