The diamonds girls really care about

Pennsylvania softball player, 11, thinks her team's field should be as nice as the boys'.

Published May 17, 2006 7:31PM (EDT)

Today so far, we've been reminded that our country -- sometimes -- stands for intolerance and embarrassingly dangerous sex ed. So now let's take a moment to honor two truly, proudly apple-pie American traditions: youth softball, and the right to fight for a level playing field.

Eleven-year-old Gabby Means of Greenfield, Pa., has long complained about crappy conditions at the diamond where her girls softball team plays (coached by her dad). "It wouldn't be so bad to play on an uneven, overgrown, rocky field," says today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "if it weren't for the fact that the boys play on vastly superior Hammer Field, nearby."

"I've always felt it was unfair," Gabby told the newspaper.

Injury was added to insult last year when a grounder bounced off a rock and gave her sister, who also plays, a big shiner. While the black eye "looked cool," Gabby says, it also made her even madder. "That made me feel more determined, so in time less girls would get black eyes trying to play baseball," Gabby said.

Then an ad she saw taught her this lesson: If you can't beat 'em, compete for a cash prize! Gabby read about the "Diamonds in the Rough" competition sponsored by engine maker Briggs & Stratton, which grants $5,000 annually to spruce up each of 16 youth ball fields nationwide. That, plus one lucky diamond receives a $20,000 grand prize.

Gabby submitted an essay describing her team's plight and recently learned she'd made the finals (along with at least four other girls). Grand-prize winners are chosen through online balloting. Read the essays, take your pick, and vote early and often!

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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