Sam Haiby striking out gender roles playing baseball with the boys
Moorhead, Minn. - Moorhead freshman baseball player Sam Haiby pushes both feet into the dirt and kicks it back into the wind with the right foot when stepping to the plate. Two taps of the left side of the plate, a couple twirls forward of the bat overhead and few back and forth beneath the knees. From there, Haiby’s eyes are locked into the pitcher.
The stance resembles no baseball player, just as Haiby resembles no teammate or opponent.
“I’ve never modeled my stance off of anyone,” Haiby said. “I just go up there and do my own thing.”
Haiby’s “own thing” is something that is unique. Sam is not short for Samuel. It’s short for Samantha, and she plays Moorhead High School baseball with the boys.
“You can tell she’s an athlete,” Moorhead freshman baseball coach Steve Timmer said. “She can pretty much do anything. I know she plays basketball, but doesn’t play a fall sport. She sure could. With the type of athlete she is and person she is, she could.”
She’s not too bad at basketball either. She averaged 20.7 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 steals a game in her first year as a starter on the varsity basketball team for Moorhead this season. She’s getting looks from South Dakota State, North Dakota State, North Carolina, New Mexico and Minnesota for basketball.
On Monday, Moorhead softball was practicing at around 4 p.m. Directly next to the practice was Haiby on the mound, making her third start on the mound for the Moorhead freshmen baseball team.
Haiby thinks nothing she does is special. It’s natural. She’s been playing baseball since she was 5 years old. She’s been striking out a lot of boys and getting hits off a lot of boys since she was 9 years old. It’s just what she does. She’s averaging a hit per game and is 2-1 on the mound in the 16 freshman games for Moorhead.
The answer as to why she doesn’t play softball is simple.
“I’ve always played baseball,” Haiby said. “I never had an interest in softball.”
There’s never been anything but acceptance for Haiby on the baseball diamond.
“I’ve always played with the guys,” Haiby said. “People around here know who I am and they just accept it and just keep playing.”
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ 2013-14 participation survey, of the 483,695 high school baseball players across the country, 1,066 were girls. Haiby is now part of that 0.22 percent.
“I’ve never seen it before,” said Moorhead athletic director Dean Haugo, who has been working in high school sports for 18 years. “We’ve had girls wrestle and play football, but never baseball. There’s not a thing she can’t do. She’s the type of girl that will excel at anything she tries.”
That’s the biggest problem for Haiby. She can basically do anything, so every season is a decision as to what sport to play outside of basketball. She’s even thinking of playing soccer in the fall for the first time. For her freshman spring, it came down to track or baseball.
“I was hesitant at first,” Haiby said. “Coaches want you to play, so it’s hard to pick. I thought over it a million times and I guess I’ve always played baseball, so I thought I might as well do it. I think it was a good choice.”
Haiby says she plans to play baseball again next year, but might run track. Wherever she goes, there’ll be a spot for her.
“She runs well, she hits hard, she plays long toss and throws just as long or longer than the guys and she offered to pitch because we don’t have much pitching,” Timmer said. “If she keeps working she has positions that she certainly can play with strength on the varsity level.”
At Monday’s game, there was a man on second and one out. There was a man at the plate. There were men everywhere. On the mound was a woman and she struck out the next two batters swinging at a high fastball and an offspeed pitch in the dirt.
“Baseball has always worked for me,” Haiby said. “I love everything about it.”