The reasons why Paige Sultzbach won't get a chance to play ball isn't due to the team's standings, nor is it due to any performance issues. The reason Paige won't get to play in the championship is because she's a girl.
Not only will she not get to play, but neither will the rest of her team, all boys.
The Mesa Preparatory Academy game was scheduled to be played against Our Lady of Sorrows Academy in yesterday's Arizona Charter Athletic Association state championship at Phoenix College, reported AZ Central
Rather than play against a girl, Our Lady of Sorrows Academy forfeited the game, citing the rules against co-ed sports as the reasoning.
"This policy is consistent with the traditional approach to education. As a Catholic school we promote the ideal of forming and educating boys and girls separately during the adolescent years, especially in physical education," the school's statement said. "Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls. Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty."
Our Lady of Sorrows is a school in a very conservative system that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1980s, citing disagreement with the1960's reforms of the Vatican II Council
, reported AZ Central. The school is run by the U.S. branch of the Society of Saint Pius X
"This is not a contact sport, it shouldn't be an issue," Paige's mother, Pamela Sulzbac, said. "It wasn't that they were afraid they were going to hurt or injure her, it's that (they believe) that a girl's place is not on a field."
The two teams had played each other twice before, however Paige sat those games out.
"We respected their school rule ... but she took it hard," Pamela Sulzbac said. "She didn't like it and neither did her teammates. They went out and played the best they could because they wanted to prove a point."
The championship game was not an option for Paige to sit out. Mesa's team only has 11 players, so logistically this is an issue. Additionally, the ballplayer has earned the right to play in a title game, said the school's athletic director.
“I respect their views, but it’s a bit out of the 18th century,” The Arizona Republic
reported Mesa Prep athletic director Amy Arnold said. Arnold is currently the only woman coaching a boys high-school football team in Arizona.
The team didn't want to win on a forfeit, they wanted to play. So while they are the state champions, there is, as Fox News
reported, a "bittersweet" feeling.
"I felt like any passionate athletic person would feel (in that situation)," said Paige Sultzbach, who added, "I don't want our very first high-school baseball team to win the championship on a forfeit."
Paige has not experienced this type of issue with her teammates and both her coach and teammates support her playing on a "boys" team. To them, she's just one of the players. The school doesn't have a softball team, so when she came in as a freshman, she was encouraged to try out for the baseball team; she subsequently earned a spot on her own merit. Equal opportunity.
In the "real world" males do compete with females, in college or in the workplace. After all, this isn't
the 18th century.
Baseball is a competitive sport, and it's supposed to be fun. However, because of this rule, both of the two teams missed out on both competition and fun in a championship game. One can't help but wonder how the boys from Our Lady of Sorrows might feel, after all, it doesn't appear as if it was their decision not to play.
According to several media reports, Our Lady of Sorrows has forfeited before due to the school's unwillingness to allow girls to participate in the same sports as boys; last fall the school withdrew their team from a flag football tournament.
Arizona Charter Athletic Association, which oversees the sports, said the "league supports allowing girls to play in all sports."