Meet the French Mo'ne Davis
Just call her "Monet Davis."
Melissa Mayeux, a 16-year-old French shortstop, on Sunday became the first female player to be included in Major League Baseball's international registration list. She could be the first woman signed to an MLB team when she becomes eligible on July 2.
The international registration list is for prospects who meet age and citizenship requirements in places that aren't subject to the draft (i.e., outside of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico). While the list is open to all players who meet these criteria, those included are typically serious prospects. The general consensus seems to be that Mayeux is unlikely to be signed -- but as MLB.com's Lindsay Berra notes, her inclusion on the list "solidifies her status as a legitimate player," paving the way for her to pursue a baseball career in college and beyond.
Mayeux is currently a member of France's U-18 junior national team and its senior national softball team. And she's caught the eye of Mike McClellan, MLB's director of international game development. Mayeux is "a legitimate shortstop who makes all the plays and is very smooth and fluid in the field," he told Berra. "She swings the bat really well and is fearless."
"Fearless" is a word commonly used to describe another young baseball phenom redefining what it means to throw like a girl: Mo'ne Davis. The hard-throwing teen made a name for herself last summer, overpowering the boys in Little League with her 70-mph fastball and unflinching confidence and grace.
After Davis became the first girl to toss a shutout in the Little League World Series, many wondered, albeit prematurely, if she could eventually become the first woman to play in MLB. That likely won't come to pass; Davis's first love is basketball, and she's apparently even better on the hardwood than she is on the mound.
But you could very well argue that Davis is the reason Mayeux or other female players could end up on an MLB roster in the future. She's almost single-handedly transformed the narrative about women in baseball, changing the minds of scouts who previously couldn't fathom the idea of a woman in the majors. As Bradley Woodrum notes at The Hardball Times, Davis, along with high-school knuckleballer Chelsea Baker, has forced us to confront the previously hypothetical question of female players, to the point at which a woman in MLB seems increasingly inevitable.
With Mayeux, women in baseball take one step closer to that goal. If she does get signed, it will likely be when she's closer to 18. If she goes unsigned, she can play in college in the U.S. and continue to build toward that end. There will be opportunity for Mayeux to showcase her game on the international stage, as she could compete for one of 25 roster spots on France's national team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
This development highlights the shame of not having baseball and softball in the Olympic Games. In 2005, the International Olympic Committee voted to purge the sports from the Olympic program starting with the 2012 London games. The decision was based on the notion that baseball and softball aren't truly global sports -- a belief many see as motivated by anti-U.S. sentiment from the IOC's European voters, and one that flippantly dismisses the popularity of baseball throughout Asia, South America and Australia.
If Mayeux and others show us anything, it's that baseball's next generation can and will come from countries not traditionally associated with the sport -- and that those new players will break all kinds of barriers. MLB has expanded its international development efforts to include Europe and Africa, launching academies and camps featuring major-league instructors. According to Berra, 76 players from the European Elite Camp -- where Mayeux will be training alongside three other French players this summer -- have been signed by MLB teams.
The sport won't continue to grow in countries such as France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany without high-level international competition. Baseball and softball are on the shortlist for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo games -- let's hope Mayeux inspires IOC voters to make the right call. If a woman in MLB is now an inevitability, a French woman in MLB might not be far behind.
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Kavitha A. Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org