From Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul


Today, no one questions whether women are equal to men in ability and intelligence.

Julie Nixon Eisenhower

“So what, Ray? So what if I’m not a boy? I can hit better than everybody, except maybe Tommy—and maybe you on a good day. And I’m faster than all of you put together.”

“You can still play with the girls at recess,” he said.

I stared him down, eye to eye, both of us sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk in front of my house. The cement felt warm. Crabgrass poked through and scratched my thigh.

I won the stare-down.

Ray looked down at the Big Chief tablet on my lap.

“And you sure can’t win that contest, Dandi,” he mumbled. “I don’t know why you’re even entering.”

A blue-lined page from his tablet stuck to his knobby knee. He pushed a shock of brown hair, straight as harvest wheat, out of his eyes. Ray’s mom cut both of our hair. I shoved mine out of my face. Then I pulled out the coupon I’d torn from the Kansas City Star sports page.

“I’m entering,” I said, “and I’m winning.”

Ray jerked the coupon out of my hand and pointed his finger at the print.

“See!” he said triumphantly. “It says right here: 1959 batboy contest. Write in seventy-five words or less why you want to be batboy for the KC Athletics pro baseball team. Not batgirl.” He cackled as if a batgirl was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.

“Well, it’s not fair!” I said, half to Ray, half to myself.

I was tired of not getting to do stuff just because I was a girl. Ray played Little League. I could knock him down with a line drive, hitting from my Stan Musiel batting stance. But our small Missouri town didn’t have a girls’ baseball team.

I was ten, the age when boys stopped caring that you were the only one who could hit an inside-the-park homer or the only one who knew the infield fly rule. They simply wouldn’t let you play because you were a girl.

My sister, Maureen, slammed the screen door.

“What’s going on out here?” she asked.

Maureen, who was my older sister, couldn’t tell a baseball from a football if it hit her in the face.

“Nothing,” I answered. I tucked the coupon in my tablet.

“We’re . . . umm . . . drawing,” I lied.

Ray looked confused. “Drawing? I thought we were . . . ”

I nudged him into silence.

Maureen tried giving me one of our mother’s suspicious looks. The attempt made her look more like Bruno, our hound dog, when he had to go outside.

Ray and I sat in the sun and set our pencils scratching. At the end of an hour, I had fourteen paper wads to show.

“I’m done,” Ray announced.

“Read it,” I demanded.

I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be awful. Ray swatted at a horsefly, then held up his paper and read aloud. “I want to be a batboy for the Kansas City A’s because I really, really, really like baseball and I really, really, really like Kansas City and the Athletics.”

He looked wide-eyed at me. “What do you think, Dandi?”

I hadn’t hoped it would be that awful.

“Why so many reallys?” I asked.

He looked wounded. “I need the words! What do you know, anyway? You can’t even enter the contest.”

Ray left me standing alone on the sidewalk. I took in the sweet scent of the cornfields across the road and thought about what I might write.

The words began to flow as I put pen to paper:

My whole life people have told me that I can’t. My sister has said that I can’t sing. My teacher has said that I can’t spell. Mom has said that I can’t be a professional baseball player. My best friend has said that I can’t win this contest. I’m entering this contest to prove them wrong. I want to be your next Kansas City A’s batboy.

I signed it “Dan Daley.” My dad always called me “Dan,” short for Dandi. I addressed the envelope and mailed my entry.

As the months passed, filled with sandlot baseball, I played whenever I could force my way into a game. Then late one autumn afternoon, there was a knock at our door. When I opened the door, I was surprised to find two men in suits, carrying briefcases. Surely they were from out of town.

“Hello, little girl,” the shorter man said. “We’d like to speak to your brother.”

“Don’t have a brother,” I said.

The taller man wrinkled his forehead and popped open his briefcase. He took out a handful of papers. Both men studied them while I stood in the doorway, guarding my brotherless home.

“Is this 508 Samuel Street?” asked the shorter one.

“I guess,” I answered.

Nobody used house numbers in our neighborhood. There were only two houses on our road.

“Isn’t this the home of Dan Daley?”

A light went on in my head. Then I got it.

“Mom!” I screamed, without taking my eyes off the strangers. “Come here! Hurry!” Sure enough, I had won the batboy contest. My words had done the trick!

I let Mom explain about my not having a brother. I confessed I’d entered as “Dan.” Maureen and Bruno started to congratulate me—but not the strangers.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, a familiar feeling of dread creeping up my spine.

“Well,” said the taller one, “you’re not a boy.”

“Well, duh,” I answered.

“Contest rules clearly state ‘a boy aged eight to twelve,’ ” said the shorter one.

“But I won!” I protested.

“Little girl,” he said, “this was not a batgirl contest.”

The men left, taking with them my dream of being a Kansas City A’s batboy. Hoping to make up for it, they sent us season tickets, team jackets, autographed baseballs, hats and a hardwood bat. I never did wear that hat. I became a St. Louis Cardinals fan instead. But I did grab that bat the day it came. I marched to our school playground where Ray, Tommy and the guys were in the middle of a pickup game.

“I’m batting,” I said, one-arming Ray away from the plate.

The guys groaned, but Ray seemed to know something more was at stake. He nodded to the pitcher. I took the first pitch, high and outside, just the way I liked it. Before the crack of the bat, I knew I’d send that ball over the fence for a home run. I turned my back before the ball hit the street, finally bouncing into a ditch.

Gently, I released my Kansas City Athletics bat and heard it bounce in the dirt. I proudly walked the bases to home plate, leaving that bat where it had fallen.

“Let the batboy get it.”

Dandi Dailey Mackall

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