Volume 79, Number 01 | June 10 - 16, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Villager photo by Rita Wu

Gabrielle Brown demonstrates the fundamentals — a level swing and keeping her eye on the ball.

Little Leaguer loves the game and loves a challenge

By Rita Wu

Gabrielle Brown started playing baseball at age 7. She tried her hand at fencing, ballet and other activities. But “only baseball really worked” for her, she said. Now 15, Gabrielle plays for the Jazz in the Greenwich Village Little League’s Senior Division. She usually plays second base or right field but loves playing catcher. She has always been the only girl on all the Little League teams she’s ever been on, but this year she’s the sole female in the entire division.

This isn’t a problem for her. So far, everyone — friends, family, coaches and teammates alike — has been supportive. For Gabrielle, she’s just playing baseball.

“When I’m in the batting cages, hitting and improving my skills, there are times where I’ll just go into this zone where I like forget about who I am and forget about everything else,” she said. “It’s just a really nice feeling. Then I’ll come home and be like, ‘Oh no, I have three hours of homework.’ But you forget about all that when you’re playing baseball.”

It wasn’t until recently, while writing a paper about debunking stereotypes, that she realized that she was debunking a stereotype by just playing baseball. Unlike so many other girls her age who had dropped out of Little League completely or switched to softball, Gabrielle’s love for the game had made her immune to pressures or doubts.

“Softball is a stereotype in itself,” Gabrielle said. “The ball is bigger, the base paths are closer together, pitchers throw underhand — made by men who didn’t want girls to succeed to a high level.”

One of her shining moments was the first time she played catcher. The first-string catcher had broken his ankle and was out for the season. The player her team got to replace him was a no-show. The coach approached Gabrielle and said, “You have good hands, you know the game, you’re gonna play catcher.” All in all, she did a good job. But, for Gabrielle, what was most inspiring was being thrown into a situation in which she was inexperienced and having to prove to herself that she could do it. And she did.

A huge Yankees fan, she was on cloud nine after meeting Joe Torre at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Gabrielle looks up to the former Yankee skipper and considers him a role model.

“He managed to lead a team with such great stoicism,” she said. “He really managed to handle the players and get a trust aspect going and realize that players weren’t robots. And he really emphasized the human aspect of the game.”

Gabrielle in her own right is a role model.

Her coach Ray Scardapane said, “Gabrielle is a very hard worker, who is highly motivated, and she is very athletic. Her enthusiastic demeanor and work ethic are a huge plus for the team. She accepts the challenge of playing against the boys, and although in some instances presented with strength inequities — such as a pitcher throwing 85-plus miles per hour — she never backs down.”

Besides playing ball, Gabrielle spends a lot of her time, as she says, “eating facts on baseball.”

“Anything I could get and I got a lot,” she said of her baseball knowledge. “Did you know that there are 108 stitches in a baseball?”

Her other true passion is acting. She is currently studying drama at LaGuardia Arts High School on the Upper West Side.

“I was definitely a star in the womb,” she said.

In the meantime, Gabrielle has one more year with the G.V.L.L. Senior Division, after which most players move onto high school or college ball. She’s hoping she can do the same. She’s waiting for the challenge — another opportunity to prove that she can.

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