Baseball Video Game Will Include Women for the First Time


For the first time, women will don Major League Baseball jerseys in MLB The Show, the long-running popular video game.

MLB The Show 24 will debut the option to create and play a female player in a reinvented version of the game’s career mode, Road to the Show, in which gamers direct a custom character’s ascent from the minors to the big leagues. The game’s developer, Sony San Diego Studio, announced the new mode Tuesday.

The game, which comes out March 19, calls the new career mode Road to the Show: Women Pave Their Way. It includes a story line that follows the rise of two women into the major leagues and touches on the unique challenges they face, according to Sony San Diego Studio.

MLB The Show joins other high-profile sports video game franchises that have moved to include women, such as FIFA (now EA Sports FC) and NBA 2K. But the gender dynamics in baseball are far more complicated, because most women and girls play softball instead.

Some hoped MLB The Show 24 would help change that.

“I think that in the United States especially, we’re brainwashed to think that boys play baseball and girls play softball, when in reality both exist in both worlds,” said Veronica Alvarez, manager of the U.S.A. Baseball Women’s National Team, which will compete in this year’s Women’s Baseball World Cup.

Ms. Alvarez, a former national team player herself, and some of her players provided Sony with input for the game’s development.

Women playing baseball is hardly new — Toni Stone is credited with becoming the first woman to play alongside men in the Negro Leagues, and women’s baseball leagues have come and gone in the United States over the years. The movie “A League of Their Own” popularized a professional women’s league that sprang up during World War II.

Despite societal expectations to pursue softball, women are staking a greater claim in the male-dominated sport of baseball.

There are no women in the major leagues, but a growing number of girls are playing the sport, whether alongside boys or even on all-girl teams. A few have even gone on to play on men’s teams in college.

Some, like Ms. Alvarez, have found careers in coaching minor league teams. In 2020, Kim Ng became the first general manager of a major league team.

The Atlantic League, an independent minor league that works with Major League Baseball, recently welcomed its first female player, Kelsie Whitmore, a 25-year-old pitcher. Her personal story is drawn upon in Road to the Show: Women Paving Their Way.

“It’s becoming more common for women to make it farther and farther into the sport,” said Olivia Pichardo, 20, who last year became the first woman to play N.C.A.A. Division I college baseball.

Ms. Pichardo, who grew up playing MLB The Show and shared her personal experience with the developers, hoped to see it empower young girls to see baseball as a viable option.

Lisa Fernandez, a U.C.L.A. coach and softball pitcher whose three gold medals earned her a place in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame, said the representation of women in a baseball video game showed how far they had come since Title IX opened the doors for them in college sports in 1972.

“I think it just makes a statement,” Ms. Fernandez said, though she noted that women still had a long way to go to have the same professional opportunities men do, whether they play baseball, softball or another sport.

Ms. Alvarez, 40, said the Colorado Silver Bullets, an all-women professional team that briefly competed against men in the 1990s, were the only example of women in baseball she could recall in her childhood.

“I saw one game on TV, and that was the only representation I ever saw when I was growing up of a girl or a woman playing baseball outside of obviously me and the only one girl in the Little League that I played in,” Ms. Alvarez said.

She had not known that a women’s national team existed until she was an adult, when by chance it popped up after she searched Google for the Silver Bullets. “And that led me to U.S.A. Baseball, which meant I got to play and extend my career for eight more years,” Ms. Alvarez said, adding, “It shows you the importance of seeing someone that looks like you do it.”

A more inclusive video game can carry that kind of power, too.

Jillian Albayati, 19, a baseball pitcher and a member of the national team, said MLB The Show was wildly popular among young players. It’s one of the few video games she has played, she said.

“It lets me see how far I can really go,” Ms. Albayati said, picturing her thoughts if she had seen women in the game as a child. “It gives me even bigger dreams that I already have.

“It makes me believe that they can come true.”

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

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