No girls allowed.
Cari Reagan got pretty mad when a Florida Little League said only boys could play on its youth baseball teams all those years ago. Girls played softball. Her sister played softball. Only Reagan liked baseball. Always had. Always will.
“Baseball is just different from any other sport,” she said. “Each of the nine players can be the star that day.”
His daughter was always a fighter, Duane Cross said.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Just ask my son.”
When the league said Reagan, then 10, couldn’t play baseball, she decided to coach it. She first helped her dad coach her sister’s softball team. Reagan even picked the team when he was hospitalized briefly, Cross said.
The knowledge gained was never lost. Years later, when her sons, Lance, Taylor and Spencer, became interested in baseball, Reagan was ready. She started coaching Lance’s T-ball team at Eagleton Little League, moving up to coach in each successive age group as he went.
By the time Lance exhausted his eligibility at Eagleton last year, Reagan, an eighth-grade math teacher at Carpenters Middle School, had been named Big League Baseball Commissioner, one who took nothing off anyone.
“She’s a competitor,” Eagleton Senior League Commissioner Jerry Bailey. “Oh, gosh, can she compete.”
Reagan’s teams have won regular-season and tournament championships at Eagleton. Eagleton’s Big League All-Stars won last year’s state crown and advanced to regional play with Reagan as coach. Her teams are always well coached, Bailey said. She dispenses encouragement and discipline with equal measure when needed.
“She doesn’t show any favoritism,” Bailey said. “If they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to, she gets with them. She gets with them good.”
Reagan’s toughness grew partly from battling a couple of serious childhood illnesses, Cross said. Not long after being denied access to Little League baseball, she spent time at the Mayo Clinic to correct a curved spine. In high school, a rare strain of flu, combined with a severe case a mono, all but wiped out an entire year.
The drive that emerged from those struggles Reagan now passes on to her players, Cross said.
“She can get the kids motivated,” he said. “Players love her.”
The math teacher in Reagan makes her stickler for details, said Bailey, “all angles and cosigns.”
It’s best not to try her on the Little League rule book, either, Cross said.
“If the (umpire) doesn’t understand, she’s got it right in the book and marked,” he said.
There are few like Reagan, at Eagleton, or anywhere else for that matter. Women coaching baseball at any level is a genuinely rare thing.
“I haven’t run into another female coach since I left T-ball,” Reagan said.
She’s also not run into many problems.
“You just ignore everything else,” she said. “‘You do your job, and I’ll do my job.’”
Reagan’s gender may separate her from many of her peers Eagleton, but the most important thing about coaching baseball — or softball — at the park is the same as with all the rest, Bailey said.
Everything from Eagleton’s operating revenue, administration, coaching and field maintenance is parent-driven. It can take a lot. New lights for the Little League field alone will cost $70,000, when the money is found to put them up. When it’s time to make the park’s fields ready for play each summer, it’s the parents/coaches who get it done.
“When we have work days on the field, she’s down here,” Bailey said. “She doesn’t say, ‘I’m a woman; I can’t do this.’ She’s one of the guys.”
Principal at nearby Eagleton Middle School, Bailey said one thing, above all others, motivates people like Reagan, league president Joel Moss and himself to give of their time.
“Kids,” he said. “We want to keep as many of our kids as we can in a structured environment where they have role modes and leadership, so they don’t get into trouble. That’s why we stay here.”
For Reagan, there’s also a lifelong love of baseball itself. An admitted baseball junkie, she keeps up with the professional game as best she can.
“There’s really not much time,” she said. “I try to catch SportsCenter when I can.”
A married mother of three?