HUMBOLDT PARK – The only all-girls baseball team in Chicago can now call themselves national champions.
After playing against boys throughout the summer, the Humboldt Park Gators went undefeated in the Baseball For All tournament last week in Maryland to bring home the 12U title.
The team, which adopted the name Chicago Scouts for the tourney, faced its toughest challenge in the semifinal game against the Arizona Peaches. Down to their last out, trailing 3-2 with a runner on third, Naomi “Ni-Ni” Gutierrez came through with a two-strike single to right to tie the game.
It’s been a long journey for Gutierrez and her teammates – one that would not be possible without coaches like Booker Hatcher and parents like Alba Cardenas and Chip Mitchell, who came together over the past two years to form one of a handful of all-girls teams in the country.
Cardenas and Mitchell co-founded the squad in 2019 with their daughter Miriam.
“She was the only girl on her team, so my husband Chip decided let’s have a team together and let’s do it only girls,” Alba Cardenas said.
They recruited girls wherever they could: playing catch at parks or working concessions at local games, but the grassroots effort had its growing pains.
“I remember the first practice we had only four or five girls,” recalls Cardenas.
But the roster grew, and before long, the team was set to debut last spring –until Covid hit.
The Gators got creative to keep their skills sharp, practicing inside their homes in individually in on their driveways, waiting until this April to finally begin their first full season.
“The first game was unbelievable,” Cardenas said. “It was kind of magical for me, it was like this is accepted.”
When the Gators take the field against all-boys teams, their opponents don’t always take them seriously. But it doesn’t take long for the girls to prove they belong.
“I remember playing one team and when we first got on the field they all were laughing at us, saying they probably throw 5 miles per hour and are not going to hit and can’t win,” said Gators player Naomi “Ni-Ni” Gutierrez. “But then once we got on the field our pitcher struck everyone out, we hit bombs off them. We showed them.”
“Once they go against them they think, ‘oh dang these people are good,’” said Mauricio Garcia, who plays for the Barnstormers, one of the Gators opponents.
“When we played them we were really surprised and we kept on playing them and they got better and better,” said Elijah Romero, another Barnstormers player.
Beating the boys is a blast, and so is bonding with their like-minded teammates in the dugout.
“With a girls team everybody feels more confident, “Gutierrez said. “I don’t have to feel ashamed or if they trash talk we don’t take it personally because it’s all girls here so it’s okay.”
The Gators developed a little league team of their own –proving baseball is not just for the boys.
“I’ve wanted to play for long time but was scared to commit, but it’s been a good decision because I met friends and getting me more to hit the ball is the challenge but it’s a good dedication,” Corcoran said.
Asked if she will stick to baseball after this, Corcoran responded, “Yes. 100 percent.”