Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 20, 2013

Young woman plays with the big boys in Central Park baseball

Filed under: sports — louisproyect @ 11:51 pm

As I mentioned some time ago, I like to take in an inning of baseball or so when I run in Central Park on the weekend. I generally prefer the games involving men over 21 or so since their skill level is qualitatively higher than the high school kids who play there as well. There’s nothing like standing right behind the catcher and watching a capable pitcher throwing a ball at 85 miles per hour or so.

Today when I stopped in the park, the catcher on the field was quite a bit smaller than most and wore a pony tail, which in itself might not have meant that much. Lots of Latino players are smaller than Anglos but make up for it in toughness. I watched the catcher throw the ball to the second baseman on an attempted steal but he was off by a second or so, which is fairly typical in these games. But when he asked the ump how many outs there were, I was shocked to discover that the he was a she unless the he had a very feminine voice. After the side was retired, the catcher returned to the bench with the rest of the players and took off his mask. He was a she, no doubt about it.

I went up to her and struck up a conversation. Her name was Hera and she had been playing baseball for 13 years. She loved playing catcher because she liked working with pitchers. She also found no resistance to her being on the team. When I got home, I googled “Hera” and “baseball catcher”. This is what came up from the New York Daily News:

High School

Baruch College Campus HS catcher Hera Andre-Bergmann feels right at home behind the plate


Friday, October 21, 2011, 12:05 PM
Hera Andre-Bergmann will be lone girl in Saturday's PSAL Senior Baseball Showcase.

Howard Simmons/News

Hera Andre-Bergmann will be lone girl in Saturday’s PSAL Senior Baseball Showcase.

You don’t ask a tough ballplayer about such trivial matters as a little injury – even an ailment that requires 14 stitches to repair.

Joe Bergmann learned that lesson two years back when his daughter, Hera Andre-Bergmann, opened a deep gash on her thigh while trying to block home plate during a nasty collision with a baserunner.

“It doesn’t matter,” Hera – then a sophomore at Baruch College Campus HS in Manhattan – told her dad after she was treated at Roosevelt Hospital. “The son of a (gun) was out at home.”

Joe nearly flew off the couch on Wednesday while recounting the story in their apartment near Times Square. Hera, sitting a few feet away, mustered a small smile.

“That’s her,” he said. “She’s tough.”

For the past two seasons, Bergmann has occupied a unique position in high school sports: baseball catcher. She may be the only girl to start on her school’s varsity team, and she’s most certainly the only girl to don knee pads and a mask.

In recent years, girls across the country have been gravitating toward such traditionally male-dominated sports as wrestling, football and ice hockey, but the notion of a girl playing baseball hasn’t received similar attention.

Bergmann, 17, routinely absorbs collisions, calls pitches and controls baserunners with a strong throwing arm. Saturday, she will participate in the PSAL’s annual Senior Fall Baseball Showcase at MCU Park in Coney Island, a platform to give players exposure to college coaches and pro scouts. Bergmann is expected to be the only girl participating.

“When you’re practicing, you’re not seen,” she said. “So it’s good to be able to show off what you’ve been working on.”

Bergmann is relaxed and reserved. Her father says she badly wants to fit into the fabric of the city’s baseball community without calling too much attention to herself.

“It’s important for me to be seen as just another player,” she said. “I want to let my play speak for itself.”

That’s not to suggest that Bergmann is bashful about her role with the Blue Devils, who went 1-10 last spring in the PSAL Manhattan “B” South.

She changes into her uniform alongside her teammates in the dugout and has repeatedly declined invitations from the school’s softball coach, always answering with the same response: “I don’t play softball.”

She never considered switching to softball, even though her chances of winning a scholarship in that sport would be exponentially greater.

“I don’t play for a scholarship,” Bergmann said quickly, minutes before she would trek to a private coaching session with Gabe Diaz, who coaches the N.Y. Gothams travel team. “I play because I love the game.”

Howard Soskind, Baruch’s athletic director and new baseball coach, had to petition the PSAL to allow Bergmann to try out for the baseball team as a freshman. She gained approval but failed to crack the team, reaching the varsity as a sophomore. “I worked hard to get better,” she said. “And they couldn’t deny me.”

Bergmann won the starting catcher’s position last season, but struggled while playing through a nagging shoulder injury that hampered her throwing and contributed to her difficulties at the plate. In eight games, Bergmann batted .083, although her on-base percentage was a respectable .353.

At tomorrow’s showcase, the 5-2, 147-pound senior will try to establish her standing among the city’s top players while trying to determine whether it’s possible for her to continue playing after high school.”I wanted to give her an opportunity for this,” said Soskind, who nominated Bergmann and Baruch pitcher Charles Porcaro for the showcase. “It was an easy call to make. It wasn’t like I picked her because she’s a girl. She was deserving of it.”

Bergmann, who also plays goalie on the girls soccer team, displays an intensity that has helped her to convince both her teammates and opponents that she belongs.

“She’s amazing,” said Elvis Valdez, the coach at divisional rival Health Profession/Human Services HS.

“When we first saw her, my players were concerned with hurting her or hitting her with a pitch, but she’s a true warrior, the way she plays, how she handles herself. Now, they accept her on the field as an equal. I applaud what she’s doing.”

1 Comment »

  1. Not unique by any means I remember Julie Croteau played first base for St. Mary’s college in Maryland. She walked on and made the team as a freshman and was far from the worst player on the team. I sure she later coached UMASS male baseball team for a few years.

    Comment by Mike Tormey — July 21, 2013 @ 2:09 am

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