First Female on Masters Baseball Team Steps Up to the Plate

Neena Atkins and Allie Faber

In a sport that is traditionally commandeered by boys, one freshman girl, Maddie Barnes, has changed the game. She is the first and only female player in The Masters School’s history on the boys varsity baseball team. 

“At first, I wanted to try a new sport because I was scared to go try out for the baseball team,” Barnes admitted.

When she arrived at the Upper School, the starter was eager to continue her athletic career in her favorite sport: softball. Barnes has played softball since she was nine, and carries one year of baseball experience under her belt. Yet with no playing field, a decrease in student interest and the logistical nightmare associated with practicing off campus, this spring season lacks a softball team, according to Upper School Athletic Assistant Director Mikelle Sacco. Undeterred, Maddie decided to join the boys’ varsity baseball team. 

Neil Jaggernauth, head coach of the varsity baseball team, recalled, “She showed up one day during that open gym week and said, ‘Hey, Mr. J, I want to give this a try.’ I said, ‘Absolutely. Happy to have you.’” 

However, Barnes still had to pass a physical fitness test, a feat that all athletes playing in sports not aligning with their gender must undergo. The trial required her to run a mile in under 8 minutes, execute 47 sit-ups in under one minute, and sprint a 10-yard shuttle run in under 10 seconds. The athlete passed the test with flying colors, securing her spot on the team as a catcher and a second baseman.

Barnes is a member of the girls’ varsity soccer and basketball teams, and has been playing for Masters since middle school. “She’s incredibly tough, hard working, and just a positive individual,” Logan Condon, director of athletics and physical education, said. 

While softball and baseball are, from afar, similar sports, there is a significant distance between the details– literally. Sacco explained that the pitching mound is further away from home plate in baseball than in softball, and the bases are more greatly spaced from each other as well, so even though the transition from softball to baseball is not impossible, there is a distinct discrepancy between the sports.

“Well, definitely, the mechanics are different in baseball and softball, so it took some [time] getting used to, especially being a catcher,” Barnes said. 

Barnes testified that there was no resistance to joining the team, and her teammates and coaches have treated her fairly.  “I’ve had a great time so far, and I really like the environment of the team. Everyone’s super nice and supportive,” she detailed.

Zach Gotthelf, freshman center fielder for the Masters baseball team, explained that Barnes has connected well with the group. “I think that she completely holds her own,” Gotthelf, who has been swinging a bat since the age of three, said. 

Regardless of any nerves, Barnes advises all girls entering male-dominated fields, “Just go out there, show up, show your interest.” She believes confidence is the key to success, “The one thing that you don’t want to do, is just say you’re not good, and you can’t do it, because you can do it.”