Souhegan’s Greenwood has crosshairs on national team

AMHERST – A couple of years ago, a man approached longtime Souhegan High School baseball coach Bill Dod with a request.

The father of a freshman student athlete at the school, Beth Greenwood, came to him and said, “We’ve been told you don’t allow girls on your team,” Dod recalled. “And I said, ‘Wow, I’m sorry somebody told you that.’ ”

Dod had a girl several years ago who played on his Amherst-based Senior Babe Ruth team, so he explained “I don’t have anything against it.”

He went to Saber athletic director Dick Miller to let him know that since Greenwood wasn’t bound to play softball as baseball and softball are technically two different sports, he was going to let her come out for the program.

She has been part of Saber baseball since then, and is now said to be the only female high school baseball player in New Hampshire. This was the junior’s third season in the Souhegan program, and she’s hoping in the next year to get even more

experience and eventually play on a national level.

“She’s with us all the time,” Dod said. “All winter. She does all our catching drills, does bullpen, she hits in the JV games.”

While she does spend time with the varsity it’s on the sub-varsity where Greenwood sees the playing time and has worked out well.

The junior varsity numbers were very low this spring. She’s said to be one of the better hitters on the team.

“She absolutely loves the game of baseball,” Dod said. “She wants to play. Instead of having her on the bench with the varsity, we’ve dressed her and played her in the JVs. She’s done a great job.

“She’s a coach on the JVs. She runs the pitching staff. I have great respect for her, loves the game of baseball. Probably in college or the summer of college, she’s going to look for a women’s baseball league to continue to play baseball.”

Greenwood, who also plays varsity basketball for the Sabers, has always played baseball since she was 5 years old, playing T-ball, not softball. And when she got to high school, she wasn’t going to make the switch.

“I didn’t really see any point in changing what I love if I didn’t have to,” she said. “And the coaches have been really supportive. I’ve had some people tell me ‘Oh, you should play softball, you’d be amazing.’

“But the coaches never pushed me to go over. They’ve always said, ‘If you work really hard, you’d have a spot.’ No point in changing. I’ve never tried softball before. Ever. So I saw no point in trying something new if I was doing good at what I was doing.”

She played in the Amherst youth baseball system all the way through, which meant she has been a teammate of several of her current fellow Sabers for a long time.

She had played for the the Amherst Middle School, so her arrival on the high school team wasn’t all that surprising. She wanted to make sure everything was approved, because in playing on some women’s teams around the country, she’s made friends and had heard that some of those teammates had trouble being approved to play at the high school level.

Not here.

“It was pretty cool there were no problems,” she said.

Does Greenwood feel a burden being the only female player not only in the program, but at the state high school level?

“I don’t see it as a burden, but it’s more like a chip on my shoulder kind of thing,” she said. “I always feel I have something to prove, even if I don’t, I guess. I always feel like everyone is watching me, making side comments about me. Everyone’s watching, so I feel I have to be at my best every second, can’t take a play off. It’s not a burden, but yeah, I do wish there were other girls (playing the game).”

Greenwood likes being a catcher, because it’s a take-charge spot on the field. She’s been one since the second grade, when she wasn’t getting a lot of youth playing time because, in her words, “I was a girl.” Alec Burns, her current Saber teammate, was a flame-throwing pitcher at the youth level and no one wanted to catch him. She volunteered. Ever since then she’s been catching.

During the summer, she plays in all-girls national tournaments. Last July, at a tournament in San Francisco, Greenwood’s team, Team Steel, based out of New York, finished second. She will go to Rockford, Ill., to play in another tournament in a couple of months. Thus, she has a lot of baseball playing friends around the country.

What’s the goal? Greenwood a year from now plans on trying out for the U.S. National Woman’s team. “I’m pretty excited about that,” she said, adding she wants to go to college for engineering but isn’t looking to chose a school just for sports.

Greenwood knows she’s in the right place, playing with the right teammates, at the right school, for the right coaches. A couple of weeks ago she went to visit a friend who is doing the same thing in Vermont, but isn’t as comfortable.

“She’s the only girl in Vermont playing baseball,” she said. “Some of her coaches aren’t as supportive of her and some of her teammates had kind of nasty comments. I always knew I had good coaches and teammates but I didn’t know how lucky I was.

“I’m not best friends with everyone on the team, but everyone respects me. That’s all I need.”

“She’s as tough as the rest of the guys on the team,” Souhegan pitcher/outfielder Owen Batchelder said, as he’s been playing with her since he was 8 years old. “It’s pretty cool having her on the team.We’re fully used to it and respect it, it’s no different than having (anyone else) catch for me.

“A lot of people say she’s good at softball, so why have her on the baseball team? Well, she’s living her dream, she’s having fun with it. I fully support it. … It’s nothing different. She’s been as tough as nails since we were 8 years old.”

For Dod, it all boils down to one thing: effort.

“She’s worked real hard,” Dod said. “Next year she’ll be on the varsity and we’re going to give her an opportunity in some points to play.

“I just respect what she represents and what a wonderful girl she is.”