“Dear Girls with Game” – Chris Downs

dear girls with game

Dear Girls With Game,

For decades, I’ve not only served as an employee for Little League, but have also volunteered at both the local and district levels, just as millions of other adults have done over the years in an effort toward making the Little League experience uniquely special for all kids.

One such period of time has stuck with me and is dear to my heart. Turning back the Little League scrapbook pages in my mind, I stop on the summer of 2010. The previous couple of seasons, I was managing in a minor, player-pitch baseball division. Among the four teams in that 2010 regular-season loop was an equally humble and tenacious first baseman and pitcher named Grace Schreckengast.

When it came time to assemble tournament teams, our league decided to enter two minor division teams. Now, these players were 8-to-10 years old but had not been selected to regular-season major division rosters. The way the all-star draft was organized, the “A team” was selected and the remaining players were placed on the “B team.” Myself, our other two coaches, Grace, and the 11 other players became the “B Team.”

That was OK with us, because we had the chance to play in two local tournaments (guaranteed four games). Yes, we were short on pitching, our defense was just OK, and we could hit a little, but what was most special was we got to put on our “all-star” uniforms, represent our league, and play baseball.

The first tournament had us out of contention quickly, but everyone played hard, and we had some fun.

A week later, the second tournament began. What we didn’t or couldn’t do in the first tournament, we showed we could do this time around. Grace was one of the big reasons why.

Anyone who has coached, played, or been emotionally invested in a double-elimination tournament understands that the first goal is to stay out of the loser’s bracket. We failed to do that in our first tournament and were determined to avoid that fate in the second tournament. But, we didn’t.

Through our team’s first three games, Grace played first base and third base, but her mark was made on the mound. After dropping the first game, she helped our team win three straight games by staring down one batter after another and delivering several key hits.

On this run, our team avenged the team that handed us our first loss and eventually set up a loser’s bracket final matchup with the better of the two host teams. Grace had pitched the previous game but was eligible to throw. I knew she was nervous, but I asked if she wanted to start. Not at all surprised … She took the ball.

She was solid in the first inning. Was a little off the plate in the second and third innings, but by the fourth she had reached her pitch limit. Taking the ball from her was the hardest decision I had to make during that tournament. With a high-five and pat on her shoulder, she left the mound and played out the rest of the game at first base.

The team rallied around her and made the final score close. Yes, we lost the game, but that night and throughout the tournament Grace showed everyone what personal pride looks like and how the team is more important than one player.

In the years since, that resilient 10-year-old, matured into a well-rounded honors student, musician, scholastic athlete, college graduate, is now a registered nurse.

Grace GWG Photo

I was so proud of her that night and even prouder today. It is no surprise that the life path Grace is traveling has guided her to helping others!

I’m sure there are hundreds of volunteers who have a similar story about an inspiring girl like you who continues to go out there and give it your all. But, more importantly, I’m sure there are hundreds of young girls looking up to YOU as their own role model.

So on behalf of all the volunteers like myself, thanks, Grace, and thanks to each and every one of you for stepping up to the plate when it counts. All the best!


Chris Downs, Little League® Director of Constituent Communications

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NOTEThe “Dear Girls with Game” letter series is a piece of the #GWG50 Celebration in 2024, with written letters from staff members from Little League International focused at inspiring the next generation of Girls with Game. To learn more about this initiative, visit LittleLeague.org/GWG50. The #GWG50 celebration is proudly supported by DICK’S Sporting Goods, a long-time Little League partner that is committed to creating opportunities for girls and women in sports and will be activating around key events and milestones this year.