It’s just mid-morning, but the air is already so choked with heat that the stadium bathes in a sticky sheen. While there’s plenty of space in the stands, no one moves to take the good seats behind home plate. Instead, the small crowd seeks refuge in a tiny pocket of shade up the third-base line as the turf below bakes and edges toward a triple-digit temperature.
This is the Washington Nationals’ old spring training complex in Viera, Fla. It is, in other words, a brutal place for a vacation in late August.
Kelly Oder doesn’t mind. She has traveled from her home in Wichita, Kan., and she will come back tomorrow and the next day and the next.
“I took a twelve-day vacation just to come here,” Oder says. “Everyone asked, ‘you’re taking vacation to watch baseball?’ I’m like, best vacation there is.”
“And it’s women.”
This is the first game of the 2018 Women’s Baseball World Cup, with Japan playing the Dominican Republic. The tournament has been held every other year since 2004, but this is the first time that it is being hosted in the United States. It’s the world’s biggest stage for women’s baseball; for several of the participating countries, it’s the only stage for women’s baseball.
Oder played growing up in Penfield, Ill. There was no girls’ team available, so she first attempted to join her local boys’ team in 1976—just two years after the landmark lawsuits that pushed Little League to allow opportunities for girls to play, too.