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Girl pitches perfect game

by TOM KEEGAN Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World on June 11, 2013 10:40 AM

LAWRENCE, Kan. — It’s an age-old playground taunt, but now it’s high praise in the Douglas County Amateur Baseball Association’s 10-and-under National League: “You throw like a girl!”

That’s because the only girl in the league throws better than just about any of the boys.

The words “perfect game” and the date May 7, 2013, are scribbled on a baseball in a plastic case in Georgia Rea’s bedroom to commemorate the baseball-crazed, lanky left-hander’s remarkable feat. Rea, 10, pitches for the Cubs. She tossed a perfect game that day in a game shortened to five innings in accordance with the league’s mercy rule. Rea, the only girl among 600 or so DCABA players, struck out 13 of the 15 batters she faced. To watch her pitch is to marvel at the intense focus in her eyes, her attention to detail, her well-honed baseball instincts.

From the game’s first out to the last, her game face never leaves her. To interview her is to never stop smiling. The intensity in her eyes vanishes and is replaced by a brightness that rounds out a smile that seldom takes a break. Rea’s love of playing baseball, it seems, is rivaled only by her love of talking the game, even though she doesn’t quite have the lingo down pat. After encountering less success during a Wednesday night game at YSI Field 3, Rea conducted her first interview and looked back on her big moment.

“At the very end I said, ‘Yes, I pitched a full game!’“ Rea said. “My dad was like, ‘No, you pitched a perfect game.’ I’m like, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘It’s the best you can get.’ I’m like, ‘Yay!’ I knew nobody got on base, but I didn’t know that was a perfect game.”

She does know the Cubs’ record in league play: 5-2. And she knows the record is the same in tournament play.

She also knows the origin of her full name.

“Georgia Bree Elizabeth Rea, named after George Brett, my dad’s favorite baseball player,” Rea said. “They couldn’t call me George and have my middle name be Brett because that would be kind of weird. They had to make it a little bit more girly.”

It wasn’t a desire to hang out with boys that landed Rea in DCABA instead of softball. Her father and coach, Chad Rea, felt that his daughter would learn better fundamentals playing for him in as competitive a league as possible.

“She’ll make the switch to softball eventually,” Chad said.

Says Georgia: “You never know. I could go to softball or I could go back to baseball next year.”

Meanwhile, Georgia said, one of the Cubs’ assistant coaches encourages her to use her femininity to distract the opposing pitcher: “Coach Robby always says, ‘Go smile at the pitcher. Go wink at the pitcher.’ And that one time I winked at him, I got a hit on the first pitch.”

Asked whether she ever is teased by boys, she flashed her signature big smile and made it clear she has the final word on any such exchanges.

“I don’t listen to them,” she said. “I’m like, ‘I striked you out in baseball.’ I bet those kids go home saying, ‘Dang it.’”

Again, she hasn’t perfected her baseball talk. But in keeping with perfect-game tradition, she did thank her fielders.

“The other two got out at first, help from shortstop and first,” she said of the non-strikeouts. “Groundball to shortstop (Joey Wood), threw to first, beautiful stretch by Charlie (Elsten) and got him out. And then line drive to first, got him out.”

She also thanked catchers Tanner Glanton and Anthony Barberena (aka A-Barb and Salvy, after Royals catcher Salvador Perez). Reaching first base on a dropped third strike is quite common in youth baseball.

“If it wasn’t for those guys, I wouldn’t have done it,” she said. “Many of those could have been drop-down third strikes.”

Georgia proudly boasts that her 13-year-old brother, Hunter, already is 6-foot-1 and plays a mean first base. Their mother, Renate, has another on the way.

“I am extremely proud of her,” Renate said. “It’s amazing to watch her and, with Chad’s love of baseball, to turn around and see my daughter love baseball just as much.”

Georgia isn’t the first ballplayer who says her father is more demanding of her than any of her teammates.

“Dad’s like, ‘Why didn’t you make that play?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know!’ “ Georgia said in her animated way.

At last check, no plans are in the way to declare May 7 Georgia Rea Day, but if that should change, you just know that Georgia Bree Elizabeth Rea would deliver a perfect keynote speech, replete with imperfect baseball terminology.

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