Inez Gonzales is a tomboy with a feminine side. She’s also a baseball player.
“She just loves the game,” said Steve Gonzales, Inez’s father.
The 11-year-old sixth-grader at Henry World Middle School first got interested in the sport via T-ball six years ago as an option to sitting around the house all summer, and she’s been in love with the game ever since. And she’s quite good at it, too. Be it at pitcher, catcher, first base or shortstop, Inez can play there or anywhere else her team needs her.
“I know how to play everything pretty much. So if they ever need me in a spot, they can just put me there, and I’ll know how to play,” Inez said.
This year, Inez is playing for the Scrappers in the Ken-Caryl Little League Majors Division — the same division represented annually at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. Opening day for the Ken-Caryl Little League is April 5. And while there will be girls playing in the lower levels, Inez is the only one playing in the Majors.
“We do see more than a few female players in our league, but mostly in the younger T-ball and coach-pitch leagues. By the first year of straight-up baseball, the girls tend to drop out,” said Andy Florence, president of the Ken-Caryl Little League. “Inez is a special young lady to have continued pursuing her passion in an environment where she is the exception rather than the norm. It takes a lot of character and courage to do that. We are very proud of her and privileged that she is part of our league.”
Inez wouldn’t have it any other way. Yes, there’s talk of playing volleyball at some point, but softball? No way. Inez is a baseball girl all the way. So what’s it like playing with the boys?
“It’s fun,” Inez said. “They just view me like a normal ballplayer. Here and there you get a few comments that ‘she’s a girl.’ Other than that, it’s fun.”
Her teammates certainly don’t see her any differently. If anything, she is like a sister to them. Ben Bailey has never played with a girl on his team, but Inez isn’t so much a girl as she is his teammate.
“I think it’s kind of like having another player on the team because she’s basically like one of us. She basically has the same attributes as us. She’s as good as us,” Ben said.
And while Little League is nice, Inez has bigger dreams. She wants to play in Major League Baseball.
“It’s a 50-50 chance for me or a little bit lower because I’m a girl,” Inez says matter-of-factly. “If I do make it, I’ve reached my goal.”
Are you listening, Troy Tulowitzki?
So what’s it like having a girl on the team? Neither her teammates nor her coaches look at it that way. What they see is a good player with an even better attitude. She’s just out there having fun.
“I don’t like saying that we have a girl on the team. Inez is a player. She’s a great player; she’s a great member of the team. She’s always there; she’s always in the moment,” assistant coach Jim Bailey said.
In other words, as coach Bailey put it, Inez Gonzales is not a girl who plays baseball. She’s a ballplayer who just happens to be a girl.
Contact Michael Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.