Parents secure tryout for daughter with Mississippi school’s baseball team after battle.

As the saying goes, “baseball is America’s pastime.” Its significance was highlighted during World War II when Major League Baseball executives formed women’s baseball teams, as many young men were away fighting. The hit movie “A League of Their Own” portrays this era, demonstrating that women could be fierce, competitive baseball players while entertaining fans.

One family in South Mississippi found themselves in an unexpected battle over the game. Their daughter, Jewel, who has been playing baseball since age five on city recreational teams, eventually made All Stars and travel baseball. As a 7th grader, she wanted to join the middle school team after aging out of the recreational program.

The problem arose when the Ocean Springs School District refused to let her try out for the baseball team, says Jewel’s mom, Shannon van Duijvendijk. This decision was surprising to the community, especially since the same school district had previously allowed girls to participate in football and even become homecoming queens after playing on the high school team. The community rallied to support the parents’ petition for Jewel to try out for the middle school team.

Jewel is one of two girls aiming to try out for the baseball team, competing with their male peers. It was Jewel’s father who was particularly determined to ensure his daughter could play the game she loves.

“It was actually my husband. That sense of injustice rose up in him, and he was just like ‘no, uh uh,'” said van Duijvendijk.

The school’s athletic director initially told them that state rules prohibited girls from playing on the baseball team, as softball was considered an equivalent. Undeterred, Mr. van Duijvendijk contacted numerous officials in Jackson, seeking someone to help his daughter get a tryout, but his efforts to speak with state-level authorities were unsuccessful.