Muskogee Phoenix: April 20, 2006
A wo(man) among boys: Porter player prepares for college softball career through baseball
PORTER, Okla.—She had everyone’s attention.
In the top of the first inning with two outs against Dewar, Lacey Lang found a pitch to her liking and launched it over the fence for the first grand slam of the year for her team—her baseball team.
It did not really matter that the wind was blowing out that day. Or that the pitch had as much movement as a batting practice offering. Or that the Pirates wound up losing to the Dragons 11-9 on March 9 in spite of producing seven runs in the first inning alone.
With one swing of her bat, Lang had claimed one of the biggest prizes in the world of baseball—a traditionally understood patriarchal pastime where female high school softball players need not apply. Girls are supposed to play softball in these parts.
So much for stereotypes.
“I was excited because it was off of a boy,” Lang said as her voice trailed off into a slight laugh.
The Dewar pitcher’s first reaction was one of disbelief, according to Lang, trying not to show that he had indeed been trumped by a girl.
“He was just like ‘good hit, good hit’ That’s all he could say,” Lang said of her victim.
There was a time when Lang, a senior, was a softball player at Porter, where she was able to shine enough as a pitcher and first baseman to receive a fastpitch softball scholarship to Seminole State. She had planned on playing on her school’s slowpitch softball team this spring until a large coalition of Porter’s female athletes decided to replace slowpitch with a soccer program.
With that vote, Lang’s plans changed.
Around that same time, Porter baseball coach Kevin McCarn spotted Lang playing a pickup softball game during a physical education period. It was there where McCarn first brought up the ideal to play ball on a field with larger dimensions.
Seeing baseball as a great way to stay in shape before beginning collegiate softball, Lang instantly took the coach up on his offer, but her enthusiasm to join the team was certainly not mutual when the news first broke in the Porter clubhouse.
“We talked about her playing and some of the boys weren’t happy about that because of tradition,” McCarn said. “And I said, ‘We can’t keep her from playing because we’re not offering (slowpitch) softball.’”
Lang added that McCarn offered a bit of an ultimatum to any player who simply could not get past the idea of a mid length mild blond ponytail waving underneath a baseball hat: Quit or live with it.
No one quit, but several would not abandon their girls-belong-on-the-softball-field mentality, either. At least, that is, at first.
One of her opponents was Dennis Lang, a junior designated hitter/third baseman—and a first cousin.
“Because she’s my cousin—and I didn’t want her to show me up, basically,” said Dennis Lang after a sweltering 5-3 home loss to Oaks on Monday afternoon.
Dennis’ Damascian experience concerning his cousin’s abilities occurred when most of teammates saw the light as well, wile sitting in the dugout.
“After she hit the grand slam, I was fine with it,” Dennis Lang said. “She’s a really good player.”
Added freshman third baseman Cody McBride: “It was like a shock to everybody when she hit it. Everybody was like ‘Oh my God.’”
Over time (and several innings), the male members of the Pirates finally warmed up to having Lacey on the team.
As senior catcher Kyle Smith said: “Everybody got cool with it. It’s not a big deal now. We’re used to playing with her… We knew we had to start playing together as a team if we were going to win.”
“I’m just one of the guys right now,” said Lacey Lang, who at 6-foot-2 is able to dwarf a fair amount of male baserunners while holding down first base.
“After we got through that episode, the team pretty much accepted her and she’s been pretty valuable to us,” McCarn said.
Lacey Lang mentioned all the palpable differences between softball and baseball: the longer basepaths, the longer distances between the pitching mound and home plate, the portions of grass infield – in addition to breaking the preconceived notions of baseball.
Recently, she played in a fastpitch softball tournament in Broken Arrow where she saw her jump to baseball already start to pay dividends for the sport she’ll return to full-time next year.
“When you’re batting in softball it looks like the ball is just handed to you because you’re batting so close,” she said.
But she’ll never forget the first time she stepped out on a high school baseball field. The reaction never has really changed since that point.
“They stare a lot,” she said of her male counterparts. “Because I’m a girl playing baseball. They’re like ‘aw, look at her.’”
Until she sees a curveball that forgets to curve or a fastball lacking the fast part.
Then they believe.