ROCKFORD, IL — It’s been almost 70 years since the Rockford Peaches were playing ball. Their spirit is still going strong in young girls today and right here in Rockford this week in an event call the ‘Baseball For All Girls National Tournament.’
More than 350 girls from the U.S., Australia, Canada and South Korea came to Rockford to do one thing.
The fifth annual National Baseball for All Tournament opened up at Rivets Stadium Thursday morning with the opening ceremonies. Girls from all over are invited to play the game because at one point or another, they were told they couldn’t play a boys’ sport. That’s what happened to eight-year-old Ashlynn Jolicoeur.
You might’ve seen her viral video of her impressive fielding skills that shows her diving and catching baseballs.
The video exploded on social media when Ashlynn was cut from her team, after a parent complained that she should stick to softball.
“I just like knew somebody said that to me, like they didn’t say it directly at me. … I didn’t really care,” said Jolicoeur.
Jolicoeur is just one of many girls who are forced to fight for their right to play. 15-year-old Madeline Elbert was told the same thing.
“It hurt, but that hurt just drives you,” says Elbert.
This is Elbert’s third year at the tournament. She says the comraderie is what’s helped her compete at a higher level. This year, she’s playing with 18-year-olds.
“I think I just needed that extra push, knowing that girls were with me and I’m not in this alone,”says Elbert.
They’re definitely not alone. They had support Thursday from two former players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in attendance Shirley Birkovich and Maybelle Blair.
“These kids are just…it’s amazing!” said Birkovich a former Rockford Peach. “Every time I see them, every time I come to these tournaments and see them it just amazes me at the caliber of ball that these youngsters play.”
Blair a former Peoria Redwing said, “And these little girls that come up to you and say, ‘Oh I just love you. I love you.’ They grab your legs and they throw their arms around you. ‘A League of Their Own, maybe we can play baseball. We want to play baseball.”
“It just shows that like no matter how old you are, they still love the game,” said Elbert.
The impact the Peaches have made continues.
“I want to play college baseball in the United States,” said 15-year-old South Korean baseball player Minseo through an interpreter. “I want to play for the Japanese women’s team.”
“Well I want to play on team Canada,” chimed in Jolicoeur.
No matter where these girls are from they all agree on one thing.