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‘They underestimate the girls’: Baseball team beats boys, turns heads

Alyssa Slamin after scoring in the semifinals of the Boston Mayor’s Cup at Jason Roberts Field in West Roxbury.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

Boy oh boy, these girls are good.

The Boston Slammers, an all-girls baseball team, have already defeated three boys teams in a row in the Boston Mayor’s Baseball Cup. These girls of summer reached the semifinals, playing the top-seeded team.

They play loose and aggressive. They stick together and have a winning attitude.

“They are very, very, good,” says John Burns, first base coach for the Slammers’ opponent, Parkway National. “I didn’t recognize them as girls; they’re ballplayers.”

They’ve also thrived against all-girls teams. Last year, the Slammers captured the national under-11 championship in the Baseball For All girls tournament in Rockford, Ill., a tournament they’re headed back to this week.


Pitcher Ellie Etemad-Gilbertson fields a bunt by Parkway National’s John Skehill and throws to first baseman Sophia Buzzelle.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

The Slammers, who now have more than 30 players ages 9-18, are mostly Boston girls, and they all have one thing in common. They all love baseball.

Some are players who have resisted being pushed into softball. Others have languished on youth teams, being the only girl on the team and batting last in the lineup. They said they felt pressure being outnumbered on the boys teams and their confidence suffered.

In the summer of 2015, parents of players in a Jamaica Plain youth league decided it would be a good idea to get the league’s girls together to practice their skills and support each other.

“I just started calling the people who had kids with names that sounded like a girl’s name,” says Karen Zerby Buzzelle, co-coordinator of the Slammers.

They used a local gym from fall to spring and trained hard. They kept getting better and better.

This year, they surprised boys teams that were expecting to dominate.

“They just don’t take them as seriously as a boys team,” says Heidi Slamin, whose daughter Alyssa is the catcher and whose husband is the head coach. “They underestimate the girls.”


Some of the girls have chips on their shoulders. Yasmeen Aubrey — who was named after Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski (“Yaz”) by her father — says she was passed over for a summer travel team on Cape Cod because of her gender.

“My coaches just think baseball’s just a sport for boys, so it makes me kind of mad,” she says.

But this girls team is shattering stereotypes.

Long and lanky Elise Berger, 12, who looks like a female version of a young Chris Sale, fired a no-hitter in the Mayor’s Cup quarterfinal. Fourteen of the last 15 outs were strikeouts.

Elise Berger forced out a Parkway National runner.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

She gives new meaning to the throws-like-a-girl cliche.

“Here and there you’ll hear, ‘Oh it’s a girl playing,’ but once you get on the field and start playing, it stops,” says Berger, a seventh grader from Shelburne, Vt.

The semifinal game against Parkway National is a seesaw nail-biter. The Slammers take an early lead, then have to battle back before losing, 6-4, in extra innings.

Johnny Burns, left fielder for Parkway National, says the girls were scary good.

“I was a little bit nervous,” he says. “I learned that even if you’re a girl, you can still play baseball as good as a boy.”

After the game, there is no crying.

“What you did out there was amazing,” Slammers coach Rick Slamin tells his players. “I don’t want to see any of you girls hanging your head. Hold ’em high. I’m proud. You girls put up a hell of a fight today. You opened a lot of eyes. You should be proud of yourself.”


Ellie Etemad-Gilbertson covers home as Parkway National’s Conor Lawler slides in.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

Berger goes through the end-of-game high-five line with an ice bag on her sore arm. But she’ll be fine for the Baseball For All national tournament this week.

With 270 girls, it is the largest all-girls tournament in the country. Teams compete in the same ballpark where the Rockford Peaches played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League 75 years ago.

Berger says there’s a lot more baseball to be played. Her ultimate dream is to play in the major leagues.

“If I work hard enough . . .” she says.

More photos of the Boston Slammers:

Alysa Slamin high fived Stella Kotter.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Stella Kotter.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Ellie Etemad-Gilbertson used a misting fan.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Stella Kotter.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
While icing her arm, Elise Berger offers high-fives to the opponents after the game.stan grossfeld/globe staff

Stan Grossfeld can be reached at