(Blue) Angels in the outfield: Girls’ teeball team turns heads during VWAA baseball season
Published 9:00 am Sunday, May 14, 2023
In the skies, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels are famous for performing daring feats of flight in their iconic blue and yellow fighter jets.
Here on the ground in Vicksburg, the Blue Angels have become better known for their giggles and hot pink socks and bows as they run around the baseball fields at Sports Force Parks.
Vicksburg’s Blue Angels are a teeball team in the Vicksburg Warren Athletic Association — and not just any team, but one whose roster is made almost entirely of girls.
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“Boys are tough and aggressive, but with this team I didn’t have any tears. It was giggles, and excitement, and cartwheels and skipping down to the base. It was so fun to watch,” said coach Baleigh Ford, who came up with the idea of putting together an all-girls team.
Ford hatched the plan last season when her daughter, Brynleigh, was the only girl on her teeball team and only four girls were in the league. She wants Brynleigh to play softball, but the Vicksburg Girls Softball Association does not offer a teeball league for players that young.
So Baleigh, a former college softball player at Pearl River Community College, began by convincing other mothers to let their daughters play in the 4- and 5-year-olds’ VWAA baseball league.
“I said, ‘This is not good. I have to change this.’ And so when we finished that season I decided we have to get some girls signed up,” Baleigh said. “A lot of (mothers) were hesitant. All of the girls do ballet and gymnastics. I was like, ‘Girls can be tough and graceful.’”
Eventually, a few turned into 10, enough for a full team. Baleigh then struck a deal with other coaches that allowed her to stack her roster with girls.
“I told them my goal was to get a team full of girls that hopefully I could spark an interest in the game, and then we can transfer to the softball league for 6U next spring,” Baleigh said. “All of the coaches were super supportive. They left my girls alone during the draft.”
The final result was a roster of 10 girls and one boy, Michael Maynord. Ford said he didn’t seem to mind playing on an all-girls team.
“We had one boy who ended up being the best boy in the league. We made him feel super special. We put him at last batter, which in teeball means he gets to run all of the bases. He was super Sonic the Hedgehog running the bases,” she said with a laugh. “All he noticed was happy girls, happy coach, having a good time.”
With the roster in place, the next thing to figure out was the name. One of the players’ parents suggested “Blue Angels” because the team’s jerseys were blue. The hot pink was added at the suggestion of Madelon Waring, wife of assistant coach Pierson Waring, and she made the bows the girls wore in their hair for every game.
“There was not one game where a girl did not have her bow in. I think that was one of the most important parts of the uniform,” Baleigh laughed.
Ford noted, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that the Blue Angels went undefeated this season — the VWAA’s teeball league does not keep score in its games — but that was hardly the point. The basic idea was to introduce the girls to the game and make it fun enough that they would want to do it again. That applied to their parents as well.
“I looked at my husband and said, ‘That was the best idea ever,’” Ford said. “Brynleigh would always ask, ‘Are we going to teeball today!?’ when we picked her up. The parents, too, the moms I see in ballet every Monday who never played, are super pumped to go to teeball afterward.”
For 2024, Baleigh and the Blue Angels are planning to leave the VWAA behind. They’ll be old enough to play in the VGSA’s youngest league and transition to softball. Ford said she plans to get involved in the VGSA and hopes to start a teeball league there as well.
“I got asked if I was going to continue this with baseball. No! I want my girls playing softball,” Ford said. “The whole point of this was to spark interest. We’re going over to softball. I hope to have a teeball league over there.”