Christian College Scholarship for Female Pitcher Stirs Debate

Marti Sementelli’s Facebook bio says a lot about who she is in a limited number of words.

“Never give up no matter what anybody says or thinks.

“I am the only girl on the Birmingham Baseball Team. I have been playing baseball since i was 3 years old. I have been on the Women’s USA Team for the World Cup in Japan. I recently pitched my first no hitter in the Roy Hobbs tournament in Tuscon, Arizona.”

The high school senior pitches for Birmingham High in Lake Balboa, Calif., where she has struck out 14 hitters in 22 innings. In March, she pitched a complete game, throwing 102 pitches, in a 6-1 victory. If you look her up on YouTube, you can see why she is having so much success – she has a great curve ball and a good change-up.

Recently, she was offered a small athletic scholarship to play JV baseball for Montreat, a Christian college in the Blue Ridge Mountains of N.C. If she performs well enough there, she could earn a spot on the varsity team. She has not signed a letter of intent to play for them, but just the possibility has created quite a media buzz around her.

“I think the media probably got hold of this before they should have,” said Michael Bender, Montreat’s coach, in a USA Today story. “I’m not trying to skirt away from this because I have given her this opportunity, and I knew that some of this would come with it. It’s hard because I didn’t really want to be known around Asheville for this; I kind of wanted to be known around Asheville for playing pretty good baseball.”

Bender says he has received unpleasant emails from alumni and some of his current players aren’t happy about it. He says he has also received positive feedback. One player, the team’s catcher Brent Rowe, says he thinks it’s a cool opportunity for Sementelli, the school and for baseball.

But it does raise questions about travel and sleeping arrangements as well as locker room access – especially since baseball stadiums only have two locker rooms, one for each team. Managers and coaches must be figuring it out though. The USA Today story says Ashley Bratcher, director of the women’s national team for USA Baseball, estimates that 1,000 girls are playing high school baseball and most who play beyond that are on club teams in college.

Even though the logistics might be able to be worked out, the question remains – should men and women be competing against one another in competitive athletics?

There aren’t any easy answers.

“My initial thoughts consider the creation of Title IX which states, ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,’" said Matt Dunn, an associate staff writer with Athletes in Action (AIA), to The Christian Post.

“As a result of Title IX, women have been able to play catch up in the proverbial sports game of life – it has opened much deserved doors that were once shut. The contrasting result of Title IX though is the direct loss of some would-be male scholarships. That said though, I’ve always been a believer that the best person for the job regardless of gender should receive the coveted spot whatever it maybe … but when it comes to field competition, I’m not quite sure where I firmly stand."

Dunn says women have applied for spots on their competitive summer baseball teams, but AIA hasn’t been able to allow it due to travel arrangements, sleeping situations and because their baseball discipleship topics are developed with the male in mind.

“In an attempt to live above reproach, by no means do we seek to create a situation that may cause another player or individual to fail or potentially fail morally,” Dunn said.

In addition to the moral issue, the physical aspect of sports cannot be overlooked. Maya Moore, who is a Christian and the recent number one pick in the WNBA draft, spoke about this issue during a recent ESPN interview.

“The aspect of guys playing girls is only one aspect of sports,” Moore said. “People always talk about the physicality. Why would we want to mix it up? I know people want to see it happen. But we’re made differently. The world-class male athletes are always going to have an advantage.”

While that is true, playing baseball for a small Christian college in North Carolina probably wouldn’t afford Marti Sementelli many opportunities to face world-class male athletes. And if she decides to go there, she’ll have to prove she can get hitters out just like every other pitcher on the team.

“I would love to see her succeed at the next level – I truly would,” Dunn said. “I simply hope that the inevitable ridicule and opposition she’ll face off the field won’t prevent her from showcasing her skills/abilities on the field.”

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