Local Youth Leagues Take Up Fight For Improved Girls’ Facilities

The youth softball program in Cambridge, Mass., used to play some of its games at Glacken Field.

That isn’t the case anymore, but Cambridge Girls Softball League treasurer and coach Steve McAuliffe, who has been with the organization since its inception in 1995, wished that opportunity was available now.

Glacken Field got a multi-million dollar renovation a few years back. It was transformed not for softball, though, but for a Little League complex featuring plenty of pristine amenities. For the girls ranging in age from seven to 13 who are a part of the Cambridge Girls Softball League, their home location is a secluded and rundown field on top of a hill in Danehy Park.

It’s not hard for McAuliffe to see the inequity in it all.

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“It’s disheartening,” McAuliffe said. “It sends such a message to the girls that the boys are more valued. That’s the thing that bothers me. We don’t want more than them. … I just want the girls to feel that they’re treated equal. That’s all I ask for.”

McAuliffe’s advocated for improvements in the the girls’ facilities for years now, but seeing the overhaul made for boys at Glacken Field threw him into overdrive in his fight.

It hasn’t been easy to enact change, but McAuliffe said some enhancements finally came recently to the Danehy Park softball fields, with new benches and better dugouts. McAuliffe added that the infield was dug up, which he hopes will help with a drainage problem.

But those improvements still put McAuliffe’s youth softball diamond well behind Glacken Field. McAuliffe recalled a brother of one of his softball players remarking how his field got a new scoreboard. The fields at Danehy Park don’t even have one to marvel at.

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“Here’s this little boy who’s seven, knows he’s treated better than his sister, who’s 10,” McAuliffe said. “It’s that privilege that a boy gets and a girl doesn’t get, and it starts at such a young age. You talk about all these issues of women not being equal and here it is, right here.”

Photo: Lauren McAuliffe

Chris Minton, who is in his second year as the president of Melrose Youth Softball, faced similar issues and became an advocate for better girls’ facilities.

The league’s home field on Lebanon Street needed a facelift a few years ago and Minton said the town made “marked improvement” compared to what the field used to look like. Minton said new bleachers were put in at the field and some structural changes were made to help with drainage, but fortified dugouts that Minton hoped would be there never came.

“What I certainly want our girls to know is we’re doing everything we can to give them a great, positive experience in softball,” Minton said. “… We have to keep advocating for better funding and more resources.”

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Pressing for improvements is a personal endeavor for Minton, who has a daughter who plays softball at the youth level and another daughter who plays the sport in high school.

Minton understands that broad changes to improve girls’ facilities aren’t going to happen with a snap of a finger. But it’s a cause still worth undertaking.

“We want girls to have pride in the league No. 1 and their facilities,” Minton said. “We don’t want them to think that they’re getting any less of an experience than their brothers, friends, or whoever else plays.”

The disparity between the facilities for boys and girls can also be found in high school athletics. Henry Ching watched one of his daughters, who is currently a senior captain of the Needham High softball team, play for the Rockets at a less-than-stellar Claxton Field.

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Claxton Field, which had no covered dugouts, a worn-down batting cage and no pitching lanes, according to Ching, was scheduled to receive an upgrade prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but the project met several hurdles and never reached completion.

The Rockets will move away from Claxton Field for the upcoming spring season and find a new home at DeFazio Park’s McLeod Field. The field, once utilized for baseball, received substantial funding from the town to be converted into a softball diamond.

Ching, who is the vice president of softball operations for Needham Baseball and Softball, said the field will offer new perks, like a fully fenced-in field, that the high school team didn’t have before.

Ching called it the “only premier softball field that the high school girls can play at” in town.

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“It’s going to be a great experience, a showcase for the girls, their senior season to be able to have that field,” Ching said.

Ching knows his daughter will get the chance to play only on this new and improved diamond for one season. He has a younger daughter at the high school level who will get more use out of the field.

But for Ching, advocating for better facilities is an initiative that will benefit not only his daughters, but all the girls in Needham who will put on cleats and continue playing after them.

“We’ve always thought of this as long term, we’re bettering it for all the girls in the future,” Ching said.

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