July has barely begun, but it has already been an important month for women’s sport. On July 5, the women’s FIFA World Cup ended with the U.S. beating Japan in a 5-2 goal fest. Three days earlier, 16-year-old Melissa Mayeux became the first female baseball player to be added to MLB’s international registration list. Thus paving the way for the 16-year-old to one day be the first woman in Major League Baseball.
At this point from sheer statistics, she is a longshot to ever see her name written in on the line-up card of an MLB game. While we will likely see a woman in MLB at some point, that road will be particularity difficult for a position player. A player like Japan’s Eri Yoshida, the 23-year-old sidearm knuckleballer who played in the minor leagues in both the United States and Japan, better fits the profile.
Yet, Mayeux has already been a baseball pioneer. With the ability to hit 91 mph fastballs, her baseball skill forced France to lift a ban on girls playing baseball past the age of 15. Yet, if she isn’t destined to be a lady Jackie Robinson, she could be the next Tony Parker – a French athlete who helps popularize a new sport in France where soccer and rugby are the most popular sports.
If she continues to develop, Mayeux would be a welcome addition to France’s 2017 World Baseball Classic. MLB Director of International Game Development Mike McClellan told MLB.com that she has the potential to be one of the 25 players selected to play on France’s World Baseball Classic team.
Baseball in France has a surprisingly deep history. The first baseball games were played in France as early as 1889. But, during World War I, visiting Canadian soldiers and American doughboys helped establish the sport. During World War II and its aftermath, thousands of American troops were stationed in France which also helped nurture the sport.
The most prominent baseball player born in France is current San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy. His father was serving in the American military there when he was born in 1958. According to Baseball-Reference.com, eight MLB players have been born in France. Only the Netherlands and Germany have sent more of their native sons “across the pond” to play in MLB.
Mayeux wants to keep playing in France over the next two years and it is likely she will at some point end up playing in the Elite Division, the highest level of French organized baseball. Founded in 1926, the semi-professional league has been compared to Single-A baseball in the United States.
The winningest team is Paris Université Club which has won 22 of the titles. If they are the Yankees then the Montigny Cougars for whom both Mayeux and her brother have played for are the Chicago Cubs. The Cougars have never won the title but, they boast perhaps the best baseball facility in France where fans can enjoy a modern stadium with lighting and concessions stands. Yet, unlike cellar-dwellers in MLB, the Cougars have to perform. The Elite Division, like European soccer, uses a regulation system.
It will be busy this summer for Mayeux. In August, she will attend an MLB camp in Europe and receive instruction from Barry Larkin. She is already a player on the French U-18 junior national team and the national softball team. An American college team or the World Baseball Classic may not be far behind.