This is the weekly Amplify newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this e-mail newsletter to you, you can sign up for Amplify and all Globe newsletters here.
“Don’t panic, we just getting started.”
The catchy song closer Roberto Osuna chose for his entrance into a game would give me goosebumps as he strolled out of the Toronto Blue Jays pen. “Shorty fell in love with a hustler,” the song continued. I used to stand up and belt along to what I thought was a perfect song for him, our young, cool flame thrower.
I’m Amberly McAteer, an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe – and, up until two weeks ago, a die-hard Jays fan. Osuna’s recent charge of assault and his management’s blind support for him – regardless of what happened, or what the court decides – has made me wonder if MLB deserves female fandom at all. These words from the team’s GM Ross Atkins keep playing in my ears: “Roberto Osuna is our closer. I see no reason why he wouldn’t be.”
Are women really truly wanted as fans – or does MLB sees us as useful for their all-young, all-female cheerleading squads and not much else?
Baseball is in my DNA. My very first memory is of being perched on the back of our brown corduroy sofa, at maybe three years old in our northern B.C. home, watching a Chicago Cubs game with my dad. Although my dad didn’t root for the Cubs, (Cleveland has always been his team, for reasons too long to list here, but you should read about Jack Graney, an unsung Canadian World Series champion, and his dog Larry – the first ever baseball mascot), the team on TV never mattered. He was teaching me about the game, and I’ve never stopped learning.
So how, then, am I supposed to reconcile those memories with the disappointment I feel when Atkins says he can’t think of any possible reason Osuna wouldn’t be our closer when his mandatory suspension ends next week? Of course, Osuna is owed the due process of the courts – and I’m praying he didn’t hurt a woman.
But that’s not what Atkins said. He said he sees no fathomable reason that Osuna wouldn’t be in a Jays uniform: He’s declaring that Osuna didn’t do anything wrong (before the courts have had any chance at deciding this). Or perhaps, more seriously, he’s saying the organization simply doesn’t care.
Whatever he really meant, the hard truth I’m left with is that being a female fan – even the most avid of fans – is to be an outsider. Women should demand the league do better for their female fans – or we should just stop watching, as Marissa Stapley recently wrote in Globe Opinion in an essay on how she’s similarly disappointed.
Years ago, the first summer I was dating my now fiancé, we spent a silly amount of time at Jays games. A Brit then-clueless about baseball, he tried really hard to learn the game, and I happily answered all of his questions: the infield fly rule; my all-time favourite pitcher, Jim Abbott; why I get teary-eyed talking about the number 12 that hangs above centre field. Almost always, male fans would interrupt, flabbergasted that a woman could know baseball.
One night, my guy surprised me with amazing seats behind home plate. A pitch from Marco Estrada bounced into the netting, and I was mid-sentence talking about the important difference between a passed ball and a wild pitch. “Well, honey, look at you!” exclaimed the guy behind me, his hand on my shoulder, his hot-dog breath on my face. “Stevie!” He gestured to his buddy, shouting, “I think this girl here knows more about baseball than you!”
That was the last time I talked about the complexities of baseball at a game.
Yes, there are tiny signs of hope for inclusion in baseball, as writer Stacey May Fowles has pointed out in Globe Opinion. And the 2018 addition of Nikki Huffman in the Jays dugout – the second ever female head trainer in MLB – is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise grim season for women.
But looking closely at the lyrics of Osuna’s walk-out song, I’m reminded that female fans have never been at home in a ballpark. Every other line, except the ones they repeat at the park, reeks of misogyny – none are publishable here. Why was this song even allowed? What does it really say about Roberto Osuna and why didn’t I see the real meaning until now?
My dad and I have a long standing baseball tradition: We get to at least one of the Toronto-Cleveland series every year, pretend to be huge rivals, take angry selfies with one another – but we walk out into the summer night happy, no matter who wins.
Nights with my dad watching baseball are some of the best in my life. I can’t miss the weekend with my dad when Cleveland comes to Toronto in September – but do I really want to show up for a team who refuses to show up for me, for women?
Maybe we should tune out until baseball tunes in.
Inspired by something in this newsletter? If so, we hope you’ll amplify it by passing it on. And if there’s something we should know, or feedback you’d like to share, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.