On a baseball diamond at Jefferson Elementary School, a handful of kids try out for a local traveling baseball team. One stands out from the rest. A head taller than the others, she pitches left-handed and sends baseballs flying with a smack of the bat.
London Studer is competitive and determined. She's also the only girl on the field.
Little boys around the country dream of playing Major League Baseball, but 11-year-old Studer might actually get there. Selected to play in the prestigious USSSA All American Games, the Gahanna native is already one of the most promising young players in the country.
"It’s pretty easy for me to play baseball because that’s how I grew up," Studer says.
Studer started playing baseball in her front yard when she was only four years old.
"My mom actually taught me how to play baseball," Studer says. "She took a bucket of whiffle balls and gave me a plastic bat."
From there, Studer started playing on organized teams, graduating from tee-ball to the local Gahanna rec league, and now a traveling All Star team.
"I’m a pitcher and I’m a first baseman – woman," she says.
She’s always been the only girl on her team, and often, the people drafting her had no idea.
"The interesting thing is at the tryout you couldn’t tell she was a girl because her hair was cut short and she had the ball cap pulled low, and you couldn’t tell from the way she threw or the way she carried herself," says Harvey McClesky, her former coach. "I just thought she was a tough guy. And I thought I want this guy – this person."
McClesky was impressed with Studer’s drive, even when she was a mere eight years old.
"She demands the most of herself, and in fact on that team, even though she was one of the youngest people on the team, I noticed her drive to compete and also to be the best she can be," McCleskey says.
So McClesky wasn’t surprised when Studer tried out for the prestigious USSSA All American tournament. The competition is highly-selective and pits the best players from a region against other teams from around the country.
Of the 28 kids picked from the Great Lakes region, Studer is the only girl. But Studer says that’s pretty typical.
“I’ve never played baseball with a girl," she says.
That may change in the future. One local mother is trying to get more girls on the diamond.
Akisa Fukuzawa started the Columbus Women’s Baseball League when she moved to the city because she was frustrated by the lack of opportunities available to women and girls in baseball.
"I want to change the public perception of, 'Oh, women don’t play baseball.’ That is not true," Fukuzawa says.
Fukuzawa said it’s rare for high schools to offer girls’ baseball, as opposed to softball, so it’s not surprising that there are no professional women’s baseball teams in the United States. If a woman wants to pursue the sport, she has to play with men, much like Studer is doing today.
But while neither Studer nor Fukuzawa have let gender expectations keep them from playing the game they love, both think other girls might feel discouraged.
"There should be quite a good amount of girls playing baseball because baseball is America’s sport," Studer says.
For Studer, playing on a USSSA All-American team is just the beginning of what she hopes is a ground-breaking baseball career.
“Work harder, get stronger, and become an MLB star," Studer says.