Whether she’s standing tall on the pitcher’s mound or squatting behind home plate, it’s hard to miss Estancia’s Katelyn Garcia on a baseball field—and not just because of the curly ponytail poking out from the back of her catcher’s helmet.
Garcia, a 14-year-old incoming freshman at Estancia High School, prefers playing sports that are male-dominated, especially baseball. And Garcia can throw, catch and hit with the best of the boys her age. “I’ve always felt like baseball was my sport,” she said.
Katelyn started playing when she was a youngster in tee ball, and though she gave softball a whirl, she decided it wasn’t her game.
“She just didn’t like it,” Katelyn’s mother, Jessica Garcia, said about softball. “And she’s really good at what she does—I’m very proud of her. She’s an amazing young lady.”
Katelyn played the past two years on the Estancia Middle School baseball team at several different positions: first base, third base, pitcher, and her favorite spot, catcher.
“I like throwing [base runners] out,” she said about why she likes catching.
She also was one of the best hitters on the team, something that helped win over her male teammates. “It seems like they always treated me like I’m their sister,” Katelyn said.
Next year at Estancia High, Katelyn plans on continuing her baseball career where statistics show she will continue to be a minority.
The New Mexico Activities Association allows girls to play baseball with boys, but Dusty Young, associate director for the NMAA, said there aren’t many girls participating statewide, and most of the girls who play baseball tend to be at smaller schools, like Estancia.
“Based on our participation survey data from the last five years, we’ve only had anywhere from 15 to 40 girls that have played on a high school baseball team,” Young said.
At the national level, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, a little over 1,200 girls play high school baseball in the U.S., compared to nearly 490,000 boys.
But the number of girls participating in baseball nationwide has nearly doubled since 2011, so Katelyn is part of a growing trend, which she thinks is “pretty cool.”
Hamilton Doyle, Estancia’s varsity baseball coach said Garcia will have her work cut out for her because everything moves faster at the high school level, but he said he won’t discourage her.
“I’m already on her side,” Doyle said. “I say she should go for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Garcia said she’s working on improving her game by playing summer ball on a 14-and-under club baseball team with MSP Sports Academy in Albuquerque—and she’s the only girl on that team, too.
Her MSP coach, Daniel Candelas, said: “If I put her toe-to-toe with the boys, she’ll outwork them—she’s a tough girl.”
And when people tell Katelyn she should play softball—something she’s been hearing for years—she just smiles and says, “I’m sticking with baseball, cuz it’s my sport.”
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.