Batting down baseball's barriers: New book inspired by Kirkland high school athlete
By MEGAN MANAGAN
Kirkland Reporter writer
November 29, 2010 · Updated 8:41 AM
It started simply as a father bragging about his daughter to a friend. But when your daughter plays on the high school baseball team, it's a story that tends to stick with people.
It stuck so much that a local author used the story as the premise of his new book. Jody Studdard's book A Different Diamond, was inspired by Juanita High School junior Amanda Tsujikawa.
"I think it's really great," she said of the book. "I was so happy. This is so cool."
What's different about Tsujikawa is, despite being in high school, a time when most girl ball players head to the softball field, she still plays baseball. Since the age of three she's played, so it was seemed like the only choice for her to keep playing when most of the girls her age move on to playing softball. Tsujikawa played baseball at Lake Washington High School last spring, but transfered to Juanita this year and recently finished the fall season.
"I always just thought I would stick with it," she said of playing baseball. While she runs the field for the baseball team at Juanita, she plays competitive softball in her free time, currently as the shortstop for a select team, the Woodinville Reign.
"I was like wow she plays baseball at the high school," said Studdard when he first heard about Tsujikawa. "I had the same reaction a lot of people do – really, girls play baseball? I just knew that was the story."
Studdard, a family friend of the Tsujikawa's, was already in the process of writing a new book, knowing he wanted to focus on softball. After talking with Tsujikawa's dad, Studdard realized this was a story he had to run with.
In Studdard's fictional version, Brooke, the main character based on Tsujikawa, is asked to join the team after the baseball team loses their starting shortstop right at the beginning of the season. One of the biggest challenges for Brooke was being accepted by the guys on the baseball team. But Tsujikawa said in real life her experience has been a little bit different.
"Usually the guys are pretty accepting," she said. "They kind of know how things are. I've played with them for so long. The opposing teams though, kind of have a hard time. They don't know how to deal with it and sometimes there are rude comments."
While Tsujikawa faces something of a disadvantage on the baseball field, just being much smaller than the boys, she's never let it intimidate her or slow her down.
"Man, she is not intimidated for one second," said Studdard. "She carries the big bat out there and throws just as hard as the guys. She's amazing."
After deciding this was the book Studdard wanted to write, he talked with Tsujikawa and quickly learned there were logistical things even he, a sports fan, didn't think about. In the book, Brooke, plays shortstop for both her softball and baseball teams, Tsujikawa plays second base during baseball and typically shortstop in softball.
"Amanda pointed out some things that I didn't know," he said. She pointed out early on that softball pitches are usually harder to hit because the ball gets to the batter much sooner than it does in baseball. In softball the pitcher's mound is much closer to the plate than in baseball, which has a larger field.
"It was kind of funny, she opened my eyes on several things," said Studdard.
Tsujikawa said its been her experience that the boys on the baseball team have a different attitude when it comes to playing, a similarity to the book's portrayal.
"The guys are tougher," she said. "Their attitude is more about playing, they are there to play. It's more intense."
Whether they are more intense or not, Studdard said their female counterparts don't usually get the recognition they deserve, even in the ranks of fiction.
"One thing I noticed is there are a lot of sports books, but all of them are about boys sports, like football or baseball. There are not that many girls sports so thats where I got the original idea," he said. His first softball book, Fastpitch Fever was written for a slight younger audience, Studdard said.
"The others are more traditional kids books," said the author. "I wanted to do something different, but I always wanted to write a sports story."
Tsujikawa's spring baseball season will begin in March. A Different Diamond is available on Amazon.com for purchase.Contact Kirkland Reporter writer Megan Managan at firstname.lastname@example.org.