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OFF THE WALL

The Women's Pro Game
Photographs by Laura Wulf
Journal entries by Terri Lynn Herbst

The American Women's Baseball League is the umbrella organization for the recent outcropping of amateur women's leagues across the country. It has held a national tournament since 1993. Their Web site is www.womenplayingbaseball.com.

The Ladies Pro Baseball League was an attempt to expand on a West Coast amateur league that boasted some of the toughest competition in the country. With three teams in the West and three teams on the East Coast, tryouts and training camps were held for each team in the spring of 1998. The New Jersey Diamonds were one of those teams. Two weeks into their season, however, the league abruptly folded because of financial difficulties and last year the league's president was sentenced to thirty months in prison for defrauding investors of $2.8 million, mail fraud, and tax evasion.

The excitement and anguish of the ballplayers, their abiding desire just to play the game-these are best conveyed by the players themselves. Below are excerpts from the diary of Terri Lynn Herbst, outfielder for the New Jersey Diamonds.

May 30, 1998
I can hardly believe where I'm going this morning. I'm going to Augusta, New Jersey, to try out for a women's professional baseball team. I can only imagine what it will be like to live the dream that I've kept inside my heart my entire life. In 1997 I had a brief tryout with the Colorado Silver Bullets. I had no baseball experience, but just showing up and knowing I went after my dream was an overwhelming experience for me. Although my tryout was unsuccessful, a voice inside of me said you can't give up, you're gonna play baseball. After about a month of batting and throwing lessons, I attended the Men's Senior Baseball League player draft. I was the only woman at the entire tryout. That afternoon I was drafted by one of the teams and began my first season playing hardball at age thirty-six. My first season proved to be successful and I found it difficult to ever think about going back to playing softball.

I was smoking a cigarette waiting for the gates of the stadium to open. I looked around and realized that most of the other women were ten to fifteen years younger than myself. I'm saying to myself, my God, I'm thirty-seven years old. I have already lived through a twenty-year career as a photographer. My life experience has shown me that most of my dreams will never have a chance of coming true. What am I doing here? Why are there dreams we will never be able to let go of? Maybe that little kid that lives inside of all of us knows better than the adult we keep perceiving ourselves to be. Why am I standing here believing that I will become a New Jersey Diamond?

June 24, 1998
Our first day of practice went well. It's ninety degrees here in New Jersey, so you can imagine we are frying. Who cares! I'm playing baseball. We did a lot of conditioning today, lots of running, and I really feel it. I can't remember the last time, if ever, I had to train like this. My body may take me only so far, but my heart and spirit are going to help me live my dream. I always believed it takes more heart and spirit to play this game than anything else. I don't know if many of these women appreciate what they are doing here. If they only knew what the real world is like. Bills, mortgages, responsibilities. Most of the team just graduated college. They played softball and haven't experienced life yet. If they only knew what I experienced in the last twenty-something years, they would be kissing the ground they are playing on. I hope someday they can appreciate what they are about to do this summer. As I sit and write this, my legs are packed in ice. Yes, I do feel my age! But my heart feels like a kid.

To read the rest of this story, click here to order a copy of the Spring 2000 issue.

 
Rebecca Chacon at training camp with the New Jersey Diamonds.
©1998 Laura Wulf
Diana Appel of the Arizona Angels suits up at the 1998 USA
Baseball Women's National Championship tournament in
Tucson, Arizona. ©1998 Laura Wulf
 
 
 
Melissa Gibbons during New Jersey Diamonds tryout under the watchful eye of Bob Greenberg, Director of Scouting with the
Ladies Pro Baseball League. ©1998 Laura Wulf
 
 
Catcher Judy O'Brien of the New Jersey Diamonds.
©1998 Laura Wulf
 
Michelle Jardine covers first base for the Toronto Playgrounds.
©1998 Laura Wulf
 
 
 
Members of the New Jersey Diamonds meet at the mound during 1998 Women's National Championship tournament game.
©1998 Laura Wulf
 

For more great photos of women & girls playing baseball, please visit Laura Wulf's website www.laurawulf.com

At age 39, TERRI LYNN HERBST continues her career as a photographer and artist on Long Island. Since the 1998 N.J. Diamonds, she has resumed playing in the Men's Senior Baseball League (MSBL) and at women's tournaments around the country. This May she represents the USA Women's National Baseball team in a baseball exhibition in Japan. Upon her return, she is planning to make her debut with the Waterbury (Connecticut) Diamonds in the Women's New England Baseball League.

LAURA WULF lives in Boston where she works as a photographer. Last summer she played outfield in the newly formed Women's New England Baseball League as well as in a thirty-and-over men's baseball league. Her photos of the Colorado Silver Bullets are included in the archives at Cooperstown.

© 2000 text Terri Lynn Herbst
© 2000 photography Laura Wulf

 

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