Last week the Atlantic League made baseball headlines when the Kentucky Wild Health Genomes selected Alexis Hopkins with the eighth pick of the 2022 ALPB Player Draft. What made the selection headlines is that Alexis Hopkins is a woman. That fact led to a lot of headlines, and while well-intentioned most of those headlines buried two facts that matter the most.
First and foremost, a lot of colorful language has been used to categorize why Hopkins was drafted. Instead of backup catcher multiple reports have referred to her as being selected to be the team’s bullpen catcher. This is in stark contrast to how the headlines and the ALPB itself are trying to spin the selection of Hopkins. The collective insinuation has been that she has been drafted to take an on-the-field position, but it’s unclear if that has truly taken place. When reporters are using phrasing like, “if she does manage to get into a game this year” then it’s pretty clear that there is a disconnect between what the headlines and league want you to think about what happened and what actually happened.
Next, there is the idea being put forth that she is the first woman ever drafted by a professional baseball team for an on-the-field role. Again, here we have the use of colorful language meant to hide from the fact that perhaps she hasn’t really been selected to be a baseball player. It also loses sight of women like Carey Schueler, who was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 1993 Major League Baseball Amateur Player Draft. The daughter of then-White Sox General Manager Ron Schueler, Carey never played an inning of professional baseball. Carey and her father have both denied that nepotism was behind the pick and that rather Sox scouts selected her based on her High School baseball resume as a left-handed pitcher. Regardless of the actual reason for her selection, she was picked to play professional baseball on the field, which makes all the headlines thrown Hopkins way fairly hollow.
To be clear, none of this is Hopkins’ fault. She went to a tryout and performed in a fashion that made those in attendance take notice. That’s what you want from a ballplayer and that is exactly what Hopkins delivered. What sucks about all of this is that Hopkins selection is either being used as a publicity stunt or the majority of reporters are not willing to take her seriously. If the only intent in selecting her was to install her as a bullpen catcher and not have her see a second of playing time then that is different than selecting her to be an actual catcher on the team. If she was selected to play, then most reporters don’t know how to handle that and have bungled the conveying of that information. In either scenario, the one being pulled back and forth is Hopkins herself, and that simply isn’t fair to her or her abilities as a ballplayer.
I’m not sure how Hopkins’ time with the Genomes will play out. Heck, it seems the team itself isn’t entirely certain of how her time with them will start, let alone how it will go as the season progresses. It is my hope that I can come back later in the year and talk about how much she has played and how she has held her own. However, if all she ends up being is a bullpen catcher then a news cycle was spent making it seem like a professional baseball league was taking a major step towards equality when they were actually taking a very minor step. I’m sure Hopkins will make a fine bullpen catcher, but if that’s all the Genomes and ALPB intend for her to be then leave the rest of the hot air behind and stop trying to use her to make your league/team seem more progressive than reality shows.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Kentucky Wild Health Genomes