ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Beth Greenwood began playing baseball fifteen years ago. The New Hampshire native never picked up a softball, even though she could have earned a college scholarship switching up her game.
Instead, she stuck with baseball, hanging tough with the boys through little league, middle and high school, at the University of Rochester, and men’s summer leagues.
“Growing up I was pretty tomboy, I liked to hang out with the guys, I liked to get dirty,” said Greenwood. “I was one of those kids if you told me I couldn’t do something, I’d do it.”
Last summer, Greenwood commuted to a summer league in Connecticut, where she played with one other woman. Though she enjoyed playing on a co-ed team with another girl, she wanted to play closer to home. At the recommendation of her high school pitching coach, she registered to play with the Sunset League in Concord, New Hampshire this summer, one of the oldest amateur leagues in the country.
In the first few games, Greenwood was playing in the outfield, even though she is primarily a catcher. Once she was given the opportunity to start catching, her coach realized she might be making history.
“He’s been around the league for 30-something years, and he goes, ‘you’re the first girl I’ve ever seen play in this league, and I don’t know if there was anyone before’,” said Greenwood.
After some research through the league records, the league’s executive director discovered Greenwood was the first girl to ever play in the Sunset League’s 111-year history.
“It was really cool. At first I thought, oh I’m probably the first woman to play in 30 or 40 years but I’m the first person in 111 years. That’s crazy.”
The University of Rochester junior is also breaking barriers within the athletic department. Greenwood is the only girl to ever play on the baseball team’s practice squad. She played in intersquad games, lifted, and attended practice daily with the varsity guys before the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Making the official game roster next season is her short term goal, but she originally decided to try out to work out and prep for the US women’s national team tryout with a baseball team.
Greenwood first tried out for the national team back in 2018 and made the top 40 list. She did not make the final 20-man roster, but will try out again when it is safe to do so. The 2020 World Cup was delayed until November and Greenwood expects it could be postponed once again.
“When I found out tryouts weren’t happening this summer, it really put me in a bad head space,” said Greenwood. “Then I realized I’m still training and taking advantage of this time. It separates me from the other people who saw it wasn’t happening and stopped training.”
Throughout the offseason, Greenwood has been learning from the manager of the US women’s national team and former catcher, Veronica Alvarez, over Zooms and email exchanges. Even that base communication is achieving a childhood dream.
“I used to watch her play, and she played with some of the women I’d be competing for a spot against,” said Greenwood. “It’s been my dream since I was little, it’s all surreal.”
Greenwood has been an advocate for equality in the sport since she was 11, when she began working with Baseball for All, a nonprofit providing girls with opportunities to play, coach, and lead in baseball.
“When I was younger, it was really hard not to put pressure on myself being the only girl on a team,” said Greenwood. “As I got older, I realized people were always going to notice me, and I had the opportunity to help shape the way people saw women baseball players. I stress to the young players I work with that guys have bad days too. If baseball was easy, everyone would do it.”
For her high school senior project and Girl Scout Gold Award, Greenwood wrote a book aimed at young girls in the sport. Between the Bases: A Baseball Girl’s Journey, she documents the long history of women’s baseball, interviews with pioneers in the game from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to the first woman to play NCAA baseball, and her own evolving story. It was published before her first USA Baseball tryout, and hopes to someday write another book for an older audience including her college and national team experiences.
“I think the best part of my story is still being written,” said Greenwood.
She’s absolutely right. The sky is the limit when you’re in a league of your own.
To purchase Between the Bases: A Baseball Girl’s Journey, click here.
Photos and videos courtesy of Beth Greenwood.