Like most young girls, Stacy Sunny grew up dreaming of what she wanted to be as an adult. However, Sunny's dreams weren't limited to typical female professions. She knew all along that she wanted to be a professional baseball player.
After four seasons as the only girl in Little League Baseball and two more years in Pony League, Sunny slowly realized that her dream wasn't going to come true. But she always kept it in the back of her mind, and when the Colorado Silver Bullets were formed three years ago as the first-ever women's professional baseball team, Sunny got a chance to fulfill her lifelong vision.
"[The Silver Bullets] mean that there's opportunity out there for women," Sunny said. "There are now dreams that can happen. It's all about opportunity right now. It's all about getting a chance to play the game and do the things that you know you can do.
"Even if there's only one woman out there that can do something that a man can do, then women should get a chance. Hopefully, we're opening the door for opportunity for the younger girls right now. Hopefully, we'll see women playing professional baseball in the future."
The Silver Bullets were in Durham last Saturday night facing an all-star team composed of Marines from nearby Fort Bragg. The Silver Bullets are entering their third season, attempting not only to improve, but also to prove that women belong in the professional ranks.
A large crowd piled into the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Saturday night, as people came from far and wide to see the Silver Bullets. The fans saw Colorado pick up its third victory of the season, a 5-2 win.
The Silver Bullets managed only four hits, but they were all timely. They limited Fort Bragg to only two runs, despite giving up 11 hits. The low score was made possible by excellent pitching from second-year pitcher Pam Davis. The right-handed Davis, nicknamed 'Pup' by her teammates, struck out six in seven innings to pick up her second victory on the season and was backed up by the solid defense of her teammates in the field.
"They play a slower-paced game," said Mike Lupton, a Fuqua student and usher at the DBAP. "The pitching isn't bad and the defense looks good, but the hitting is poor. Overall I respect their game."
Lisa Lesten and Stephanie Wilson, both from Cary, cut their beach vacation short a day in order to drive back and see Colorado play. Lesten, who played soccer in college, was particularly impressed with the dedication of the Silver Bullets.
"There's really no place for them to go, and they're not going to make that much money, but they have the love of the game," Lesten said. "To give up all they have for this is very impressive. I mean, they're making probably a tenth of what major league baseball players make."
First-year players make roughly $20,000, while second and third-year players earn slightly more. But the players know that what they are doing is not about money. They each have different motives for playing, but they all have the same collective goalDshowing that a women can play professional baseball and can play it well.
The Silver Bullets all stress the same word when asked what they mean to women and sports in general-opportunity. They have been given a unique opportunity, and they are working to create even more opportunities for women in baseball, not just professionally.
"What we're doing right now is trying to be pioneers," Davis said. "For the eight, nine and 10-year old girls right now, we're giving them an opportunity to play baseball. When I was a little kid I never thought I would get a chance to play professional baseball, and that was my dream.
"Now, here I am playing. We're giving young girls the incentive. If they want to [play baseball], don't shy away from it, go for that goal and go towards that dream."
The Silver Bullets no longer are a novelty item. They have improved significantly in their first two seasons, and will continue to improve as they get more and more experience.
None of the players on the team played baseball at a high level as teenagers. As a result, hitting is Colorado's weakest link. The Silver Bullets are going through the slow process of learning how to recognize and hit pitches that move, such as curveballs and sliders.
"We just need experience," Colorado manager Phil Niekro said. "That's all we need to get better. Our shortstop is only playing her third week ever of baseball. And we're facing guys who probably played in high school, college, Little League, Pony League, American Legion. Experience-wise we've got a long way to go. But guts, heart, determination, attitude, we can compete with anyone there.
"They play hard for nine innings, as hard as 22 guys can play. They're just not as experienced as guys are. Guys have been playing this game for over a hundred years, and we've been playing it for only two [years]."
The Silver Bullets are realistic, too. None of them imagines they will make it to the highest professional levels, but if they are able to prove that women can play at an extremely high level they will have accomplished their goal.
"The Silver Bullets help accomplish three things," Colorado rightfielder Angie Marzetta said. "One, they give women a chance to compete. Two, they provide an opportunity beyond college for women to pursue baseball. Three, they show that women should be able play most of the same sports as men.
"I don't know if a team of women will ever be able to be competitive with the Durham Bulls, but I believe it is certainly possible that someday a single player will be able to play A-level ball."
In the meantime, the Silver Bullets continue to play as much as possible, playing tougher teams each and every year. They have never hit a home run in a game, but just being on the field is an accomplishment for the Silver Bullets, and every other woman who dreams of equality in sports.
Casey Daggatt, a surgeon at Duke, brought his wife and two young daughters to the game. He has taken his children to plenty of Durham Bulls games, but this game was special.
"It inspires confidence for girls, as far as athletics in general, to see the Silver Bullets play," Daggatt said. "They can be role models for women. It's an interesting perspective to see a female team play in direct competition against a male team. I think it sets a good example for young girls."
Mike King contributed to this story.