Today, girls grow up able to participate in just about any sport they wish, so it's hard to imagine a time when that wasn't always the case. I couldn't even imagine it myself until I was 12 years old in the 1970s and was told I wasn't allowed to play baseball. I was always athletic, active and enjoyed playing sports, having three brothers and living in a neighborhood full of kids. I also happened to be good at baseball so wanted to play on a Little League team. I didn't realize that, at that time, girls were prohibited from playing baseball.
My parents were very supportive of my interest in playing and helped me with the process to join a team. First, we had to find a Little League team who would let a girl try out. A bunch of teams refused, but we finally found Harold Huggins, who was willing to let me. I ended up making the team; however, that still didn’t mean I was allowed to play.
In the first game of the season, the umpire barred me from playing on the basis of my gender. I didn’t quite understand why I wasn’t being allowed to play. Following that first game, my parents sued Little League and its policy that prohibited girls, and Coach Huggins testified on my behalf. The trial went on, and I waited to see if I would be allowed on the field.
In the meantime, I would still dress for each game and sit on the bench. One umpire didn’t even let me sit on the bench so I sat in the stands. Our efforts ended up getting a lot of media attention, and some people, who were uncomfortable with the idea of girls playing Little League, heckled my family and me and called us names. Luckily, my parents sheltered me from a lot of the backlash. My teammates were also very welcoming and supportive of having me on the team with them.
About four or five games into the season, the court ruling came back and Little League revised its national policy. The ruling allowed girls across the country to be able to play Little League. In my first game that I was finally allowed on the field, thousands of people and media showed up. We ended up winning that game, and I scored a run.
I don’t ever think of myself as being the first girl to play Little League. I just liked sports and wanted to participate. Now, looking back, the teamwork and community involvement I experienced from playing team sports helped shape me into the person I am today. I’m still passionate about teamwork and giving back to the community, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been able to participate in team sports since I was young.
I joined LongHorn Steakhouse 12 years ago as an assistant manager and was promoted to a Managing Partner and then to my current role as a Director of Operations. I continue to emphasize the spirit of teamwork among all my restaurant team members. I also instill that same competitive spirit into my teams that I’ve always had since playing Little League.
By: Ambra Offutt, Director of Operations, LongHorn Steakhouse
Ambra’s story was also recently featured in The Tennessean.