Girl of summer: Caroline Lund a slugger to watch

When his daughter was a little girl, Eric Lund says she'd sit and watch Yankees games with him on TV, asking questions about all the game's nuances. Later, when most girls adorned their walls with posters of teen idols, Lund's daughter put up Fatheads of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.

"Unlike other girls," says Lund, "she always wanted her birthday parties at Cavalier Cards."

Then there was the first time he saw her throw a baseball.

"Caroline seems to have had a natural talent in throwing and catching a baseball since she started T-Ball," says Lund.

Caroline, who turns 13 in November, just finished her last season at McIntire Little League, where she was the only girl in the Majors division.

"Being the only girl was weird," says Caroline, "because there was always a lot of people staring at me. And sometimes boys can be a little awkward around me."

But Lund wasn't just the only girl, she was one of the best players– batting .569 through 23 games, driving in 34 runs, hitting 10 doubles, and blasting 5 home runs, one of which a reporter witnessed (a shot that cleared the left-field fence with room to spare). On the mound, she limited opposing batters to a .167 batting average.

She also played in this year's City Championship and was on the 12-year-old All Star Team. Recently, she was featured in Sports Illustrated Kids.

Lund says she benefited from great coaching at McIntire, even having Erin Horn– a former UVA softball stand-out who now coaches at McIntire– in her corner.

However, unlike some of her talented teammates, Caroline may never get to play baseball again because she's a girl.

In 1974, following a lengthy court battle supported by the National Organization of Women, Little League began allowing girls to play baseball, and since then millions of girls have had the opportunity to play America's pastime alongside boys. After that, however, the road comes to an abrupt end. While boys get to keep playing baseball, most girls must switch to softball.

A handful of girls have broken the barrier. In 1988, Virginian Julie Croteau sued her high school for the right to play on the boys baseball team, and lost. Later, however, she became the first woman to play for an NCAA college team. In 1998, Ila Borders became the first woman to notch a pitching win for a pro team, and in 2010 Tiffany Brooks signed a pro baseball contract, the only woman to do so since Borders.

"For a while, she was talking about wanting to be the first girl to play baseball at Western Albemarle High School," says her father, "but this season I think she realized that the guys are getting bigger and stronger... and she can't be one of the guys the way she could when she was younger."

Lund says his daughter will be playing on the 14u Blue Ridge Heat this fall, a travel softball team, but one of her coaches at McIntire thinks she has what it takes to play with the boys.

"I think she can play into high school," says Jeff Burton, who coached Lund for several years at McIntire. "I would not put anything past her, and I'd support her effort to play beyond when others tell her its possible."

"When I was little, I wanted to play in the Major Leagues," says Caroline, "but I know that's not going to happen."

Or could it?

"Actually, Caroline was just invited to play with the Chicago Pioneers, an all-girls baseball organization in Illinois." says her Father. "They've entered their team into the first ever international all-girls baseball championship which happens Aug 22-27 in Halifax, Nova Scotia."

Indeed, the Pioneers have had to compete mostly in tournaments against boys. At a recent tournament in Cooperstown the Pioneers made it to the second round, beating four boys teams.

Caroline says her dream now is to get a college scholarship to play softball, but you can tell it's been hard to think about giving up her first love. Now she doesn't have to, at least temporarily.

"I would really like to keep playing baseball," she says.

She also hopes her example might get more local girls playing Little League.

"If more girls played, it would be less awkward," she says, "and then more girls would want to come out and play."


@really -- probably takes one to know one.
Let the girl play to the limit of her ability. Where is her pro bono attorney? She should try out for Babe Ruth League and then sue them. Alternatively, she could just refuse to state a gender, and could retract all such gender statements previously made. I'm delighted she got to play Little League. You go, girl! ... as far as you can. Ability to hit the curve is a big separator, and you might not make it past that point. But keep trying! And remember: "Illegitimi non te carborundum" ....

relly deleted

relly deleted and banned

Tee hee

The ability to hit the curve separates the boyz and gurlz. Thats why they have fast pitch softball.

The Yanks are an abomination.

Seriously, really?, out of all the places to rag on the Yanks online you really have to do it under a story in which the Yanks are a 12-year old girl's favorite team? No class.

Maybe Caroline can hit a curve. Maybe you can't. Let her play if she wants to and has the ability.

Thanks Dave! A great article about Caroline!!!! A great person, player, and role model for other athletes. As President of McIntire LL I can say that we hate to see her move on to other leagues but know she will succeed in sport and in life!!!! Whatever she does she will do it well!!! You can bank on that!
We are are hopeful that more girls will follow the path she has taken.

If she can run as fast and throw as far and hit as well and know the game's nuances, she should play. If not, she should be cut. It would be cool if she could make it into high school. But her dad is correct: as she gets older, the boys get a lot bigger and stronger. It will get tougher to make the cut.

BTW, it is nice to see a reference to the NOW and 1974...probably the last year they even reeked of relevance in this country.

R.I.P.: Lizzie Borden (better than Melissa Etheridge with an ax)