Yucca Junior High eight-grader Cerra Yohner takes ground ball practice Thursday at Bell Park as she tries out for the Clovis High School baseball team. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
An eighth-grade girl with aspirations to play professional baseball tried out for the Clovis Wildcats C team on Thursday, two days after coaches said she couldn’t because of her gender.
Yucca Junior High student Cerra Yohner fielded ground balls, chased pop flies and took a few cuts in the batting cage during a personal try out at Bell Park.
She showed up at the team’s first tryout on Monday, but on Tuesday on Clovis athletic director Dale Fullerton and coaches decided the 14-year-old would have to play softball, because baseball is a boy’s sport.
That’s when Yohner’s stepfather, Eddie Taylor, sought a ruling on the decision from Superintendent G.C. Ross, who inquired with the New Mexico Activities Association.
The NMAA decided since there is only one baseball team, females wanting to play must be allowed to try out, Fullerton said.
“She’s going to try out for two days just like the guys did, and she’ll be given a fair evaluation,” Fullerton said.
An independent evaluator and former baseball coach from Portales will rate Yohner during today’s tryout in an effort to keep the evaluation unbiased, Fullerton said.
Initially, Taylor was disgusted at Fullerton’s decision.
“We have women going off to war, and I have a little girl who wants to play professional baseball,” he said. “How is she going to get that chance if she’s not allowed to play in Clovis.”
After nine years of Little League baseball, Yohner said she’s confident she can keep pace with the boys on the diamond.
“They don’t have to underestimate me just because I’m a girl,” she said. “When they said I couldn’t try out it made me mad, because I felt they underestimated me and didn’t think I could do it.”
Fullerton said based on the NMAA decision, guys could also try out for softball and volleyball, traditional girl’s sports.
He said he had initially hoped Yohner would go out for softball because she was talented.
“Softball is a sport that is designed for girls,” Fullerton said, “and that’s what we would hope is that if we would get any female who is a real good player that they would play softball.”
Officials with the NMAA were unavailable for comment.