Girl Pitcher Strikes Out the Boys, But How Far Can She Go in Baseball?
Marti Sementelli's baseball skills have drawn attention on the Jimmy Kimmel Show and in a Nike commercial. The high school pitcher hopes to be one of the rare female players to get a shot at college baseball.
Gary Sementelli doesn't mince words speaking about his daughter Marti. "I really believe she may be the number one female pitcher in the world," the proud dad tells ParentDish.
That's a bold statement. But based on what Marti Sementelli, a high school junior, has accomplished in her 17 years, it may be so. At 10, she appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, striking out Kimmel. She has appeared in a Nike commercial.
Last year, Marti was the youngest player picked to represent the United States in the Women's Baseball World Cup, allowing one run in a victory over Australia in the bronze medal game.
How far can Marti's prized pitching arm take her in a sport dominated by males?
She's determined to find out. This spring, she'll pitch in one of the top high school baseball leagues in Southern California. Beyond that, her goal is to play for a men's team in college and, when she's really thinking big, perhaps realize her "ultimate dream" to take the mound as a big-leaguer.
"In my fantasies, that would be the best thing that ever happened," Marti tells ParentDish.
Lots of girls play Tee-ball and Little League, of course. But girls like Marti who stick with baseball into high school are much harder to find.
Last year, 1,090 girls played baseball for boys' high school teams, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. (The organization lists no girls' high school baseball teams. Most switch to softball when they reach high school).
The true count of girls playing high school baseball may be higher than NFHS figures because schools sometimes fail to report girls playing on boys' teams. California had the most girls playing baseball (325). In many states, baseball diamonds were a rare place to find a girl player. Oklahoma, Oregon and Pennsylvania reported no girls playing baseball. Massachusetts had one.
Marti's dedication to the sport goes back many years. She started learning the sport at age 3, tossing plastic balls and swinging a small wood bat. At 5, she was playing in an organized league. Through the years, her love of the sport hasn't wavered. Nor has her work ethic. Most youth pitchers take a few months off from throwing each year -- that's recommended by doctors. Marti plays catch every day, often with her dad, Gary, and says she's never had a sore arm.
"Some people say, "Oh no, my arm hurts because I threw three days straight. They throw as hard as they can every day. Of course their arm hurts. I don't do that," she tells ParentDish.
Marti doesn't throw as hard as most boys, partly because she stands just 5-foot-2 and weighs about 115 pounds. She gets batters out by outsmarting them. She throws up to five different types of pitches in a game, including a slider, palm ball and changeup.
She faces her biggest challenge yet this year as a pitcher for Birmingham High School in Lake Balboa, Calif. "She just has a very good competitive attitude. She has a great presence on the field. She never panics," coach Matt Mowry tells ParentDish. But he adds a cautionary note. "The hitters in our league are phenomenal. Getting guys out, keeping pitches down, that's the big thing."
The next step -- playing baseball in college -- is too far off to dwell on. Marti knows the odds are against her. Only a handful of girls have ever played on college teams.
"I hope to do really well this season and maybe get a scholarship that will pay my way through college," she says. "I'm just looking for a decent baseball school that will allow a girl to play on the team."
ParentDish sports reporter Mark Hyman is the author of "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How It Harms our Kids" (Beacon Press).
Have a suggestion for an article on youth sports? Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.