Groundbreaker: 11-year-old Claremont girl makes history

by Andrew Alonzo |

Addie Smith is not your average 11-year-old or Claremont Little Leaguer.

The catcher and outfielder for the major league Mariners — one of only a handful of girls in CLL — was one of just 96 girls from the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico invited to Little League International’s inaugural Maria Pepe Legacy Series June 7-9 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The event was held in observance of a landmark 1974 court ruling allowing girls to play Little League baseball.

Addie is the first Claremonter to play at the historic Little League World Series Complex in Williamsport, which includes Lamade and Volunteer stadiums and is the site of the Little League World Series, coming up August 14-25.

Addie has been playing baseball for as long as she can remember. Her earliest memories of the game are playing catch in the backyard with her father, Scott Smith. She has climbed the ranks of CLL over the last seven years, and was the only girl in the majors division this year.

“For a while there was a whole mom cheering squad that just cheered for Addie the catcher because it was so fun to see this girl back there just as tough as any of those boys,” said Addie’s mother, Claire Smith. “I think sometimes it can get almost a little harder because she’s the only girl out there and has to prove herself a little bit, knowing a lot of eyes are on her when she just wants to go play baseball and have fun.”

Addie Smith batting earlier this month at Lamade Stadium, site of the Little League World Series. Photo/by Scott Smith

The opportunity to travel to Williamsport seemed to have come and gone when, after applying to attend the series back in March, Scott Smith received an email that she had not been selected. Weeks later, after some girls dropped out of the trip, Addie was invited.

“We were kind of bummed when she didn’t get it,” Scott Smith said. “Then we got that email a week before and we’re like ‘Holy cow,’ and figured we had to find a way to make it happen. It was definitely worth the effort.”

Maria Pepe Legacy Series weekend opened June 7 with an assessment clinic. Addie was then assigned to her team, “Perfect Storm.” The girls got the World Series treatment and after inspirational words from Pepe herself, played a doubleheader June 8 and a third game June 9.

Addie had a great showing over the weekend, with two singles in five at bats, two runs batted in and two walks. She played catcher for nine innings during her final game and threw out a runner attempting to steal second base. Perfect Storm went 1-2.

Believe it or not, the groundwork for Addie’s baseball journey began more than 70 years ago, in 1951, when Little League added a regulation to its rulebook barring girls from play. This edict remained unchallenged for 21 years, until 1972, when three games into their season, the Young Democrats of Hoboken, New Jersey were informed that if they didn’t remove 12-year-old Maria Pepe from their roster, the league would be stripped of its charter. Young Maria stepped aside reluctantly.

But in the 1970s things were changing for women and girls, and shortly after Maria was barred from competing, the National Organization for Women represented her in a lawsuit against Little League Baseball. In 1974, the New Jersey Superior Court upheld a ruling that forced Little League to remove its gender clause, opening the door for girls to play ball. Maria’s story is highlighted at

Claremont Little Leaguer Addie Smith with her prized cap with autographs from female baseball trailblazers Kelsie Whitmore, Justine Siegal, Maybelle Blair, and Maria Pepe. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

All this history is well and good, but at the end of the day Addie is just playing the game she loves. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of female professional baseball player Kelsie Whitmore, who back in April inked a contract with the Oakland Ballers, and is the first woman to appear in the starting lineup in an Atlantic League game.

“I realized I could maybe at some point get there,” Addie said. “At first, I thought there was no way getting there because there’s been no girls in the major leagues or minor leagues for like forever I don’t think. I didn’t really think I could do it but now, maybe I actually can.”

She hopes more girls get smitten by the sport and join her on the baseball diamond.

“Kelsie was really big to me because I realized I could keep going and I kind of hope I’m that to them,” Addie said.

A kid with big dreams, Addie hopes to keep improving and one day make it to the major leagues.

For now, next up is an all-girls national tournament in Kentucky with Baseball For All, a national organization aimed at showing girls can play baseball too, in July. Next spring Addie will suit up for Claremont Little League again for her final year in the majors division.

She learned during Tuesday’s interview that she’s become a role model for the next generation of baseball playing girls.

“A lot of people know who she is. It’s an interesting sort of notoriety,” said Claire Smith. “There were definitely some little girls this year who were playing at the lower levels of Farm and T-Ball who came over specifically to watch her play” in Claremont. “Whether she knows it or not, she’s definitely a role model for some of the younger kids.”

“I honestly didn’t really know that,” Addie said. “I hope those girls keep playing and get to the majors too … and get to play maybe even higher someday.”


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