Baseball Is For Girls, Too: Tess Davenport Hopes Other Hardball Enthusiasts Follow Her Overhand Pitching Path
The game of balls and strikes, America’s Pastime, has predominately been a boys’ and man’s game. But while the underhand pitch game of softball is the route most girls take for competition, there are some who prefer throwing fastballs overhand style.
One of them is Sandy Hook’s own Tess Davenport.
Since breaking into organized baseball in the town’s Charlie Brown program as a 5-year-old kindergartner, Davenport — a pitcher and first baseman — has taken such a liking to the game that, rather than make the customary transition into softball, she has stuck with hardball despite a lot of challenges along the way. She initially played with the boys on Newtown youth teams and now competes on all-girls’ teams based out-of-state and competing in tournaments in different parts of the country.
During the weekend of June 14-17, Davenport is headed to Major League Baseball’s (MLB) second Girls’ Baseball Breakthrough Series, an amateur development camp designed specifically for girls who play baseball, at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla. This, along with the Trailblazer Series and the newly-launched MLB Grit, are part of MLB’s efforts to support girls looking to play baseball. Davenport, who graduated from Newtown High School this spring, is one of 60-some high school-aged girls will make the trip.
Davenport has two older brothers, Michael and Peter, Jr.
“Growing up, I always copied my older brother. I just picked up baseball with my brother in the back yard. We made it a routine every day to play catch in the back yard,” Davenport said of following in her brother Michael's footsteps and developing a liking to the game.
Davenport played with the boys on town teams throughout elementary, middle, and into her junior year at Newtown High, including in the Newtown Babe Ruth 13U and Senior League teams. That ended only because there were not enough players to field a team for her senior year. While she did not want to pursue playing for the Newtown High baseball team, since willing to travel, Davenport found several playing opportunities on girls’ hardball teams.
Davenport’s parents — Kristy and Peter — learned out about Baseball For All, which promotes the sport for girls, online. They signed her up to play last summer, and she joined the New York Wonders, based out of New Jersey and comprising players from the tri-state area with a few add-ons from other states that did not have their own team.
So, the family ventures out-of-state to make playing baseball a reality for this hardball enthusiast.
“It’s my favorite sport. I love it so much,” said Davenport, who also played lacrosse and was a goaltender for the Newtown High squad.
Naturally, it was not always a breeze for a young girl to be the only girl in the batter’s box or pitcher’s mound. Davenport was the only girl in the Newtown program from first or second grade on, and, in fact, faced only two girls from opposing teams throughout the years (Easton and Bethel).
“The boys always included me, but I always felt I needed to prove myself to them,” said Davenport, who throws approximately 70 to 75 miles per hour and throws a variety of pitches.
For the record, she has struck out the boys.
Davenport now plays for the Wonders 18U team and Basking Ridge, N.J.-based East Coast Yankees. Since last summer, Davenport has participated in the Baseball For All Nationals in Rockford, Ill.; the Maria Pepe Series in Edgewater, N.J.; a clinic for young baseball players in Bridgewater, N.J., followed by a game with the East Coast Yankees verses a men’s club team; Roy Hobbs Women’s Baseball World Series in Fort Myers, Fla., in the fall; and Suzyn Waldman Series at Hudson Valley Sportsdome in Milton, N.Y., this March.
Davenport will compete in the Maria Pepe Girls Baseball Series in Hoboken, N.J., June 29-30, which the Wonders host. The event is named in honor of Pepe, who fought for girls to be allowed to play Little League baseball with the boys in the 1970s.
She will also attend and the Nationals Rockford again; the tourney is set for July 31-August 4.
“That tournament truly changed Tess’ opportunities and experiences as well as validated that she was not the only girl with a passion to play baseball. Her hope is to enlighten other girls and parents with this information so that other girls can play the sport they love,” said her mom, Kristy Davenport
“I think other girls should play it. It’s not a boys’ game; it’s everybody’s game,” Tess Davenport added.