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New York Mets Honor Maybelle Blair With First Legacy Award

Author: John Casey

The New York Mets’ Amazin’ Mets Foundation, led by foundation President and Mets owner Alex Cohen, Thursday awarded the inaugural Amazin’ Mets Foundation Legacy Award to Maybelle Blair, a champion for women’s baseball. The Mets also made a $5,000 donation to Athlete Ally, an advocacy group focusing on making athletic communities more inclusive and less discriminatory and helping athletes to advocate for LGBTQ+ equality.

The Amazin’ Mets Foundation Legacy Award celebrates the people and organizations in baseball that are making a difference on and off the field. The award to Blair honors her travels across the United States speaking on behalf of women’s baseball. As a founding director emeritus of the International Women’s Baseball Center, Blair has continued to break barriers off the field. She has dedicated her life to promoting women in baseball and honoring the history of the leagues she once played for.

Blair was one of the inspirations for and an adviser on the film A League of Their Own, which starred Madonna, Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Rosie O’Donnell, as well as for the Amazon series of the same name, which ran last summer. While promoting the Amazon series on a panel at the Tribeca Festival last year, she came out publicly as a lesbian.

“I feel like I’m on top of the world. In fact, I really am. This is probably one of the happiest days of my life,” she said after the New York Mets and the Amazin’ Mets Foundation presented the inaugural Legacy Award to Blair during a pre-game ceremony at Citi Field in New York before the team’s home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

And from a distance of more than 10 feet, Blair threw out the first pitch, and to everyone who saw it, it was a strike!

“The Mets are a first-class organization, and I respect all of their support. I love baseball. It’s my life. I grew up not knowing anything else but baseball, so I’m gonna die not knowing anything else but baseball because I love it so much,” said Blair, who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which started in the 1940s when many male pros were away in the armed forces during World War II.

Blair was joined during the day’s festivities by members of the Ya Gotta Have Pride Employee Resource Group, which is dedicated to fostering a culture of LGBTQ+ inclusion at the Mets and celebrates all sexualities, gender identities, and expressions, while encouraging allyship among all employees through social events, educational opportunities, and community outreach.

“Maybelle Blair represents so many of the values of the Mets organization,” said Mets employee and resource group member Ryan Kristopik. “She’s highlighted how much of an impact an athlete can have on and off the field.”

“What she has accomplished in her life will benefit generations of athletes to come. She has shown professional athletes what it’s like to live authentically and how the sports world can become a more accepting space for all, specifically the LGBTQ+ community. Maybelle demonstrates that sportsmanship goes hand in hand with equality and inclusivity.”

Blair said the response to her coming-out has been wonderful. “I never expected that I would get the response that I did, especially from so many straight people,” she said. “No one turned against me, and I was afraid that my family might, but it never happened. I’m thrilled about it and so happy that people in this day and age realize that gay people have hearts filled with love and that we are part of the world and part of everyday life with the lives that we lead.”

Blair has led an exceptional life, dating back to her days rooting for her beloved Chicago Cubs. “When I was little, I knew everything about the Chicago Cubs, and so every week my mother and father could pull out a couple of bucks and we’d go to the ballgame at Wrigley Field,” she recalled. “And those were our happiest days, just going down to the Wrigley Field and sitting in the bleachers in the sunshine. And we tried to go on Sundays because they had doubleheaders, so we could see both games. So that’s what I enjoyed the most.”

Blair continues her love for the game. “Right now I’m working my hardest to get a women’s baseball Hall of Fame in Rockford, Ill. And it will be international, not only for women in the United States but all over the world,” she said. Both the movie and TV versions of A League of Their Own focused on the Rockford Peaches, one of the teams in the All-American Girls’ league.

“Look, we don’t need to be inducted into the guys’ Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, because we don’t belong there. The exhibit that is there for us is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but our Hall of Fame should be our own exhibit. Women, we understand each other, and we know we can’t compete with the men, so we need our own place for our own history. That is my dream.”

“By the way,” she added, “I hated Rockford when I played, because I played for the Peoria Redwings, and they were our rivals.”

Blair’s enthusiasm for the game has not waned since her days in Peoria. “Just standing down on the sidelines of Citi Field today just makes me so happy,” she said. You’re part of baseball. You get your feet down there on that ground and that turf, and you just realize how important baseball is in your life.”

Pictured: Maybelle Blair (third from left) with representatives of Athlete Ally and the Mets

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: John Casey

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