Like a lot of kids who grow up in a sports-centric family, Gillian Toomey envisioned herself one day playing on a team coached by her dad.
The recent Eastern York High School graduate had one problem, though. Her father, Mark, is a longtime baseball coach and Gillian is a softball player.
“I have a lot of guy friends that play baseball and a lot of them have had the opportunity to play for their dad’s teams,” she said. “And I was like, ‘man, I’ll never get to do that.’”
Mark, who now manages East Prospect in the Susquehanna League, has been involved as a player or coach in the SL for more than 30 years. He could never really pursue opportunities to coach his daughter, either in high school or in travel ball, primarily because of his commitments as a player or coach with East Prospect.
No rule against female players: The Pistons' skipper, however, did do some research this past offseason about finding a fix for that.
“He came home from a meeting one night and he said there’s no rule saying that a girl can’t be on the roster (of an SL team),” she said. “And he asked the guys (on the team) what they thought about me playing and they were fine with it.”
Getting her chance: Gillian finally got her chance to make a bit of history Saturday morning when the Pistons squared off against the Hallam Express. Mark Toomey had a hunch that a time would present itself to finally put his daughter into a contest between the top two teams in the SL.
“(Friday) night he told me that we have a game (Saturday) at 10,” she said. “He said ‘wear that uniform I got you’ and I was like ‘OK, I’ll be there.’”
EP raced out to an early 7-0 lead after two innings, which put the wheels in motion. Then, after Ryan Smith advanced to third base in the third inning of what would be a 14-0 victory for the Pistons, Mark, who wears No. 24, summoned his daughter, who was wearing No. 42, to pinch-run for Smith.
After surviving a scare with a foul ball, the younger Toomey was able to score a run to make it 8-0 on a single by Bren Taylor, who graduated along with Gillian Toomey from EY this past spring.
“I was nervous at first,” she said. “It’s really weird to be leading off (the third-base bag), because in softball I’m just used to leading off on the bag.”
Anxious moment: That wasn't the only thing that made Gillian Toomey a little anxious.
“I am used to reading softballs, and now I have to read a ball that’s half the size and not bright green,” she added. “I was worried that I was going to get pegged with one or something.”
Sure enough, the first pitch of the next at-bat resulted in a foul ball that was drilled just past third base.
“It almost hit me,” Gillian said with a laugh. “I just had to say to myself that the baseball gods were looking out for me.”
Moments later, Taylor laced a base hit that allowed Gillian Toomey to cross the plate.
Lots of support: While it was a bit of a whirlwind experience for her, a few things from Saturday will always stick out.
“I could hear my grandma from a mile away,” she said. “My grandma and grandpa were in the stands and they were both really cheering for me. And so were my (new) teammates. Everyone was glad that I could do it. They were all like ‘this is awesome to be able to do that.’”
Looking to future: Now that she’s scored a run and broken the gender barrier, is there anything else that she’s looking forward to doing this season with the Pistons?
“My dad kind of talked about putting me in right for the last inning of a game,” said Gillian, who played third and right field for EY this past season. “And I’d like to do that. And I would definitely want to hit as well.”
Lefever shines in win: In Prospect's win over Hallam, Seth Lefever pitched a three-hit shutout, striking out five and walking one.
Prospect's 17-hit attack was paced by Jordan Higgins (four hits, homer, double, three RBIs, three runs), Mark Schauren (three hits, two doubles, four RBIs, run), Bren Taylor (two hits, three RBIs, run), Austin Denlinger (double, two runs), Ryky Smith (two hits, two runs, two RBIs), Thomas Taylor (two hits, RBI) and Devin Strickler (two hits, double, two runs).
Alex Tucci had two hits for Hallam.
First-place Prospect improved to 20-5. Hallam fell to 15-13.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.