OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – Baseball fans can witness history as female athletes hit the diamond in two historic tribute games honoring the 30th anniversary of “A League of Their Own” at Lindquist Field.
Founded by Ogden Raptors Owner and President Dave Baggott, the first-of-its-kind matchup in Ogden’s history will feature two tribute games with all-female baseball teams battling it out for charity. The two teams playing under the lights will be the Ogden Whoopie Girls and the Junction City Dolls.
The first game will take place on Saturday, July 2 at 7 p.m. and the second will be on Monday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. All games are free to the public, but Baggott hopes fans will consider donating to the suicide prevention charities they’ve partnered up with — Live On Utah and Hope Squad during the game.
Baggott recalls the initial idea for the historic game was hatched sometime in winter 2022 when he learned the iconic 1992 Geena Davis and Tom Hanks-starring film would be celebrating its 30th anniversary this July.
Initially pitched as a fun movie night for fans, Baggott wanted to take it further saying, “The movie’s great, but let’s do it one step better — let’s just put together a couple of teams and play baseball.”
After hosting a one-day tryout to fill the teams on June 11, Baggott will put on his coaching hat to lead the home team — the Whoopie Girls. Baggott explains the origin of the name “Whoopie Girl” pays homage to Ogden history, dating back to the city’s pioneer days and rodeo traditiosn.
“It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” says Baggott. “These girls can play, man! They put in the work and hopefully fans will feel rewarded when they put a good game together.”
Whoopie Girls player Kelsee Bishop recalls loving the idea from the get-go and says word of the tryouts “spread like wildfire,” beckoning players from all around the state.
“I think every softball girl growing up, that’s their favorite movie,” says Bishop. “So being able to play in a tribute game towards that really means a lot to us, on many different levels and really hits home for so many girls.”
Junction City Dolls player Kelsey Rodriguez is equally as excited for the matchup, having played softball for most of her academic career.
“I’m actually pretty calm and I’m really excited,” says Rodriguez. “Both teams have great athletes on it and we’ve really all come close together and I think once we actually step on that field, there will be a little bit of nerves, but once we start playing, it’ll be really fun.”
Although the women have been playing ball for most of their lives, both Bishop and Rodriguez noted some adjustments needed to be made for playing baseball.
Despite the two sports basically sharing the same layout, Bishop notes, “It’s the tiny details that we’ve had to adjust to. Hitting has been quite an adjustment. A lot of the girls have been getting together for hitting practices.”
Bishop explains how the angle of an incoming ball is pitched downward in baseball instead of straight-on or upward like in softball. Other differences include playing on dirt instead of on a grass field along with the notable difference in ball and glove sizes.
Baggott notes standard baseball rules will apply with some minor adjustments.
“We’ve decided you could lead off the bases like you do with the men’s games, but we’re just not going to have any stealing,” says Baggott. “If the pitcher throws the ball on the dirt or throws a wild pitch, then yes, you can advance, but we’re not going to have any steals.”
Baggott also notes the difference between softball and baseball is the throwing distance, requiring softball players to “reset their feet and take the time and proper footwork to release the ball 90 feet instead of 60 feet.”
Along with a good cause, both Rodriguez and Bishop are excited about the prospect of inspiring young girls.
Rodriguez recalls her cousin wanting to try out for a baseball team in high school, but was denied due to her gender. She’s hoping this game can “let young girls know, ‘Hey, you CAN play baseball and not only softball.”
“Being able to play in front of them, it kind of hits home and makes you a little emotional, because you think, ‘If I was that little girl and I got to see these women out there playing baseball, that means I could do it, too,’” says Bishop. “Being able to set that example and let these girls know that even though it’s baseball, no matter what you do, you can do it.”
As for the future of an all-female baseball league, Baggott says the idea is definitely not off the table, but he says they’ll use these tribute games to test the waters before potentially starting a league.
Fans who attend the July 11 game will be treated to an extra show — the Triple Crown World Series for 10-and-under and 12-and-under is hosting its opening ceremony at the Ogden Amphitheater before parading over to Lindquist Field. The game will end with a free fireworks show to celebrate.
Although anticipation of the game remains high and a winner will emerge, Baggott says the competition is secondary to the purpose of the event which is raising money and awareness for suicide prevention. Baggott’s goal is to raise at least $10,000 between the two games.
“We’re never gonna know if what we’re doing is actually going to prevent somebody from taking their own lives,” says Baggott. “But if this event can help somebody realize that life is too precious and it’s not worth taking, then it’s worth everything we’ve ever done.”
Bishop echoes that sentiment saying, “It’s not about the game or us getting back out on the field for a competition. We’re raising money for suicide prevention and we’re trying to pave the way for younger girls to see that whatever they do, they can set their mind to it. Just look at us!”
As Jimmy Dugan famously says, “There’s no crying in baseball!” although we wouldn’t blame anyone who broke that rule while witnessing these athletes make Utah history this summer.