Paxtyn Mercier, 10, of DeLand, knows exactly what she wants to be when she grows up — a player in Major League Baseball.
It’s a role that doesn’t exist yet. Eighty years since women played baseball during World War II, as seen in the popular movie A League of Their Own, women playing baseball professionally are nearly nonexistent.
A series of firsts hint that times may be changing: A woman was hired as an onfield coach for a major league team for the first time ever in 2020, and in 2022, a woman made history as the first on-field player for a professional baseball team (for an independent baseball league that partners with the MLB).
That her dream is something that doesn’t exist yet doesn’t phase Paxtyn. Already, she’s had to chart her own way.
Because she was too old to play T-ball when she began at age 7, the next obvious option, at least for girl players, was softball. But Paxtyn had already caught the baseball bug, and softball wasn’t going to cut it.
“I played softball for a couple weeks, and I thought it was boring,” Paxtyn said.
Instead, Paxtyn started machine pitch, a program that is intended to transition players from T-ball to baseball by teaching them how to hit pitches.
By the time she started DeLand Little League the following season, she was the only girl playing baseball locally (there are now a few others).
Getting on a competitive travel team, the next step in her training, wasn’t easy, according to Paxtyn’s mother, Megan Mercier. Three of them said no, before she found a place with Oviedo Knightmare.
“She has to work three times as hard as any boy,” Mercier said.
Mercier summed up the activities Paxtyn is involved in.
“The past season, Paxtyn has played both recreational and travel ball. When the recreational season was over, and so just this past season, she finally got a yes from a travel ball team and she played both recreational and travel. And then once the rec season was over, she made the all-star team and did all-stars and played travel. And now we think for the fall, she’s just gonna do travel. I don’t think she’s gonna play racquetball this year,” Mercier said.
Still, the hard work is paying off.
Not only did Paxtyn make the all-star team at DeLand Little League, she was asked to be on an all-girl team to play in the Baseball for All Nationals in Kentucky. The tournament was held in July. (Baseball for All is an organization that promotes gender equity in baseball, and was started by Justine Siegal, the first female coach of a professional men’s baseball team.)
Paxtyn, who plays first base, pitcher and catcher, had an insane .632 batting average for the season.
“As her coach, I can tell you that she had 12 boys on our team who adored her, not because she was a girl playing baseball, but because of the quality of her character,” said Oliver King, who coached Paxtyn for DeLand Little League.
King, who originally coached softball, tried to recruit Paxtyn.
“I said no a whole bunch,” Paxtyn said. “So he just moved to baseball.”
In addition to her teams and her coaches, Paxtyn’s family is her biggest supporter. Her grandparents flew to Kentucky to see her play, her 8-year-old sister Parker has sold handmade jewelry at opening games (the business was called Ball-Park Creations, and 50 percent of the proceeds went to New Hope Animal Shelter), and her cousin Brody is the one who inspired her to play in the first place.
For Paxtyn, the moral of the story is simple: “You can do anything if you put your mind to it.”