Erin Delahunty speaks to history-maker Genevieve Beacom, after she became the first female to play for a professional baseball team in Australia on the weekend.
Victorian baseball prodigy Genevieve Beacom, a left-hand pitcher with a blazing fastball recently clocked at 134km/h, has been making history since she started striking out boys in under-12s aged nine and on Saturday she became the first female to play for a professional baseball team in Australia.
In the relatively low-profile sport of baseball, where the sexes are allowed to compete against each other but rarely do, Beacom – the first girl picked to represent Australia at the famous Cal Ripken World Series in the US and the first female to represent Victoria at under-16 level – is the definition of a trailblazer.
After last year becoming the first female to pitch in division 1 baseball in Victoria, quietly-spoken 185cm Beacom, who turned 17 in October, was last week named as a development player for the Melbourne Aces in the top-tier, until-now male Australian Baseball League (ABL).
And on Saturday night it happened. At Melbourne Ballpark under lights, she pitched in the sixth innings for the Aces against the Adelaide Giants in the Melbourne Challenge event; putting her name up in lights and crushing the “girls can’t play ball” stereotype.
Although the Aces lost 7-1, Beacom, a strong fielder and hitter as well as a talented pitcher, didn’t look out of place at the top level, throwing a scoreless innings and showing off a fearsome breaking ball.
Her performance repaid the faith put in her by Aces head coach Pete Moylan, who believes the Somerville teen can “more than” hold her own against Australia’s and the world’s top ball players.
“If anyone thinks this is just a token selection, then they need to think again because she has 100% earned her spot on the development list,” Moylan said.
Beacom’s selection for the Aces came after she recorded a staggering 0.00 “earned runs average” – that’s how many runs batters average off her every nine innings – at under-16 state level for Sandringham last year.
If she plays for the Aces in the official 2022/23 season, the year 12 student will re-write another chapter in Australian baseball history and take a step towards her next dream, securing a US college scholarship to play ball from next year, after finishing VCE at Flinders Christian Community College.
Then, the next stop might just be Major League Baseball in the US, which has never had a female player. It’s an achievement that’s hard for Beacom to even comprehend.
“Major league? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Really, my focus right now though in the short-term is college next year, but if that ever came up, it would be awesome,” she told Siren.
Before any potential move to the US, Beacom also hopes to be selected to represent Australia at the under-18 World Cup, which was due to be held in Florida last year but was postponed because of Covid.
“I represented Australia when I went to the Cal Ripken World Series in the US when I was 12, a tournament I really loved, where I got to interact with players from all over the world. It gave me a taste of what baseball could be for me. I would love to represent Australia once again,” she said.
Beacom said playing ABL level would help take her game to the next level, as well as hopefully help her land a spot at a US college, where she’d like to study psychology.
“It’s a chance to challenge myself, to become a better player, to learn from coaches. I am always trying to improve my game. Playing division 1 really taught me to locate my spots, which maybe you get away with not doing (in lower levels of competition) and this is another step up again.
“It will help me become a better baseball student and know the game better. I am so grateful to just be around the team, go to games, and learn.”
While much is being made of her becoming the first female to pitch in ABL, Beacom is unfazed.
“It’s always awesome to be the first I guess, but I don’t see it as a girl doing this or that, it’s more a personal achievement that I have made the team,” she said.
Humility aside, the southpaw does understand she’s a role model. “If anything, me doing these things hopefully encourages other girls and women to play and to stick with baseball and not feel like they have to play softball – which can often be the expectation for females.”
Team Australia alumni Amy McCann, who represented her country at six women’s baseball world cups and won seven national titles at home, has watched Beacom’s meteoric rise through the male pathway and was in the commentary box when she strode to the mound on Saturday.
“It was such a special moment. I had tears in my eyes and the widest smile. It meant so much to so many people,” she said.
“What the women’s baseball community may lack in size, we sure make up for in pride and solidarity, (so) whenever a girl or a woman breaks a barrier like this, reaches a new height, becomes the first to do something in our sport, we all celebrate,” McCann said.
“We all have our story about how hard it was to get started in the sport, with so many of us pushed towards softball, or just staying in the sport with limited pathways and for some, a challenge of being the only girl or woman on a team or even in a league.
“So it’s nice to see it’s getting easier and more opportunities now exist for players who have the talent to reach these new levels.
“As someone who did my part to pave the way for the next generation of players, it makes me extremely proud to see players like Gen take it to a new level, take even bigger steps forward for herself, and women in the sport,” McCann added.
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She said Beacom has an “amazing work ethic, fierce determination and loads of talent” and had reached ABL on her merits, regardless of her gender.
“At the end of the day, she’s a pitcher on the hill, trying to get an out and every batter is just trying to get on base. Many women playing men’s have faced on-field comments that hurt, like you’ll hear someone on the other team ribbing a teammate about ‘getting out to a girl’ or a ‘girl got a hit off you’, but this is old-school stuff that is well on the way out now.
“The Aussie ABL players treated her with the respect she has earned and deserves when she took to the mound. To me, they looked more concerned about her pitch sequences, her nasty slider, or the cut on her fastball, rather than the fact she is a 17-year-old girl!” McCann said.
The stalwart believes Beacom will do things the sport has never seen. “If her career includes making it to the majors, it will be a stunning moment for Gen, for baseball, and for women.”
Speaking to McCann’s broadcast colleague Rob Novotny after her debut on Saturday night, Beacom gave a hint as to why she’s one to watch.
“If anyone tries to push you to do something you don’t want to do, push you to softball, or play a sport you ‘should’ be playing … don’t listen. Do what you want to do and just know that if you work hard enough, you can definitely make it somewhere. It’s not impossible. It can be done.”