She had to walk by the doorway a few times. She wasn’t used to being nervous. She quickly glanced into the room. There were a dozen boys her age and older listening to the Peninsula High School varsity baseball coach. He was explaining how to try out for the team.
She stepped through that doorway and sat down. She was asked what she was doing there. Then Hannah Carlson said out loud what she’d been thinking all freshman year: She wanted to play on the boys’ baseball team.
Hannah was sent to the athletic director’s office to confirm that league rules forbade girls from playing on a boys’ team. By the time she had the regulation proving she could play, she said, the tryout meeting was over.
Her mother, Tricia Carlson, came to school looking for answers.
“They told me that because she was a girl she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the boys at this level. They told me she can’t hit as hard or throw as far, and that basically the boys are going to pass her up,” Tricia said.
“She’s been hearing that since she was 8.”
The coaching staff backed away from their initial resistance, said Tricia, stressing they care about the kids and just didn’t know whether by senior year Hannah would be able to keep up with the boys on the team.
“When I was younger, I remember talking about playing high school when I got to that age, so it’s just kind of been there for a long time,” Hannah said.
Watching Hannah at the Key Pen Little League tryouts in February, hurling balls back and forth with boys her age, nothing stands out but her skill, and the short blond braids under her All Stars cap. She doesn’t look like a girl when she’s standing at the plate, or running across the infield. She doesn’t even look like a teenager.
She looks like an athlete.
Hannah and her family moved to the Key Peninsula when she was 6. She attended Vaughn Elementary and Key Peninsula Middle schools, and is a 14-year-old freshman at Peninsula High.
“I love the school,” she said. “I have all my friends there.” Hannah admits to enjoying roller blading, swimming and math (she’s a ninth-grader in 10th grade geometry), but really it’s all about baseball.
She started with KPLL at age 6 playing coach-pitch, then minors, majors, juniors, All Stars and one Select Team for two seasons, and this year she’s trying out for KPLL seniors.
Now 5’ 6” and a fit 140 lbs., Hannah has never played a season on an all-girls’ team. She was the only girl on her ball team in fourth grade. In fifth grade, she pitched most of the season and her team won first place. In seventh grade, she struck out six batters in a row. Hannah isn’t a real fast pitcher, she says, just a good one.
“I really prefer first base,” said Hannah. “That’ s where the action is.”
Peninsula would be the first school team she played for.
“I’ve had coaches try to switch me to softball, but I just wasn’t interested in it. I like playing baseball. It’s more competitive,” said Hannah.
Last year, Hannah was the only girl on her juniors team and her Select team, where coaches assemble hand-picked players to face other Select teams in the region and compete in tournaments. “There was one other girl on all those teams we played,” said Hannah, “and her name was Hannah, too.”
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS