Shae Lillywhite with Team Australia.
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Cam Vale and Women’s Baseball

Last year Cam Vale, Chief Executive Office of Baseball Australia and the Australian Baseball League, spearheaded a fundraising campaign for an Australian women’s professional baseball league. The goal was to raise enough money to supplement any government funds and for Australia to join Japan as only the second country with an active professional women’s baseball league. That goal was not met, but with a substantial amount of funds raised something had to be done. Enter into the picture the Australian Baseball Women’s Showcase.

The Showcase underwent a myriad of changes, mainly due to Coronavirus postponements. Throughout the many changes and postponements, the one general given was that it would be a Showcase for women’s baseball. The idea was to put women’s baseball front and center and show that they belonged on the same stage as the men. At least, most believed that was the goal until the most recent announcement. The latest press release spelled out the new format of the Showcase: Day one was to feature a three-inning game, then day two would feature another three-inning game. If at the end of those two games no team had accrued a lead in total runs then a convoluted set of rules would decide if a seventh-inning tiebreaker where runners started at first and second was needed.

If you read the above and thought, “Man, that sounds really dumb,” you are not alone. It is dumb and ultimately even worse than being dumb it is condescending. Vale has taken what should have been a great move forward for women’s baseball and turned it into a gimmick. Not just a gimmick though, but a gimmick where the rules have been lessened, game times shortened, and the presentation altered. Anyone not drinking the Cam Vale Kool-Aid came away thinking, “Whoever organized this thing really does not respect women.” That’s what I thought, that’s what literally every person I have talked to about the event has said they came away thinking as well.

The decision to present the Showcase can be summed up in one quote from the press release,

“An innovative broadcast-friendly format will be trialed in this weekend’s Australian Women’s Baseball Showcase presented by Boral at Melbourne Ballpark.”

Read between the lines and the only logical conclusion is that neither Vale nor anyone involved with the showcase believes that people have a reason to care about women’s baseball beyond having a gimmick attached. It can’t be that they play baseball and that presenting their games the same way that the same games are presented for men would show audiences that women can provide just as compelling of a presentation as the men typically do. Nope, instead, a weird three-inning format with convoluted rules had to be put in place in the name of innovation.

Don’t let Vale pull the wool over your eyes, innovation is a word meant to hide the absolute contempt this event was going to show for women’s baseball. The games themselves ended up not taking place. Not due to any backlash or pressure, but Coronavirus-related travel restrictions hit Australia hard this past weekend and the Showcase was canceled as a result. Cancelation or not, one truth remains: people wanted women’s baseball, they paid to see women’s baseball, not a gimmick masquerading as women’s baseball.

I would have loved nothing more than to have been able to write about this Showcase and highlight the play of any of the players on the field. Thanks to Vale that was never going to be a possibility because the open condescension shown towards women and their place in baseball overshadowed anything that would have taken place during the games. Vale’s parting shot as he leaves his role as CEO of Baseball Australia was an attempt to set the women’s game back and damage all the progress women in baseball have made over the years. Innovation and marketability in the form of denigration and condescension, what a man you are, Cam Vale.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Baseball Australia

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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