CRYSTAL LAKE – Micah Goodrich hoped her spot in the order wouldn’t come up Thursday night.
Goodrich and the Lake in the Hills Thunder 15U baseball team were playing the last game before the McHenry County Youth Sports Association’s opening ceremony for the second weekend of its Summer International Championships.
In the late innings, people streamed into Lippold Park for the upcoming ceremony, so the crowd surrounding the field was larger than what Goodrich and the Thunder were used to.
“I saw the crowd in my peripheral,” Goodrich said. “I was like, ‘Oh, gosh.’”
Goodrich, 16, admits she’s anxious before baseball games. She knows opposing players and spectators take notice of her because she’s the only girl on her team and one of the few girls in McHenry County still playing travel baseball into her high school years.
“I’m always nervous,” Goodrich said. “Every single baseball game, I get really nervous before the game because I know that I can’t stink. I have to be good because I’m a girl.”
So it was that much more satisfying when Goodrich fouled off pitch after pitch Thursday night before drawing a walk in front of the growing crowd.
“My hands and knees were shaking,” Goodrich said. “I was just nervous. Then I got a walk, so I was like, ‘OK, I’m good.’”
'She's really good'
Goodrich started playing baseball at age 5 and never wanted to stop. Her father, Steve Goodrich, coaches her Thunder team. He never pushed his daughter to make the switch to softball.
“For years, you would hear, ‘She’s got to make the change, it’s going to be hard to adjust,’” Steve Goodrich said. “But she’s an athlete. Most athletes can adjust.”
Micah Goodrich didn’t have to make the decision freshman year at Huntley in 2017 because she broke her leg and missed the spring season. As a sophomore this spring, she tried out for softball and made the Red Raiders’ junior varsity squad. Again, an injury (broken thumb) derailed her season after only a few games.
Despite the switch to softball during the high school season, Micah Goodrich returned to baseball for the travel season.
“Travel softball is just not my thing,” Micah Goodrich said. “It’s just different from my liking. [Baseball] is what I’ve been doing; it’s what I know. I’ve been playing it for too long to switch, I guess.”
She’s not the only female baseball player her age in the MCYSA tournament. Libby Parkin plays for the Phenom Illinois White 15U team. Parkin also is a high school junior. She played on the Crystal Lake Central junior varsity baseball team last spring as a pitcher, first baseman and outfielder.
It’s not uncommon for girls to play baseball, especially at younger ages. But most usually convert to softball before high school.
Ben Schneider, a teammate of Goodrich’s on the Thunder, couldn’t recall playing with many girls before Micah.
“T-ball maybe,” Schneider said. “But nothing for travel. She’s really good, hitting-wise especially.
“We’ve known each other for the past five years. It’s no different. Everybody says, ‘Oh, there’s a girl on the team.’ Big deal. It’s no different than having any other person on the team.”
Micah Goodrich hits in the middle of the order and plays third base for the Thunder. Her father makes it clear that he’s going to treat her like every other player on the team. But Steve Goodrich knows that if he weren’t her coach, she might not even be awarded that much respect.
“I coach because of her,” Steve Goodrich said. “But I also do know that if I didn’t coach her, a lot of guys wouldn’t give her a fair shake because she is a girl.”
'Hitting’s hitting. Fielding’s fielding'
Micah Goodrich said her friends were disappointed when she decided to try out for softball instead of baseball in high school. She aspires to play in college, and she believes there will be more opportunities for her at the college level if she plays softball.
That wasn’t an easy decision.
“I was scared,” she said. “Scared to death.”
She never had played softball.
“We always believed she could do it,” Steve Goodrich said. “She didn’t believe she could do it.”
The base paths are shorter, and the pitches come from a different angle, but as Steve Goodrich likes to say, “Hitting’s hitting. Fielding’s fielding.” Micah Goodrich soon realized the transition wasn’t that difficult.
The transition back to baseball this summer was more of a challenge, but she feels at home on the baseball diamond. Steve Goodrich believes that’s the most important thing.
“I just wish more parents would allow their girls to pursue what they like to do, not what society tells them they should do,” Steve Goodrich said.