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The importance of Melissa Mayeux

Seven of SB Nation's women baseball writers sat at the roundtable to discuss the significance of the first woman -- a 16-year-old shortstop from France -- being declared eligible for the international signing period by Major League Baseball.

Sixteen-year-old French shortstop Melissa Mayeux became the first international woman eligible to be signed by a Major League Baseball team on Sunday when she was added to the league's registration list for the signing period beginning on July 2. Odds are that teams will pass on signing Mayeux until she is at least 18 years old, but the fact that such a thing is possible is a pretty fantastic advancement in the conversation around a sport that is almost totally gender-divided from a young age.

Hopefully Mayeux will only be the first of many women who are able to stay in baseball long enough to potentially make waves in MLB. What would it even be like for a female to crack a big-league roster? Is there really any good reason why the sport should remain male-only? A few female baseball writers from around SB Nation got together to discuss the implications of the Mayeux news and what it might be like for a female trying to break into Major League Baseball.

Our roundtable discussion consisted of:

Tanya Bondurant -- Managing Editor at Pinstripe Alley
Minda Haas -- Writer at Royals Review
Emily Waldon -- Writer at Bless You Boys
Megan Rowley -- Writer at Lookout Landing
Stacey Folkemer -- Editor at Camden Chat
Jen Mac Ramos -- Writer at Purple Row
Carolyn Jelley -- Writer at Purple Row


Tanya Bondurant: How important is this Melissa Mayeux announcement? What would a woman playing in MLB mean to you?

Stacey Folkemer: A woman in MLB would be really, really cool. Like, it wouldn't matter what team she was on and she would immediately be my favorite player. But I don't know how important this announcement is. One 16-year-old girl being added to the international register is still light years away from a woman in the majors.

Megan Rowley: I think it does highlight that when a woman does come up in the majors she might well be an international player because girls play baseball in other countries and don't get relegated to softball (not that there is anything wrong with softball).

Emily Waldon: This season alone has introduced so many new facets to the game as we know it. Some greeted with anticipation, others in a more begrudging fashion. I think there is a massive difference between being added to the register and actually being picked up by the program.

Minda Haas: Good point about softball, Megan. It's a fine sport for those who like it, but growing up I strongly preferred baseball. I only played softball when I aged out of the local baseball league where girls were allowed.

Jen Mac Ramos: I think that it's important because it will help break barriers and help people stop thinking about baseball as a gendered sport.

Minda: There has to be a first step somewhere. She may not end up being the first female MLB player, but there has to be a "first female" somewhere related to MLB. Melissa Mayeux matters as a breaker of one barrier, who may open the door for breakers of bigger ones.

Carolyn Jelley: I think she's still at least two years off of an MLB team picking her up, but I agree with the general consensus here. It would be very cool to see. I love seeing players come out of Europe anyway, bonus points for being a woman.

Stacey: When I was reading the article about her, one thing that actually did excite me was the mention of her possibly playing in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. That's something I can actually imagine happening, unlike seeing her in the majors. And I think that seeing her in the WBC, if the French team gets enough exposure, could be more effective for young women who think they could play baseball than her toiling in the minors somewhere.

Megan: I want it be an assessment by the club that she has value beyond PR value. Also, that's where there being more than one would be amazing, because then there can be a few women who don't make it because prospects often don't and it won't be world ending. I will absolutely buy all the things for the first female player. No matter what club she plays for.

Carolyn: I want to see her signed to a team that has a legitimate gap to fill in their organization. She should be picked up because she has potential to contribute, not so a team can wave the barrier-breaking flag.

Stacey: The more I think about it, the big picture is that this is less about Melissa Mayeux making the majors and more about the girls and young women who will see her playing and think that they can do that. She is very, very unlikely to make the majors, but there won't be a woman in the majors until there is a bigger pool of female players from which to draw. I think in an ideal world no one should sign her because of the PR, but if the PR leads to more girls wanting to play baseball, is it ultimately a bad thing?

Tanya: How would you all like to see a team handle the inevitable media frenzy if they did sign her?

Jen: I think the best way would be to just treat her like another player. Not necessarily treat her like "one of the guys," but to just consider her as a player who has the caliber to be in the organization.

Carolyn: If what we're aiming for is a social movement, I don't think Mayeux is the big break. She's a ball-first style player. The interview Lindsay Berra had with her made her sound way more concerned with playing the game than bringing a wave of women into baseball.

Emily: Keeping a balanced approach. I think there is always the chance that she gets played over another player to create a headline. If she's benched, there's a headline. It would require a coach who can handle the outcry of the media and focus on what is best for his program at that time. Any female in any sport must go into a season being prepared to be treated as an equal. Royal treatment is the death of development.

Tanya: Related to that, what do you all think the reception would be like for a female baseball player both by her teammates and by the fans? MLB hasn't been the most welcoming environment to outsiders trying to break in over the years.

Megan: I think it depends a lot on which team takes her, both in terms of her experience in the clubhouse and the fan reaction.

Minda: I would feel the need to go straight into "don't read the comments" mode.

Jen: That might be tough, but the younger players seem to be more accepting or willing to be open. She will definitely have to be prepared for a lot of bashing and would need a thick skin. And 100 percent would have to avoid comments.

Stacey: Like Megan says, it depends a lot on the team, but I think that given the way some ballplayers have historically treated women reporters, I think it could be ugly.

Carolyn: It absolutely depends on the team that takes her. And the best bet would be to put PR on extreme defense. There are inevitable, awful slips that come with something like this. Cross fingers and delete a lot of comments!

Megan: I feel like the best-case scenario is she establishes a rapport with a veteran who helps her. If Felix Hernandez says, "this is one of our people," that goes a long way (as an example).

Minda: Yeah, but I'd be so afraid someone would be predatory while she tries to find that right veteran mentor. Because people are awful.

Stacey: Now I can't stop thinking about how potentially awful it could be for a woman in the minor leagues. It would take a tougher lady than me, especially if she ends up in a bad situation.

Minda: Have you guys read Dirk Hayhurst's books and columns? He has described some stuff -- and I've seen enough similar stuff to believe him -- that it could potentially be an awful experience.

Jen: Garrett Broshuis also had an old column for Baseball America where he described his experience of a clubhouse reacting to a female reporter before and it was not pretty.

Minda: Even from a straight-up logistical standpoint, there would be some stuff to figure out. Like, how would you provide a safe space for changing/showering and whatnot without totally alienating her from the rest of her team? Not that that should prevent a team from signing a woman, but it could be tricky to figure out.

Stacey: There are just so many factors that come into play, from logistics to fan and team reaction and more that make it extremely unlikely that any team will even bother taking the risk. The woman would have to be a superstar-level prospect to make it worth it to them.

Minda: You're probably right, Stacey. It might be a good start to root for her to play with France in the WBC, because global exposure would be awesome.

Stacey: Many things that have been said in here have made me think of Jackie Robinson. There are a lot of differences of course, but also a number of similarities. In Mr. Robinson's case, the plan succeeded because 1) he was very good, and 2) he had the temperament to withstand what was thrown at him. But to find Jackie Robinson, the perfect man to break the color barrier, there were many very good African-American players from which to choose. That just doesn't exist among female baseball players. So you have to just hope that Mo'ne Davis and Melissa Mayeux and others pave the way to get more and more ladies playing baseball so that one day MLB will have the right player to break out.

Tanya: Someone is going to have to be prepared to see the nastiness of decades' worth of gender inequality thrown her way, just as Jackie Robinson had to deal with decades of race inequality being heaped upon him. It might be hard to offer up your daughter for that sacrifice.

Jen: I think there's also this patriarchal shield of fathers not wanting to expose their daughters to the nastiness that they could face if they try to fight the inequality. That could pose as a problem for some.

Tanya: That's what I was thinking, Jen. It may not be a big deal in 20 or 30 years if we start including girls in baseball from the start. But right now? I wouldn't blame any parent for not wanting their kid to be the poster child for the movement. It would be hard.

Tanya: Does anyone have any closing comments they'd like to make?

Emily: For me, I'm excited to watch Mayeux develop. I have to say I wasn't very aware of her activity until just recently, but watching her game tape shows a very intriguing individual. I truly hope she is about to break into the WBC. I, for one, will be watching. As far as what the future holds? Being 16, we all have a while before a solid answer can be provided.

Stacey: I would really like a woman to play in the majors. It would probably be the coolest thing to ever happen to me, sports-wise. Even if she were a Yankee.

Jen: It will be a big step in advancement of equality within sports culture if Mayeux gets drafted, but it would take more than just one person to further that. That being said, it would be really great and fun to see her play in the WBC and have that serve as a launching pad for her.

Minda: The time between now and the next World Baseball Classic will be, by far, the most attention I've ever paid to French baseball. Whether Melissa Mayeux is to be the first woman in American professional baseball, seeing a young woman on an international stage may be an important piece of inspiration for little girls who want to try baseball instead of softball, but have always been led to assume baseball was just for boys. Baseball should be accessible to anyone, regardless of race, gender, economic status or anything else. Maybe Mayeux, along with Mo'ne Davis, are just the ones to open the door to the eventual "first woman in the Majors." But I'm good and ready to see that door open.

Megan: I would love to see it, and I hope it is the beginning of a lot of young women trying to break in, and part of a larger conversation about girls playing baseball. And I will legit cry when a woman makes a start on an MLB team. Any team.