Mary Pat Thomas is a ballplayer.
That’s how she sees herself. That’s how her teammates see her.
Yes, she’s different. A girl playing high school baseball isn’t typical. But watch her on the diamond and in the dugout during a Robert F. Munroe (Quincy, Fla.) game and it’s obvious. She fits right in.
“She definitely does,” said shorstop Jackson Boone, who has been best friends with Thomas for over a decade. “And she works hard. She keeps the team up.”
Said head coach Jeremy Barlow: “She’s one of them. They’ve grown up together. When they were little they played (baseball) together. So it’s nothing different. You wouldn’t know anything is different, honestly.”
This is the first year Thomas has played high school baseball.
She’d been a member of the school’s softball team the previous five years, but when it was announced they wouldn’t have enough players to field a team in 2016 — Munroe has only a few dozen high-school aged kids in the school — she decided to give baseball a try.
“It’s like a family out here,” Thomas said. “They treat me just like anybody else. I like that. I don’t want to be treated differently.”
Thomas wasn’t worried about her teammates’ reaction. She’s been friends with many of them since she first picked up a glove. So she knew they would welcome her onto the team.
The opponents were a different story, though. Thomas had no idea what the reaction would be. And that was truly her only concern about joining the baseball team.
“She did ask if I thought other teams would make fun of her,” Boone said.
Thomas said that has happened on occasion. But not nearly often enough for her to regret her decision in anyway.
“Some teams are polite, some teams aren’t,” Thomas said. “They laugh and say, ‘They have a girl on the team.’ I get annoyed sometimes, because it’s kind of immature. But I don’t really listen to them.”
Last week in a game against Rickards, Thomas batted seventh in the Munroe lineup. And on her first at-bat she was hit square in the hip with a fastball.
She dropped the bat and jogged down to first.
“Don’t rub it!,” one of her teammates shouted when she was standing on the bag. She didn’t. She just took her lead off of first.
“She handled that better than most boys would,” a Rickards parent said from the stands.
Which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Because she’s a ballplayer. One who handled every chance in the field — Thomas played second and third — flawlessly in the game against Rickards.
Thomas has had no problem fitting in on a baseball diamond or in a baseball dugout — which, you know, can be quite different than the one she was used to.
“Oh, I love it,” Thomas said. “I like baseball better because they don’t do the kind-of-stupid cheers. They do these cheers in softball, where you have to sing along. Baseball is just cheering on your teammate.”
While that transition has been excellent for Thomas, she admits she has struggled getting adjusted to other aspects of the game — most notably in the batter’s box. That’s only natural, of course.
Hitting a softball is much different (not easier necessarily, just different) than hitting a baseball.
So she’s still getting accustomed to the latter.
“It’s a different world out here,” Thomas said with a smile.
But she does love it. And even if the softball team does return next season at Munroe, Thomas says she’s sticking with baseball.
She doesn’t want to give up the sport again.
“I really like baseball a lot,” Thomas said. “I enjoy all of it. I just love playing.”
And if she does hear snickering from opposing dugouts in the future, because high-school boys aren’t used to playing against the opposite sex, Boone said it likely won’t last long.
“Every single time something is said, the next play she makes a great play,” Boone said. “And pretty much puts it in their face.”
Like a true ballplayer.