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The “Vocation” of Trailblazing: MLB The Show’s New Female Gameplay Challenges Adversity


A female player on MLB Road to the Show. / Courtesy of MLB the Show


Earlier this week, Harrison Butker, the Kansas City Chiefs starting kicker, made a harrowing speech at ​​ Benedictine College. Among other topics, he urged graduates to consider a woman’s “vocation as a wife and mother.”


He elaborated, “Being locked in with your vocation and staying in your lane is going to be the surest way for you to find true happiness and peace in this life.”


Hearing such an insolent message from inside the community sends a clear message to women pursuing careers in sports—but any woman in the sports world knows that “staying in her lane” was never an option. 


Last month, MLB the Show released a new gameplay feature that spotlights women who pursued their vocations in baseball, contrary to Butker’s request. Sony San Diego captions the Show’s trailer: “Everyone has Major League dreams. Now it's your time to unlock them in ‘Road to The Show: Women Pave Their Way.’” Highlighting women’s stories is more important now than ever, so let’s examine the trailblazing women behind this groundbreaking new feature in The Show.


Mollie Braley, the game’s narrative designer, made it her mission to create an authentic gameplay experience tailored to women’s stories. Braley told The Show’s team that the game is “meant to highlight the strength, tenacity, and resilience that it takes to break into the sport; but not shy away from the struggles that many have faced.” To highlight these themes, Braley goes “straight to the source” to interview women in baseball. 


A close collaborator to the project—and newly minted Pioneer League player—is Kelsie Whitmore. Whitmore collaborated with Braley by sharing her personal experience in professional baseball. Whitmore told The Show, “I am proud of MLB the Show for taking a chance of applying real life change into the game.”


Road to the Show’s female narrative incorporates key components of Whitmore’s journey. From Whitmore, Braley learned “the immense importance of community and support amongst the small but ever-growing group of women in baseball.”  For that reason, the female RTTS narrative features your player’s comradery with a “buddy character” and fellow ballplayer: Mia Lewis. As stated by Braley, Mia embodies the “camaraderie professional players like Kelsie Whitmore  said [are] so important to their success on and off the field.” Not only is Mia a “sounding board” and “support system,” but she is a dynamic character who evolves throughout the game.


Promoting the game’s release in March, Whitmore posted on Instagram:  “Absolutely love being connected to something that can empower girls to love baseball the way I do and reach for their dreams.” 


Not only did Braley collaborate with Whitmore, but she also drew inspiration from Toni Stone—one of the first women to play professional baseball. Stone began her professional career in 1946 in the Negro Leagues, playing for the San Francisco Sea Lions, New Orleans Black Pelicans, New Orleans Creoles, Indianapolis Clowns, and Kansas City Monarchs. When she retired in 1954, Stone had a batting average of .243 and was one of few to hit off of the league’s most formidable pitcher, Satchel Paige.


Toni Stone on MLB Road to the Show. / Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune


In 1990, Stone was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame  in both the “Women in Baseball” and “Negro League Baseball” exhibits—so it’s no surprise her groundbreaking career made its way to The Show. Her story can now be retold and learned by a new culture of baseball fans. 


In a world where women are (still, somehow?) discouraged from untraditional vocations, MLB The Show provides a new and exciting advancement. 


So, when Butker talked of a woman’s “vocation,” maybe he should have consulted Toni Stone who said: “A woman has her dreams, too. When you finish high school, they tell a boy to go out and see the world. What do they tell a girl? They tell her to go next door and marry the boy that their families picked for her. It wasn’t right. A woman can do many things.”



 

Edited by Hadlea Lindstrom

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