Female pitcher from Tsawwassen makes pitch for men’s college ball

When Marika Lyszczyk played her first game this season with the Whalley Chiefs baseball team, the all-boys’ baseball team, she made history as the first female to play in the senior B.C. Premier Baseball League (PBL).

But for the 18-year-old, it felt like the most natural thing because she had been playing baseball with boys since she was six.

“They didn’t have baseball for girls so I had to play with the boys,” said Lyszczyk, a Grade 12 student at South Delta Secondary.

She also played softball for a girls team but chose in Grade 7 between the two similar, but different, games.

“At that point I just happened to be a little bit better at baseball,” she said. “I sort of liked the game better. It was a better game. And the fields were better.”

She’s played in the junior PBL for four or five years and has always felt like part of the team.

“They’re like my brothers and they treat me like one of the guys,” she said.

Lyszczyk has dreams of playing in college next year, which wouldn’t be a first, having a woman play on a men’s team, but it’s rare. She’s been accepted to Douglas College, which has a men’s team, and she’s made her own recruiting video and has spoken to a few universities in the U.S.

She catches and pitches, but it’s her pitching skills that give her the best shot at playing with the men at a higher level, say others familiar with the game.

“I’ve been told her pitching is your best option,” said her coach, Steve Chatzispiros.

A pitcher doesn’t need to throw 90 m.p.h., if they know how to mix-up pitches or make them move, he said.

“I can only wish all the other boys would come to practice with as much enthusiasm as Marika does,” said Chiefs general manager Paul Hargreaves. “She clearly is as good as any of the other players.”

He said of her spot on the team: “She earned it and she deserved it.”

Marika Lysczcyk, 18, has been playing baseball with the boys since she was six. And she hopes to continue playing college ball next year.

But he said, “If you put a 17-year-old boy next to her, I don’t think, even if she thinks she is, she’s ever going to be as strong as a boy.”

Hargreaves said only three out of 10 of the males playing at the Chiefs’ level will play at the competitive college level. Even at 5-10, Lyszczyk has natural physical limitations, and “she’s at a level now where this will probably be the top level she would attain as far as men’s baseball,” he said.

Scott Mackenzie, director of female programming at Baseball B.C., said he isn’t familiar with Lyszczyk’s playing lately, but said, “I would hope she would be able to crack that lineup” at the college level. He agreed the most likely position for a women to compete in against men would be pitcher because a catcher needs to be able to jump up and throw 180 feet to second base to prevent a steal, and to block balls that are coming in at 90 m.p.h. Men have “longer legs and longer arms that give you the whip action and velocity on a throw.”

Whether or not they go on to higher-calibre ball, female players at Lyszczyk’s level benefit from playing with men.

“You always want your top players to play at the top level, to play at their top peak performance,” said Mackenzie.

He said training programs are starting earlier for girls and the goal is for them to be able to play at a higher level on an all-girls baseball team as they age instead of switching to softball as most do now.

“Maybe in 10 years, the women’s (baseball) league will be at the same level as the men’s,” he said.

There is already an all-women’s baseball team that competes in a men’s league and last year they won four out of 10 games, he said.

“I hope they (women players) keep knocking on the door and one day it may be possible” for women to continue to play at a higher level, Mackenzie said.

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