If you have any interest in baseball whatsoever, then there’s a good chance that you’ve already heard of Melissa Mayeux. If you haven’t, then prepare yourself for an interesting story. Why? Because Melissa Mayeux is officially the first woman to ever make it onto the MLB’s international registration list. Although some of you may prefer the word “girl” to “woman” in this case. Not out of sexism, but because Mayeux is only sixteen years of age.
That makes the story of Melissa Mayeux interesting on a couple of different levels. Of course, it also has a lot of people wondering just what the future really holds for her. Does being on the registration list mean anything? Does she actually have a shot at making it to the MLB? If so, when will it happen? There are a lot of unanswered questions presented by Melissa Mayeux’s newfound rise to stardom. And while we may not have all of the answers, we’re here to explore the possibilities. So let’s take a look at Melissa Mayeux and her chances of making the MLB, but let’s start by talking about the history of women in the sport.
The History of Women in Baseball
Some of our younger readers might not be aware of this, but women actually have a pretty interesting history in the sport of baseball. Anyone who has ever seen the 1992 movie A League of Their Own should probably be aware that it was actually based on a true story. We’re obviously not saying that Tom Hanks really coached a team featuring Geena Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell. In fact, even his character, Jimmy Dugan, did not exist in real life. But that doesn’t mean that everything about the movie was entirely fabricated. In fact, some parts are closer to the truth than you’d expect.
Jimmy Dugan is based largely on Jimmie Foxx. He did not really coach the Rockford Peaches, but he did coach the Fort Wayne Daisies in 1952. In fact, the Daisies lost to the Peaches during the playoffs that year. Many aspects of Dugan’s character, such as his struggles with alcoholism, his 58 home runs in a single season during his playing career, and his presence in the Hall of Fame, are all based on the true story of Jimmie Foxx. As for whether or not he ever had to lecture his team on the lack of crying in baseball, that’s never quite been documented.
In any case, the point is that the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League did exist between 1943 and 1954. The Rockford Peaches were one of the better teams in the league, having won four championships during the AAGPBL’s existence. They were initially started by Philip K. Wrigley, whose name you might recognize from the famous brand of gum. The point was not really to generate equality in sports, so much as it was to allow baseball to continue on as America’s pastime while many men were overseas fighting the Second World War. As for why the league persisted so long after America returned from the war, that can be attributed to the players. In fact, attendance was generally more favorable after the war was over, when most of the men had returned home.
Now, here’s where the story gets a little bit less inspiring. After all, we’re bringing up the AAGPBL in terms of whether or not it sets a precedent for Melissa Mayeux as a baseball player. But in truth, the AAGPBL was not a proper baseball league. Their “baseball” was the same size as the average softball, and they even used the same underhanded pitching style associated with softball.
At least, that’s what things were like in the first season. As the league evolved, they shrank their ball size and began to adopt other rules that made the sport more like baseball. Unfortunately, they didn’t have too long under these new rules. The AAGPBL folded in 1954, slightly after the Negro American League began to decline into sheer entertainment rather than a serious sports league. There had been some crossover between the two leagues, with women such as Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, Constance “Connie” Morgan, and Toni Stone playing in both the Negro leagues and the AAGPBL. Sadly, however, the end of the AAGPBL was not the same as the end of the Negro leagues. While members of other races were eventually accepted in the MLB, the same did not occur for women.
Some Background on Melissa Mayeux
Before we really start digging into whether or not Melissa Mayeux has a shot at ever entering the MLB, it’s important for us to talk about just who this girl is. To many people, she’s someone who just sort of appeared on the radar of Major League Baseball out of nowhere. But she’s actually been interested in baseball for a while. The link we posted in the intro explains that she was first inspired at a young age by her brother Dylan. She started training at the age of 3, and this video of Melissa Mayeux playing catch with her dad shows that she had a pretty good arm by the age of 13.
Nowadays, Melissa Mayeux plays in France. More specifically, she plays in their junior national team. And while she may only play baseball at a junior level, she also plays in the nation’s adult softball league. But she ran into a problem about a year ago. She’s 16 now, but France generally does not allow women to play on the same leagues as male athletes past the age of 15. They figure that women are not as skilled as men, and putting females on the same league will hold the men back.
But Melissa Mayeux is nothing if not determined. She demonstrated her athletic prowess every time she took to the diamond, and the Fédération Française de Baseball et Softball saw fit to allow her to continue pursuing her dream of playing baseball. She does not despise softball by any means, but she believes that baseball is the one true sport for her. And she refuses to let anything hold her back from playing.
Melissa Mayeux also respects that she is not the only female who is currently rocking the world of baseball right now. She has a lot of respect for Mo’ne Davis, the first girl of African-American descent to ever play in the Little League World Series in 2014, where she pitched a shutout for the win. She’s another example of amazing female athleticism in the world of baseball. Another thing Davis has in common with Melissa Mayeux is her youth, at the age of 13. In fact, Davis is so highly respected that first baseman Joey Casselberry was relieved from his position on the team at Bloomsburg University for insulting her on Twitter.
With young women such as Mo’ne Davis and Melissa Mayeux taking the world of baseball by storm, it’s easy to wonder if baseball might not be entering into a new era. And in this one, we won’t need anything resembling the AAGPBL. No, many suspect that Mayeux might actually make it into the MLB. But does her spot on the registration list really mean much? What does she have in the way of talent?
Does Mayeux Have a Shot at the MLB?
Since Melissa Mayeux is on the international registration list, she has technically been eligible for signing since Thursday, July 2. And she’s already showing off her skills to some people who know a bit about what it takes to get signed. Not only will she participate in the MLB’s European Elite Camp this August, playing in front of such big names as legendary shortstop and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, but she’s already been participating in a training camp under the tutelage of two-time All-Star Steve Finley. From the sound of it, he seems to like what he’s seen so far.
Finley has been coaching the pitching and hitting camp in Germany this summer, and he says that Melissa Mayeux wouldn’t be there if she didn’t have some impressive talent. He also stated that Mayeux is “very coachable” and has “good baseball IQ,” both of which he believes are promising signs. They’re especially promising given that, while she’s a big fan of Derek Jeter, she wants to be able to develop her own playing style. She isn’t big on imitation, so she’s going to need that baseball IQ to develop her own mannerisms and come into her own as she continues to grow as a player.
Purple Row of SB Nation indicates that the time for a woman to join the ranks of the MLB might be nearing. Melissa Mayeux is fortunate, as her achievements are following those of Mo’ne Davis, not to mention intrasquad player Eri Yoshida and NCAA player Ghazaleh Sailors. If Melissa Mayeux stood alone, it might be one thing. But with more and more young women establishing their skills in the sport of baseball, it appears time for gender barriers to be struck down. Heck, gender barriers are being struck down in high school football with Missouri’s new freshman female quarterback. Baseball’s not even a contact sport, and size has little to do with an athlete’s chances for success. It seems like the time for change is overdue.
But while Purple Row points out a lot of good things about Melissa Mayeux as a player, they also mention that she’s got some issues. She’s got a high leg kick that saps a little bit of her power. Her batting speed also isn’t quite where some would like it to be. Granted, she’s only 16. She certainly has ample time to work on these types of issues.
Even if not for the fact that Mayeux has time to work on the above issues, it should still be said that these issues only really affect her as an offensive player. Many think that she could still be a pretty strong defensive prospect. She’s agile, and the video we linked earlier shows that she has a pretty decent natural arm. It’s fitting that she’s such a fan of Jeter, because she might actually make a pretty decent shortstop. But the fact that her position isn’t 100% picked out should be an indication that we might actually be jumping the gun in talking about her future with the MLB.
Why We Might Be Jumping the Gun
When we talked about Steve Finley and his praise for Melissa Mayeux, we did leave out a few things. While Finley thinks that Mayeux is a talented young girl, he is not entirely sure about her future. He points out that it’s pretty hard to predict the future of a 16-year-old, and that there’s no really no telling at that age whether or not she’ll be able to graduate to the MLB. It really isn’t about gender at all. She’s just plain too young for anyone to make an educated guess.
And that’s one of the reasons that some people think her spot on the registration list doesn’t mean too much just yet. She might get signed eventually, but it likely won’t be this year. In fact, a fair few people don’t think that Melissa Mayeux has a future in the MLB until she’s at least 18. The thought that the first woman signed to the MLB could be 16 is certainly intriguing, but that doesn’t make it plausible. Teams have more to gain from signing her once she’s a bit more developed as a player, and it doesn’t benefit them to sign a teenager for the sole purpose of rushing social change. It’s great to be progressive, but it doesn’t benefit the teams, the league, or Mayeux herself to sign her before she’s ready.
Even if it were decided that she’s ready, we also need to question whether or not the league is ready. A bunch of female writers from SB Nation had a round-table discussion about how exactly Melissa Mayeux’s entrance to the MLB would work, and they noted that there’s no telling how a female player would be treated by her teammates. Granted, this might be somewhat paranoid thinking, given that she plays with adolescent young boys right now. If there’s any threat of sexism or people trying to take advantage of her, she’s likely already encountered it. One would certainly hope that mature and experienced athletes would not engage in that sort of behavior, especially with their own teammates.
The SB Nation writers participating in the discussion also brought up the question of whether or not baseball fans are ready for Melissa Mayeux. The story we linked earlier regarding Joey Casselberry’s insulting tweet about Mo’ne Davis provides a perfect example of the type of comments that some people might be inclined to make if a female player were to join the MLB. Minda Haas of Royals Review put this in a somewhat humorous light: “I would feel the need to go straight into ‘don’t read the comments’ mode.”
Even logistical issues such as how a team would provide her with a space in the locker room present some possibly tough questions. But ultimately, these types of issues won’t be explored in too much detail until (or make that if) the time comes. Melissa Mayeux might make it to the MLB at some point in the distant future, heralding the change to an era in which women are not relegated to softball. But we’re just going to have to wait and see.