Yesterday, Norine Rathbone had her wish. She tried out for the Detroit Tigers with a couple of hundred men, and no one treated her like a lady. “It was so much better than I expected. They were ballplayers who treated me as another ballplayer,” Rathbone said after the full day tryouts at Joker Merchant Stadium.
Rathbone’s story was featured yesterday on Lakeland Local. She plays baseball in a mens league in Las Vegas. Rathbone’s also a 51year-old breast cancer survivor who is determined to swing “the pink bat” someday at the major league level. Yesterday, the Detroit Tigers organization gave her a chance to show her stuff.
Rathbone said she was nervous as the approximately 250 tryouts shuffled into Joker Merchant. She was especially afraid they’d see her gender alone. It didn’t take long for her to learn how the Tigers staff saw her. Rathbone said Dan Lunetta, Director, Minor League Operations for the Tigers, came right up to her and said he knew who she was, what she did, and that he was honored she was there with the Tigers.
Rathbone said Glenn Ezell, the director of player development for the Tigers, also gave her a one-on-one chat. “He asked if I was ready to play. I grabbed my uniform and told him ‘This is my business suit. I came to do business,’” she remembered.
Rathbone said the day was a dream as she spent the hours working on fielding and batting drills with five other first basemen. She quickly bonded with the other tryouts, “Nobody looked at me as a woman. They looked at me as a ball player and breast cancer survivor.” She said she was proud of how she played the field with the much younger men. She thought the first basemen covered their position better than any other infielders. “We smoked em,” she laughed.
Not that the day was without any bumps. Rathbone didn’t feel she hit as well as she’d hoped, “I hit some grounders to right field, but not really hard.” Still, she said Ezell told her she did well. “I started to say I was proud how I did considering my age and gender and he stopped me. He told me to throw those aside. That they had nothing to do with the fact I did well as a batter.”
Rathbone and her husband are flying back to Las Vegas today. She hopes that her excitement will abate so she can finally get some deep sleep. She said her day on the major league tryout field was “worth the 48 years” playing baseball everywhere she could, “Today, I changed some hearts. They threw out the gender and the age and they saw a ballplayer.”