Second in a three-part series
Other than the ball, college softball is usually all White. It resembles a country club sport — only those who can afford it, play it.
According to softballjourney.com, the cost of playing softball involves player fees for tournaments generally range from $375 to $3,500. Additionally, uniforms, bats, helmets, gloves, sliding shorts, and other needed equipment must be factored, as well as travel costs to multiple tournaments during the summer and early fall.
Then, add at least another $1,000 or so for individual specialized lessons in batting and pitching, which cost around $20 to $80 per hour.
SEE ALSO: The sorry state of softball diversity
Time magazine estimated the average total cost for softball is between $4,000 at the low end, and $9,900 at the maximum.
“We are fortunate to play this sport because it is not a cheap sport,” Louisiana State University (LSU) freshman Karrington Houshmandzadeh said. She is one of four Black females on the Tigers squad.
“It’s expensive to play [softball],” said Keyshalynn Thymes, whose daughter Akiya is a LSU junior. She and her husband Donnie Thymes told us Akiya was the only Black female playing the sport for at least 10 years.
The parents said that they’re fortunate to afford the assorted softball costs, but quickly noted that this may not be the case for other Black parents. “We would pay for flights for four — about $2,000 for one weekend” for the two of them and their two daughters, noted Keyshalynn Thymes. “Hotel rooms, plus a [rental] car, eating and the [tournament] fees are about $5,000. Financially, we were able to do it.”
She pointed out that it ultimately paid off, as Akiya got a college softball scholarship. “We paid for college three times over,” Keyshalynn Thymes said.
Donnie Thymes said that if more sponsors were involved in softball, especially at the youth level, “You might see more African Americans in this sport.”
Akiya Thymes added, “I think it’s important for us, [Blacks], to stay at this big stage.”
At last month’s NCAA Minneapolis Regional, only LSU and Georgia had Blacks on their teams out of five clubs, including host Minnesota. LSU’s Aliyah Andrews and Ciara Bryan of Georgia, were both leadoff batters for their respective squads. The former stole her 47th stolen base of the season against the Gophers — Andrews has 100 for her career.
Bryan hit a game-winning home run, her 11th- round tripper of the season, to defeat Drake in extra innings. She currently ranks 10th among active Division I players in triples.
Thymes and Taryn Antoine both pinch ran for LSU, as well as Georgia’s CJ Landrum, who didn’t play in the field due to a broken bone in her hand.
Both Bryan and Andrews spoke to the MSR regarding the lack of diversity in the sport. “We want to see more people of color out here,” Bryan said.
“If we, [as Blacks], don’t play, how will anyone represent us in this sport?!” Andrews stated.
“We are the most versatile athlete(s),” Keyshalynn Thymes said of Black female softball players. “The talent is there.”
Baseball at virtually all levels still has few Blacks, as well. Our discussion continues next week.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.