CHASE — With few opportunities for adult women to play softball in Baltimore County, aside from co-ed leagues, Bengies Chase Softball Commissioner Will Sigler saw more and more women show interest in a startup women’s league in the area. He looked at the unequal opportunities for men and women in the sport and worked with longtime softball players Shelby Robinson and Neena Avent to form a league for adult women of all skill levels.
“It seemed like women were not getting their just dues, and this gives them an opportunity and shines more of a light on them,” Sigler said.
Since April, Sigler has run the women’s league concurrent with a men’s league that he started at the same time. Both leagues are the first of their kind to be established in the area. Sigler also started and oversees the co-ed league that is now in its third year in Bengies Chase.
Both the women’s and men’s leagues will play two seasons a year – a spring/summer and a fall – and each have over 84 active players.
Sigler tried to build a women’s league last year but could not generate enough interest. But with the help of Robinson and Avent, he said, the league “blew up” with interest, and they were able to form seven teams with 12-14 players each.
“There were a lot of moving parts to make this happen,” Sigler said. “But for us to put together seven teams right away is pretty overwhelming – you can’t ask for more.”
Because of limited opportunities for women, Sigler often saw girls age out of local youth leagues and have nowhere to play anymore. He proposed the idea for the women’s and men’s leagues to the Bengies Chase Recreation Council board and received unanimous approval.
“It is nice to have an adult league somewhere that is run properly and has nice fields to play on,” Sigler said.
Each new team that joins pays a league fee, appoints its own manager and chooses a team name, and plays 7-inning games one night a week.
Many of the teams are picked and assembled with players who knew each other from other softball outlets, including the co-ed league. Now, Robinson said, the leagues “work hand in hand” to improve participation, because women will commit to play for a women’s and co-ed team.
Robinson, who has played softball since she was in elementary school, played for the Bengies chase co-ed league and helped Sigler advertise the women’s league.
“Co-ed is great, but having our own league is its own sentimental thing,” Robinson said. “It is an opportunity do something I love and form lifelong relationships.”
Avent, who has played softball since she was four years old and played co-ed, also helped recruit players for the women’s league and describes the culture of the league as a “family.”
“I feel like as more people realize that the people who run this and participate are amazing, more teams will join and the league will get more exposure,” Avent said, adding that she hopes and expects that the league will continue to grow.