ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Decades ago, the Rockford Peaches helped show the nation that women do have a place in the sport of baseball. Now that torch is being carried by the players on the USA Baseball Women’s National Team.
Their love for the game was on full display Thursday night at the Peaches old home here in Rockford, Beyer Stadium.
Games…food…and women’s professional baseball. What more do you need to have a party?
Former Rockford Peach, Maybelle Blair was the life of the party Thursday. She threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and I’m here to tell you, she’s still got it at 96 years old.
“Did you see that fastball? Right down the middle, nobody could hit that sucker, I’ll tell ya,” said Blair laughing.
The USA Baseball Women’s National Team took the field at the historic Beyer Stadium for an exhibition game against Cangelosi Sparks North, a 16U travel boys baseball team local to Illinois.
“I’ve been dreaming of this a long time to get them out here, and look who’s out there on that field, isn’t it beautiful?” said Blair.
And what a sight this was…the stands were packed with eager baseball fans, watching the best in the women’s game compete right in their own backyard.
“It’s great,” said spectator and Rockford native Gary Verkuilen. “It’s great to see the ladies out here playing. When you see the girl’s strikeout the other ones, I go ‘uh oh.'”
Lots of little girls, even the Lil Peaches were in the house Thursday night to watch their future dreams come true.
“That could be me someday,” said soon-to-be Lil Peach Maddison Gibson.
And this is something the big Peaches have been waiting for, for a while now – the chance to see women playing once again on Beyer field.
“I’ve been waiting for it for 96 years and it’s finally developing, and there’s just nothing I love better,” said Blair.
This game was the first time Team USA has played together and Wednesday was their first official practice since being named to the national team. So, it was clear there are still some things to figure out as they get ready for the World Cup group stage next week. Their first of five games will be against Australia.
Team USA is ranked fourth out of their group. The top two teams advance to the World Cup in 2024.
Now, it might not have been the result the women were looking for, but the fans were sure happy to be there, hopefully witnessing the newest chapter in the women’s game.
“We can go back and have it again, and it would be great,” said Verkuilen.
Yes, it would be and this is a step in the right direction.
“It does my heart so good, that’s what’s keeping me young, because I can see this is what’s happening,” said Blair smiling.
The Peaches would have loved this game.