By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — When Kathy McIntosh was growing up, her father’s company had season tickets to Cincinnati Reds games at the iconic Crosley Field. They’d go to a few games a year, and with the seats being directly behind home plate, young McIntosh found a new idol: Reds catcher and one of the best baseball players of all time, Johnny Bench.
When she was in first grade her parents gave her a set of catcher’s gear for her birthday. She had the shin guards, the chest protector, the mask and the glove. There was just one problem — she wasn’t allowed to actually play baseball.
For International Women’s Day last Friday, McIntosh reflected on her experience as she became one of the first girls to play Troy Junior Baseball after the passage of Title IX, a United States law that requires women to have the same opportunities in sports as men.
Growing up near Hook Elementary in Troy, McIntosh would spend almost every day at the baseball fields where the recreational teams held practice. She was there so often that one team decided to let her practice with them, but she was never allowed to actually play in games.
“I kept asking my dad, over and over, to sign me up for Troy Junior Baseball, and he would say no,” McIntosh said. “What I didn’t understand was that it was because I was a girl.”
“Eventually he told me I couldn’t play because I was a girl, and I was mad at my dad because I wanted him to go to court and fight for me to be able to play baseball,” she said with a chuckle. “But obviously there was no way that would happen. It was a national law.”
In 1974, when McIntosh was in fourth grade, Title IX was passed. She excitedly recalls seeing the advertisement for sign-ups in the Troy Daily News and proclaiming to her dad that they were going to be the first ones there to sign up.
She can’t remember if she was officially the first girl to play Troy Junior Baseball, as there are two other female players in her recollection that were older than her, but she doesn’t know if they had played the year prior or if they started the same year she did.
“I know for sure that I was one of the first,” she said, proudly.
After sign-ups were complete, the league held a draft for teams to choose which players they wanted.
“The guys who let me practice with them actually drafted me to be on their team, a Minor League team,” McIntosh said. “I was the only girl on my team.”
She played that season and then Major League, where she was finally able to play catcher on a baseball team, something she’d wanted to do since first watching Johnny Bench play years before.
Not only was she allowed to play, but she was more than capable of doing so. At the end of one of her Major League seasons she was selected to the league’s all-star team.
The next level she played was Teener ball, and although she had a blast playing, by that point most of the boys were becoming much better than her, and it was not something that she wanted to spend a lot of her time practicing.
After the conclusion of that season, she decided her baseball career would come to an end. She played softball in high school at Troy, but she didn’t love it like she loved baseball.
“Baseball’s just fun,” she said. “There’s something about baseball.”
Troy Junior Baseball recently held sign-ups for the 2019 season, and according to league president Steve Mascarella, there will be 30 girls playing T-Ball, an impressive 22 percent, six in J-Ball and three in the Minor League. The organization has also had female umpires in the past.
Mascarella believes that the opportunity for girls to participate in the league can have an immense impact on their lives.
“From an early age these young ladies will have the experience of successfully being as good as the boys in something that is labeled as a boys sport,” Mascarella said. “Imagine that carrying over into something like engineering, clearly a male-dominated field. These girls will know they can be just as good, if not better than any man because they have that experience.”
He went on to express that the mission of Troy Junior Baseball includes participation from both boys and girls.
“Our goal is to make the opportunity to play baseball available to as many kids as possible in central Miami County,” he said. “Gender is not a determining factor in providing that opportunity. The inclusion of girls is a pleasant indicator of our success in that goal.”
“It’s cool that girls have opportunities to do things like they’ve never had opportunities before,” McIntosh said, although she’d like to see more girls continue to play baseball.
McIntosh, now the director of the renowned Troy High School band, also discussed how her profession is one that has been male-dominated throughout history, but she has been pleased with the growing number of female band directors over the past 10-15 years.
McIntosh is the first female band director in the history of Troy High School, yet another barrier that she has managed to overcome. To any women out there who are interested in breaking norms like she has, she offered a word of advice:
“The cool thing about it now is that you don’t have to be controlled by a law,” she said. “As a girl, if you want to do something, like if you want to play football, go for it. It’s hard, because the boys will get bigger and better, so you have to work really, really hard.
“But I think girls who want to do something like that should definitely go for it. It was a great time, I had a great time.”