Last week, women from around SB Nation participated in a roundtable discussion on Melissa Mayeux, and the possibility of a woman playing in Major League Baseball. With the news breaking earlier that day that Mayeux would be the first woman to appear on the international registration list, wonder did not take long to give way to some of the more plausible realities. Mayeux is a long shot to be signed this year -- or any year, really. At just 16 years old, she has plenty of opportunities that would be met with much less contention, but what Mayeux means to the game goes beyond a far off shot at a big league roster.
Just as nearly all players her age, there are still significant holes in Mayeux’s game. From a scouting standpoint, she is primarily a defensive prospect. Observers have expressed concern with her offensive approach -- bat speed, a lofty leg kick -- but Mayeux is only just beginning her training within the higher levels of the French national system. In addition to a pitching and hitting camp in Germany this week, Mayeux will attend MLB’s European Elite Camp in August, as one of only four French players selected. She sports a strong throwing arm and ability to navigate a shortstop’s tough angles smoothly. With continued development, her agility on the field could prove to be her selling point.
So is the MLB close to adding the first woman player to its ranks? Not in the foreseeable future, but the pressure is building to prepare for the possibility. It’s a subject that is showing up in flashes -- Eri Yoshida, Ghazaleh Sailors, Mo’ne Davis, and now Melissa Mayeux -- women making a name for themselves in a game whose followers have designated their talents to a different sport entirely. Women have been playing organized baseball nearly as long as men have, but instead of promoting integration over time, were directed further away. A woman baseball player does not a softball player make.
These are not athletes looking to be cut a break on account of biological differences; these are women with a passion for playing the game. The beauty of baseball is that it doesn’t take any one type of player to be great; it takes a skill set that makes them better than the competition. That’s never going to change. Melissa Mayeux -- just as any atypical prospect -- should not be signed for the sake of integration alone. It’s going to require absurd talent for a woman to find success at any level in professional baseball, and that player isn’t ready yet. Women will find a future in this game when more than a handful are encouraged to do so. It’s about playing women into the culture of baseball. A player who cannot move beyond societal limitations never even gets the opportunity to contest their physical ability.
Melissa Mayeux may never sign with a major league team. She represents the latest step forward for a ball-first movement of women bringing their talents to new fronts; that is what’s important right now for the game of baseball. For the time, her focus is on playing to her next best level. Wherever that may be.
International free agents are eligible to be signed by major league organizations beginning July 2.